Harvard often bills itself as primarily a liberal arts institution, focused more on pedagogy and character-building than directly supporting students’ pre-professional ambitions. The College’s mission statement even includes a goal to “educate the citizens and citizen-leaders of our society,” and many concentrations do not directly correspond to a clear pre-professional focus. While these aims are noble and integral to the academic vitality of our community, we are encouraged to see the success of the Harvard Teacher Fellows program, which has addressed an important and necessary gap in the pre-professional resources this campus does offer.
Harvard often belies its stated liberal arts focus through institutions which create and support direct pre-professional pathways. The “recruiting” timeline for jobs and internships in fields like finance, consulting, and technology is well-known to students, many of whom rely upon programs like the Office of Career Services’ Campus Interview Program to secure positions after college. In contrast, students interested in jobs and internships in public service lack the same kind of breadth and well-developed structure as their consulting or finance-oriented peers. While there is nothing wrong with having these pre-professional pathways per se, Harvard must do more to acknowledge the impact of their disproportionate primacy over other pre-professional pathways on our campus. The University should attempt to support those students who wish to pursue public service careers by strengthening analogous pre-professional pathways that will provide them a similar structure.
On that front, HTF — a Harvard-based teacher training and education program — is a strikingly positive development. It affords students interested in teaching with an opportunity to spend time in high-need urban classrooms, and instills in them valuable skills necessary to become successful teachers if they continue in that career. This kind of institutionalization is much needed. According to OCS surveys, since 2012, the proportion of graduates entering educational careers has ranged from 2 to 7 percent — much lower than the proportions of students entering finance or technology, for instance.
Teaching as a profession is tragically underappreciated and underpaid in this country. Good educators have the potential to shape their students’ lives for the better, especially in under-resourced communities. It is unfortunate that the income differential between education and other industries poses a significant barrier to students looking to pursue teaching as a career after graduation. HTF’s work to produce a more established procedural framework for interested students and reduce any stigma associated with teaching as a career is praiseworthy. We fear many promising potential teachers will not consider that path due to financial considerations, which is understandable. Nevertheless, we hope more students who are educationally inclined do take advantage of this program to better serve their students and the communities in which they teach.
We have previously spoken about public service, and the University’s stated commitment to these careers. In his October installation address, University President Lawrence S. Bacow demonstrated a commitment to supporting public service across Harvard. These statements and actions of support must go further, raising enough capital and committing enough resources to ensure that public service-interested students are on comparable financial footing to students pursuing other careers. In this vein, we hope that HTF, as a relatively new program, receives more financial support to bolster it for years to come.
As the program becomes more established, students should view HTF and related programs as serious, self-contained life paths and consider teaching as a full-time career, rather than as a mere stepping-stone. While we understand that teaching is not a profession for everyone, one benefit of the flexible time commitment to HTF is the opportunity for students to gauge their own desire to pursue education as a career. We are excited by the promise of this program, and are grateful for the opportunities it presents.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.