There was an amazing development yesterday in the continuing saga of the incredible, and incredibly surprising, speech Dr. Camika Royal delivered to incoming 2012 corps members at the Philadelphia institute.
For those who have not been following this, I discovered the video on YouTube, blogged about how I agreed with the message, then the video was taken down, and then I wrote another post speculating why and even writing a parody letter from TFA explaining the situation.
But yesterday Dr. Royal stunned everyone by writing an article on The Huffington Post and re-posting the video of the speech. In her article, she described how, as I figured, her speech was not ‘approved’ by TFA. Though TFA generally does want to see, and edit, what is said publicly, it is pretty lame to trust someone enough to make a speech, but not enough to write one. In this case, they did not make her get approval.
She wrote that she wasn’t pleased with being called an ‘anti-reformer,’ which I can understand. That term is so loaded, but when I use it, I just mean opposed to destructive policies that have zero chance of working despite being called ‘reform.’ She does, however, say “I realize this view is contrary to those espoused by many neo-liberal education reformers, some of whom are also TFA alumni,” which is really what I was getting at, but didn’t have (and still don’t truly understand) the ‘neo-liberal’ qualifier. I encourage everyone to read the article as Dr. Royal can aptly speak for herself to describe all the nuance of what went into her decision to temporarily pull the video and to give more context for people to understand what her point was.
Before she posts the text of the speech, she concludes with the powerful “I said it. I meant it. And I’m not taking it back.”
This woman is truly one of my heroes now.
I have no doubt that her post caused some kind of emergency meeting at TFA headquarters. Dr. Royal had ‘gone rogue’ and, for the first time in many years, had broken the bizarrely untrue characterization by TFA that despite some minor disagreements, that alumni are generally all on the same page when it comes to ‘reform.’ Maybe TFA hasn’t said this explicitly, but based on who they choose to feature at different events, like panel discussions, and who they choose to shut out, it is clear that they would prefer if there was not dissent within the ranks.
TFA had two options: 1) They could try to ignore and dismiss her comments (as they generally do with my criticism) or 2) They could act like they are thrilled about her comments.
Wisely, TFA went with option 2. When I say they could ‘act like,’ I don’t mean that they are angry about what she said. I think that TFA has probably felt like they wish they could acknowledge some of the alternative points of view by many of the alumni. But this event really forced TFA to take a stance, which they did.
On Twitter they tweeted
Then Dr. Royal even did something that TFA can’t be thrilled with. She re-tweeted Diane Ravitch’s announcement. As Dr. Royal is also an education historian, she surely understands that Ravitch has very sophisticated views on the issues, contrary to the characterization by her critics.
Rather than allowing me to celebrate that I had started something that really will enable productive discussions to happen more easily, I started to get criticized on Twitter and through comments on my blog for being ‘wrong’ when I suspected that TFA was involved in the decision to pull the video. Yes, I was wrong about that, but remember that if TFA had its way and had a chance to screen the speech, they likely wouldn’t have even let it happen, so TFA isn’t fully off the hook. Well one TFA recruiter wrote me a nasty tweet and then Dr. Royal herself, responded with five words that really mean a lot to me.
Thanks, Camika. And I’ll continue being nice to the people I disagree with just as I always have.