Who's Nobler? TFA vs. Peace Corps

Booth students come to Chicago from a wide range of professional backgrounds, where most of them were racking up professional awards and earning money hand over fist. However, there are some crazy Boothies who spent their early careers changing lives with non-profit and service organizations such as Teach For America (TFA) and Peace Corps. Both organizations do good work, but ChiBus wanted to know: who’s nobler? Arguing for TFA is former potential TFA applicant Sean Newton. Arguing for Peace Corps is Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Warren Yates

Illustrious Mission - Which organization has higher ideals?

Teach For America strives to "eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach." I like to sum up that mission like this: Save America’s Urban Communities… Suburban Style. I ask you, who is in a better position to fix educational inequality that the people who are the beneficiaries of educational inequality?

Peace Corps Volunteers, God bless them, are charged with a sacred mission that, similar to the Holy Trinity, has three parts. The first goal is to provide trained men and women of the highest moral order—or the lowest employability, depending on your perspective—to countries that request them. The second goal is to advance the understanding of the US on the part of other countries, and the third goal is to advance the understanding of other countries on the part of the US. Yes, the second and third goals could probably be combined, but Peace Corps is part of the government, where three-part missions get more funding than two-parters

Winner: TFA

Pitiful Beneficiaries - Who is helping needier people?

TFA targets low-income children who typically reside in America’s inner-cities. TFA is based in Midtown, Manhattan to give the organization a top-notch understanding of what it’s like to be a kid in a difficult, underrepresented part of the country. The exclusive focus on America makes TFA nobler than any outward-facing organization. Remember: there is no task nobler than serving Americans

There are people in dire need of help literally all over the world: poor farmers, poor students, poor sick people. Peace Corps Volunteers live in close proximity to these poor souls, and sometimes they even become acquainted! Peace Corps Volunteers endure discomfort on par with only moderately wealthy host country nationals. Such magnanimity cannot be overstated

Winner: TFA

Mythic Founding - Whose origin story is more badass?

TFA was founded by Wendy Kopp, a woman who now makes nearly half a million dollars per year to talk about equality. Kopp herself was educated in an inner-city school called Princeton University. Kopp challenged private school students to teach for two years with the false intention of doing it for life, but really as a means of getting into graduate school and then running for public office.

At the University of Michigan on October 14, 1960, President John F. Kennedy, patron saint of America, challenged students to save the world, and thus Peace Corps was born. By the end of 1961, Peace Corps Volunteers were in Ghana and Tanzania. Professional villain Richard Nixon was initially opposed to Peace Corps—but even he was ultimately moved to support Peace Corps when Congress attempted to cut funding in 1969.

Winner: Peace Corps

Celebrated Alumni - Who is producing more saints?

While TFA’s history is much shorter, it still manages to boast many alumni that are indispensable to human society. Perhaps the most influential alumnus is Zeke Vanderhoek, founder of ManhattanGMAT. By preparing the future leaders of America for GMAT success, Mr. Vanderhoek has applied his TFA teaching skills to help hundreds of current TFA teachers abandon their underprivileged students and fulfill their potential in elite business schools. It is partially due to his efforts that over two thirds of TFA alumni have managed to escape the profession of teaching.

If you’re looking for individuals of supreme moral rectitude, Peace Corps has ‘em. Luminaries such as Bob Vila, Reed Hastings, Chris Matthews and Chris Dodd are living (or, in some cases, deceased) legends. Lillian Carter birthed a US President and then joined Peace Corps. Now that’s as American as it gets—and by “American” I mean “noble.” Do only venerable Americans join Peace Corps, or does Peace Corps service itself venerate? A question for the ages.

Winner: Peace Corps

Professional Angle - Who is getting less personal benefit?

While some new teachers may be apprehensive about teaching in underperforming schools, TFA provides five full weeks of training before throwing you into a classroom environment. This is more than enough to allow you to thrive just as well as those other teachers who have a genuine interest in students and who will be making half of your salary in five years’ time. TFA’s compensation package is decent for a recent college graduate, but you’ll unfortunately be encouraged to take the bus to work every day. You should try to get out of that.

There’s essentially nothing nobler than advancing others’ interests at great personal expense. And when it comes to personal expense, Peace Corps wins by a mile (especially accounting for opportunity cost). You want exit opportunities? Strong networks? Transferable skills? Peace Corps has none of these. What about high pay? Peace Corps will buy 27 months of your life for about $6,000. That’s cheaper than 30 hours in a Booth class! And for most Peace Corps Volunteers, those 27 months lay the foundation for a long and frustrated career of low and/or intermittent pay.

Winner: Tie (but probably Peace Corps)

Conclusion

Both organizations have their merits, but neither has a monopoly on beneficence. Boothies hailing from each camp are equally deserving of the utmost moral deference, which can be conveyed in the form of high-fives and hearty slaps on the back. Thank-you cards are also appreciated; just drop them in the mail folders. But the moral high ground is thanks enough