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Continued: Jon Tevlin: Bachmann's wayward son up and joins AmeriCorps

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 12, 2009 - 12:09 AM

Why do our children always disappoint us?

We spend 18 years carefully teaching and molding our kids, hoping they avoid the mistakes we made, praying they become upstanding, hard-working adults.

Don't listen to rock n' roll (or hip hop, or bebop, depending on the era), we warn them. Yet what do they do as soon as we turn our backs?

Still, we lecture: Join the Army, don't join the Army. Become a doctor, not a teacher. And for heaven's sake, don't go into journalism.

I heard that one, and like many kids, ignored the wisdom of my parents.

Because we are so sure of our own moral compass and political ideology, we probably also hope our kids follow us into the church pew and the voting booth. Yet, they rebel. The '60s hippie parents sometimes spawn the bow-tied neo-con. The bow-tied neo-con begets the philosophy major who panhandles for beer money.

Maybe it's the Lord's way of keeping the world upright.

But for the parent, it still stings. Can you imagine dinner at the Shrivers when Maria married Arnold?

So it has to sting right now for Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Here's what Bachmann said about President Obama's plan to expand AmeriCorps, a program that puts young adults to work making the world a better place by teaching disadvantaged kids and helping the poor:

"[It's] under the guise of quote, volunteerism, but it's not volunteers at all," she said on the Sue Jeffers radio show in April. "It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. There are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people get trained in the philosophy the government puts forward and then they have to go work in these politically correct forums.

"As a parent, I would have a very, very difficult time seeing my children do this."

You've probably guessed by now that Bachmann's son, Harrison Bachmann, recently joined Teach for America (TFA), one of the programs under the AmeriCorps umbrella.

The last application deadline was in February, and successful candidates were notified within two months, according to Kerci Marcello Stroud, national communications director of TFA.

So when Bachmann issued her screed, her son might have already been accepted, and certainly would have applied. Ouch.

Rumors of his defection started recently on a couple of blogs, and the diligent folks at www.dumpbachmann.blogspot.com confirmed with TFA that a person named Harrison Bachmann had joined the cause.

There are several people with the same name about that age in the country, but Stroud on Tuesday confirmed that Bachmann's son has joined.

Harrison Bachmann declined an interview through TFA, and Stroud said that privacy prevented saying where he would teach this fall. Bachmann's office did not return calls.

Coincidentally or not, TFA came to Minnesota just this year, exactly because the state's socioeconomic inequalities have grown as the state has retrenched its programs for the poor, disenfranchised and under-educated. For the first time, we have to rely on the charity of good kids like Harrison Bachmann to step up and help out at our schools.

I know Bachmann doesn't believe her son is volunteering, but rather is becoming yet another government-paid drain on the taxpayer. In a way, she's right. AmeriCorps members are school district employees and thus receive the same salaries and benefits as other beginning teachers, from $27,000 to $47,500, depending on the region.

I might suggest that if you feel strongly that this is more government control, you should show up at Bachmann's next town hall meeting and scream slogans at her. But that would be rude and, frankly, a little crazy.

The pay's not bad for a recent graduate, but Harrison will likely earn it. According to the TFA website: "Our teachers ... go above and beyond traditional expectations to lead their students to significant academic achievement, despite the challenges of poverty and the limited capacity of the school system. Our mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort."

Harrison must be a smart kid, a caring kid. Must have been raised well.

As an AmeriCorps member, he won't be allowed to participate in politics or disseminate partisan material. Even if there were a "propaganda camp," as Jeffers called it, he sounds like the kind of person who could survive it.

Thank you, Harrison, for your service. Here's hoping you inspire kids to dream, and get inspired in the process.

Who knows, maybe you'll even have an opportunity for a teaching moment with some political leaders, but I doubt it.

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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