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The Founders Teacher Initiative: Why are we here?

By June 7, 2016November 29th, 2022Uncategorized

Like a number of organizations around the country, we are in the business of finding great teachers. Student populations are growing rapidly; fewer people are entering the teaching profession; and schools are diversifying and changing at a dizzying rate. All of this means we have to be more active in identifying that next great teaching candidate. But as I start to tell people about the Founders Teacher Initiative, I almost immediately am asked the same questions: Aren’t several organizations already doing this? What’s different about you? Why do you call it the Founders Teacher Initiative? Those are great questions. And here’s my answer: First, as the student-aged population in our country grows, we need a LOT of teachers. Even the largest recruiters aren’t finding enough. The more people we have out there making the case for the teaching profession, the more people we’ll convince it’s a good thing to do. Secondly, I believe that free people thrive. I know, at first glance it doesn’t seem like the pragmatic need is in any way related to an aspirational proposition. But until the start of the industrial age, where so much changed in just a few years, these ideas were integrally connected. It gets to the very reason for education. As we’ve recruited teaching candidates, we’ve asked each one this question: What is the purpose of education? Our answer is that education is about learning what it means to be human and building the knowledge necessary to contribute to a free society. This isn’t a new idea. It’s rooted in the founding of our country. To be human, among other things, means to act on behalf of the well-being of ourselves and others, guided by principles that are shared by all people—what C.S. Lewis referred to as the Tao. But the idea of self-governance is fragile. If it is not protected, it will disappear. Samuel Adams (yes, the man now more known for beer than for his contributions as a statesman), believed that “if virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved.” It was a refutation of tyranny. He was saying we don’t need to be subjects. He believed, along with the rest of our Founding Fathers, we could govern ourselves. He also believed education could counterbalance centralized power and oppression. The American people did not need a king because armed with an education and virtue (or as Aristotle describes it in Ethics, ‘what a good man does’), they could order a free society that that was characterized by equality and liberty. If that is true, and I believe it is, then our schools must follow this formula: build knowledge, teach character, and demonstrate the value of freedom. This requires teachers who are trained to promote these ideals. And that is the answer to the third question: Why is it called the Founders Teacher Initiative? This is about promoting the founding ideals of our country. In the Spring of 2016, we recruited our first cohort of 20-30 teachers. We will train them at our Summer Institute held at the University of Dallas in July 2016. When the training is over, they will be placed at charter operator ResponsiveEd’s schools in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Tyler. We are excited about the impact they will have on students academically and for the cause of liberty.

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