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The National Teacher Corps represents Washington's belated effort to revive the Poverty Program by sending innovative teachers into poor areas. It seeks to capture the imagination of young college graduates and induce them to participate in a two year teaching program by offering them in-service training towards their masters degree.
The Corps hopes to acquire a reputation similar to that of the Peace Corps, by convincing America's youth that a more dynamic educational program will help break the poverty cycle.
Every effort to attack the insufficiencies in our school system is commendable and should be encouraged; the Teacher Corps aims only at being the spark which will excite a new group of people to work on these problems by operating on an intensely personal level. Even if the Corps does recruit the 3000 teachers it is helping for this year, it will only be effective if each Corpsman reaches ten pupils in the area in which he works.
But if the Teacher Corps is commendable, it is also riddled with problems. The bill for the Corps was included in the Education Act 1965, but failed to receive fund's last year. Appropriations came late this year, and the nine and one half million dollars was not approved by the President until last week. Congress had been told by members of the Office of Education that it would be difficult to find personnel for the program if officials could not start recruitment until May, but the government moved slowly. Since the Corps is primarily designed for graduating seniors, the result of starting in mid-May is that many potential candidates who would have been best qualified for the program are already committed.
The Corps will also probably qualify its members for Selective Service deferment, and this will tempt critics of deferable programs to believe that students are joining the Corps to avoid the draft. This criticism will probably be more valid this year than next year when the Corps can start recruitment earlier and have a wider range of applicants to select from. As it is now, applications are due May 31.
The most encouraging aspect of the Teacher Corps' effort is that it will open new channels of communication between the government and the experimental work which is being done in graduate schools of education. The ed schools will have a chance to apply some of their theories, and hopefully their ideas will be influenced by results from the field.
Problems of poverty and insufficient education often seem insurmountable, and the Teacher Corps may be able to open a pipeline between the government and local school systems. The Teacher Corps, like the Peace Corps, may be able to experiment with new methods and make a start on some of the insoluble problems of today.
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