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Dangerous Mindsets: An Analysis of White Lady Bountiful in Teach for America

Thomas, Asia Symone
White women are the majority of traditionally-trained public school teachers in the United States. Though Teach for America (TFA), a prominent alternative teacher certification program, reports greater diversity in their teacher candidate population and better representative of the national student population, the majority of the organization's teachers are white women. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects that the public student population will continue to grow more diverse in the future. These statistics bring into question the mindsets of white female teachers who service Black and Brown students in urban areas. Dating back to Catherine Beecher's missionary teachers, white women have acted as a colonizing force to socially, morally, and religiously convert "uncivilized" communities. These missionary teachers represent the legacy of the White Lady Bountiful teacher archetype. The White Lady Bountiful teacher's self-perceived role is to save underprivileged, at-risk students from the plight of their communities. In modern culture, teacher films such as Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers illustrate the White Lady Bountiful teacher in urban classrooms of Black and Brown youth. In this paper, I analyze my memories and experiences as a black female Teach for America corps member to evaluate the presence of the White Lady Bountiful teacher archetype in TFA's pre-work materials and "Story of Self" training activity.