Reader: no doubt you are aware by now that affluent white people do just about everything a little better than you and I. It’s called panache, and like special diets and yoga passions, this better-ness, otherwise known as excellence, is something that comes naturally to our well-to-do white friends. Now, in addition to all of the things this elite corp already excels at—field hockey, recycling, wealth management—we can add another: teaching. It turns out that affluent white people make the most excellent teachers.
Or they WOULD, if only we recognized their innate outstanding-ness and made sure that theirs were the ranks from which teachers are recruited. Instead, as we are reminded approximately every 3.5 seconds, and almost always by an affluent white person, our teaching ranks are composed entirely of bottom feeders, those individuals who, whatever few talents and wealth they may possess, almost certainly did not attend Shore Country Day. By contrast, in high performing countries like South Korea, Finland and Singapore, 100% of teachers come from the top third of their class.
In case you doubt this assertion, I refer you to the following report on attracting and retaining top talent and teaching, prepared by none other than global management giant McKinsey and Company. In the report, McKinsey looks at how much more outstanding teachers are in other countries, then suggests ways of luring the elusive top third, long drawn to finance companies and management consultants like McKinsey, into teaching. By far the most outstanding of these ideas is something that McKinsey calls Race to the Top Third.
But is the top third really all that? Oh reader—the top third is all that and more. You see, we already have proof of how great our schools could be if only we would unshackle our elites and allow them them to unfurl the spirit of dedication and excellence that they bring to the squash court. It is called Teach for America, which last year alone had 48,000 applicants, all of whom were rated outstanding or above on the most important tests that life has to offer. The innate excellence of the TFA recruits is demonstrated by the fact that they require only 5 weeks of training—that’s how excellent they are—in order to teach for two years, then go onto a far more lucrative career, in finance, management consulting, or at Education Reform, Inc.
Now some critics—make that haters—have pointed out that all of this top third talk is nothing more than veiled elitism. Here’s New York teacher and writer Dan Brown who ranted on just this topic at an event on better elite recruitment put on by the Carnegie Corporation.
First of all, when we talk about attracting the top third of college graduates, that to me is code for the top third socioeconomically. We know from the achievement gap that social class and money very often correlate to academic achievement. Of course there are tons of exceptions, but this is the trend. We’re saying we need the children of affluence to choose to become teachers.
Top thirdism is also likely to produce a teaching corp that looks a lot more like the fields that the top third is currently drawn to: finance, accounting and technology. In other words, white, whiter, and whitest, or, ideally suited to bring excellence to our urban schools. Evidence of this transformation can be already be seen in our nation’s laboratories of innovation and excellence, charter schools where the teaching staff is overwhelmingly young, white and fresh.
As for those college gradu-ettes who beat the odds and manage to make it to the top third without being affluent, well there is room for them in the teaching profession too. They can always marry hedge fund managers.
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