Lindsay Wajert It's the ends that count 2009: Independent Student

Lindsay Wajert It's the ends that count

An Independent Student Newspaper Serving The George Washington University Community Since 1904 In a recent event in the Marvin Center, Rod Paige, the former

U.S. secretary of education, urged audience members to get involved with education service programs such as Teach for America. But TFA carries its share of controversy. Debates have swirled over the effects of noncertified "teachers" working in underperforming schools and about whether two years in the corps is truly enough time for members to make a meaningful difference. In his piece "Why I Don't Like TFA," professor Bil Johnson of Brown University takes the critique to a higher level, arguing that teaching is not meant to be "dabbled in," and that TFA shows "disrespect for the profession by treating it as something one can do until something 'better' (read high paying, more prestigious, etc.) comes along." Johnson makes a point, especially because most members serve for just two years, with only a reported 34 percent returning for a third. But the relatively minimal long-term commitments, combined with the program's financial security and national prestige, are exactly the features that make TFA so appealing to college grads. There is no reason why these bright minds cannot make a contribution while also improving their own future prospects. In an ideal world, perhaps, people would sacrifice their time, energy or money to help others in a purely altruistic fashion. But this is the real world, full of tax cuts for charitable donations and alumni who give to GW with the hope of getting a plaque mounted in the Smith Center in their honor - or a bench named after them, or perhaps even a building. This is not necessarily deplorable. Either way, the charity gets the money and GW gets to, say, fix up the locker rooms or fund a new tenured professorship. The world is not as simple as selfish or unselfish, and sometimes, actions can stand alone, without any underlying intentions. In reality, when someone does something for the benefit of another, it is not fair to suggest they should do so only if the act is done solely to aid that other person.

My guess is that most charitable acts are motivated by a complex mix of both altruistic and self-serving intentions. After all, Teach for America may offer benefits for corps members, but the ultimate goal is helping children.

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