Friday, June 14, 2013

My AmeriCorps Teaching Experience

By James Bovard

In response to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal piece, some folks have asked if I was ever in AmeriCorps.

No, but I did have a cameo in one of their Mississippi programs.   When I was investigating AmeriCorps in 1999, I traveled to the Mississippi Delta  Here’s the excerpt from Public Policy Hooligan:


In lieu of substantive achievements, AmeriCorps officials promised the moon. In 1998, AmeriCorps chief Harris Wofford bragged that AmeriCorps had set a goal for itself of “effective education and literacy for every child.” This made as much sense as promising that AmeriCorps members would pave every pothole in the nation. In 1999, Clinton boasted that AmeriCorps members “have… taught millions of children to read.” One AmeriCorps official told me he doubted AmeriCorps had taught even a dozen children to read.

I scooted over to the West Virginia Panhandle to check out one of AmeriCorps’s premier literacy programs. The Energy Express program enrolled 600 college students each summer to teach reading to tens of thousands of kids from low-income families. The run-down school I visited in Ranson, West Virginia certainly provided a pleasant environment for youngsters. When children were not watching puppet shows or engaging in “non-competitive recreation,” they sat in cardboard boxes or indoor tents and played with books. I asked several AmeriCorps members how much training they received to teach reading. Each one I asked looked at me as if I was crazy. One earnest AmeriCorps recruit named Brian explained: “We’re not teaching them to read – we are just exposing them and getting them to like it. You just want them to think they’re doing a good job” when reading. (AmeriCorps members were careful not to correct children’s grammar.) Talking on-site with the front-line members for five minutes was sufficient to obliterate AmeriCorps’ bluster on Energy Express. I wondered if wildly exaggerating accomplishments was the key to rising in the bureaucracy….

Read the rest here.

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