The other day I blogged about a TFA leader who spoke at the opening ceremonies of the TFA summer institute in Philadelphia. Before my blog was posted, the Youtube video was taken down.
Just a few hours ago, I received a tweet saying that Dr. Camika Royal had posted an article at Huffington Post. The article contained an explanation of what happened as well as the text of the video.
In the Youtube video, Dr. Camika Royal was speaking to the recruits. She said some amazing things that were distinctly out of step with the customary “charters are better than public schools” and “TFA is better than veteran teachers” lines. She spoke of humility and respect. She spoke of the resiliency of Philadelphians (she is a native of the city). She spoke disparagingly of a “governor-appointed School Reform Commission whose latest reform plan is to educate by abdicating its responsibility for the schools that have been most difficult to manage.” Sounded like me, for a minute. Be careful.
She said, “Our schools are more than the lie of successful charters and failing district. Our educators are more than the false dichotomy of good versus bad, of us and them. By and large, educators here are not bad. Educators here are tired. Educators here are reform weary. Our students are more than test scores, graduation rates, and disciplinary issues. They are the babies that parents prayed for and over and read to and work for and dream about.” Sounds like me, again. I told you to be careful.
She said, “You have come to Teach FOR America, but in Philadelphia, that will only happen to the extent that you commit yourself to serving and learning. A teacher is a servant. And you are not here to save. You are here to serve.” That’s right.
In the written introduction to the speech, Dr. Royal says the following about Philadelphia today:
“By no means do I suggest that the public education system in Philadelphia, as it exists right now, works for the majority of the students who attend them or the educators who work in them. However, I do not think the solution to this multi-faceted, multi-layered behemoth conundrum is the plan to dismantle the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), to release the education of its students to charter management organizations as is being currently touted by the mayor, the School reform commission, and the former Philadelphia gas works leader turn chief recovery officer of SDP. I realize this view is contrary to those espoused by many neo-liberal education reformers, some of whom are also TFA alumni. And perhaps earlier in my career, I would have agreed with them. But I’ve done too much research on charter schools in Philadelphia and the history and sociopolitical context of schools in Philly to think that this plan will be effective in the long-run for students, families, educators, or communities. This current plan to dismantle the District is not reform. It is refuse. It places financial concerns and constraints over the educational needs of people who need education the most, and it is, therefore, political and unacceptable.“
Oh, my heavens! This woman is great! She tells the truth. She is not afraid. She doesn’t sell the party line.
Dr. Camika Royal, you are a hero! Thank you for speaking plainly and courageously.
PS: I wonder why Philadelphia is hiring TFA in the middle of a budget crisis as they lay off career teachers?