Yesterday afternoon veteran Time reporter Joe Klein hacked out a three-paragraph blog post that practically complained that young conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) are selfish spoiled brats, at least in contrast to altruistic veterans of the Teach for America (TFA) program.
Noting that the annual TFA alumni conference was going on across town in Washington, D.C. from CPAC, Klein praised attendees of the former while dismissing the political concerns of the latter:
Both crowds were pretty young, but they could not have been more different. The CPAC crowd was full of grievances--America was falling apart, into a European-style socialism, the tax burden "crushing" entrepreneurs. The TFA crowd was full of questions--how do you educate more kids and teach them better, how do you deal with the stultifying education bureaucracies, how do you take the rigor and excellence that marks TFA into the broader society? If the most important question at CPAC was the one that Ron Paul asked of his young supporters--if we offer you 10% tax rates for the rest of your life, would you agree to ask nothing of the government?--the TFA alumni would answer Paul's question with another question: What would a plan like that do for us as a society? And another question: Do you really believe that this is the most important question you can ask of citizens in a democracy? And another: Does the level of taxation have anything to do with the pursuit of happiness? Were people less happy in the 1950s and 1960s, when the marginal rates could reach as high as 70%--or in the 1990s, when the top rate was six points higher than it is today?
Teach for America is a predominantly privately-funded charitable initiative that puts young college graduates in two-year stints teaching in low-income disadvantaged public schools. In other words, it's a private effort aimed at addressing failed and failing public schools in America.
Of course, Klein has no questions probing how entrenched liberal policies have had a role in ruining public education not to mention stifling economic opportunity and undermining the family with social welfare-induced intergenerational poverty.
What's more, while the work and devotion of TFA teachers and alumni is admirable, it's incredibly simplistic for Klein to suggest that by contrast CPACers -- perhaps some of whom are also or plan to teach for TFA -- as unconcerned about the health of American society and perhaps even opposed to it by virtue of their conservative philosophy:
This is the second time I've moderated a panel at the Teach for America conference--and both times I've come away exhilarated. Wendy Kopp, TFA's founder, has not only sent tens of thousands of college graduates to teach in America's poorest schools--where 60% of them remain after their two-year obligation ends--she's also built a movement that is political in only one crucial aspect: its adherents believe that what they do for their country is more important than what their country does for them. They understand, implicitly, that their own personal freedoms can only be exercised, in a satisfying way, within the context of a society that pays some mind to the common good. This may seem an old-fashioned principle in the flood-tide of self-indulgence that overwhelms our country, but it is an essential one.