Between the Lines: January-February 2008

There's a thread linking two of this issue's feature stories, which document the vibrancy of campus religious life and the appeal of Teach For America. Both focus on young people and commitment. Presumably the young always have aspired to connect with something larger than themselves, and to seek something purposeful in their lives. The heartening thing is that the stereotypical hard-driving student—aptly described as "The Organization Kid," in a classic Atlantic Monthly essay by David Brooks—is looking not to make a million but to make a difference.

But that effort doesn't take them along a traditional path. Today's search for meaning, Brooks (who has taught at Duke) wrote in a recent New York Times column, is characterized by fluidity, at least during their early-adulthood "odyssey" years. "Dating gives way to Facebook and hooking up. Marriage gives way to cohabitation. Church attendance gives way to spiritual longing...."

Teach For America corps members spend two years with the organization. It's short-term work, though it's not easy work. And when they move on, the hope is that, even if they don't end up in teaching, they'll remain advocates of public schools in their communities.

One local advocate of Teach For America is Carl Harris, superintendent of Durham Public Schools. Right now, there are just over twenty Durham-based TFA corps members, including recent Duke graduates who volunteered in the schools as undergraduates. Harris would like to see that number grow. He's impressed with the emphasis on recruiting candidates who know their subjects, can adapt to classroom situations, and have an appreciation for cultural differences.

Harris—the product of a traditional teacher-education system—likes the energy he sees in corps members, along with the support system the organization offers. "It's not about how many years the teacher has been doing this. It's about whether the teacher is having an impact."

Share your comments

Have an account?

Sign in to comment

No Account?

Email the editor