About one in five Harvard seniors applies to Teach for America. However, only a "minuscule" percentage of the class actually studies education, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan.
What accounts for this difference? Why are so many of America's brightest students apparently interested in teaching but not availing themselves of the training their school has to offer?
Part of what's to blame is a long-standing institutional snobbery toward teaching. As Walter Isaacson put it at this year's Washington Ideas Forum, there's a perception that "it's beneath the dignity of an Ivy League school to train teachers."
Teach for America has helped change that perception. "I think TFA has done a lot in terms of elevating the profession of teaching and elevating the importance of public education and education generally," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in conversation with Isaacson, CEO of The Aspen Institute, and Ryan.
But Harvard and other schools like it haven't made it a priority to encourage students to pursue teaching—and so students are looking for opportunities elsewhere. As Ryan put it, "There's a tremendous demand for teacher training—and the main outlet is TFA."