KIPP’s strange turnaround

It’s hard to understand why a charter school that has an impressive record of providing a quality education to disadvantaged Black and Brown students suddenly decides to declare a mea culpa (“Canceling the best charter schools?” New York Daily News, July 21).  But that’s what David Levin, co-founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program did recently.

The 242 schools in 20 states serving more than 100,000 students were built on the slogan “Work Hard Be Nice.”  But Levin now regrets the slogan as placing a value on “being compliant and submissive.”  He does so even though graduates are admitted to more than 200 colleges and universities and go on to successful careers in their chosen fields.

Apparently, Levin for some reason feels guilty for what he has accomplished. Instead, he should be proud for giving students who were shortchanged by traditional public schools a chance for a bright future.

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2 Replies to “KIPP’s strange turnaround”

  1. The abandonment of “work hard be nice” is in reaction to Black Lives Matter concerns — at least, the abandonment of the “be nice” part.

    It’s at least arguable that “be nice” means “don’t rock the boat” or “just follow along with old ways of doing things, however unfair or unjust they are”.

    However, per a recent Washington Post Jay Matthews column, KIPP’s “be nice” originally at least meant “be respectful” or “don’t hassle your fellow students” and did not mean “accept unjust ways of doing things”.

    Seems obvious that for low-SES inner-city students, minor but endemic classroom misbehavior is a huge obstacle to effective education — arguably the single largest school-based obstacle. Likewise, it seems obvious that well-behaved students can grow up to be activists who effectively fight for social change. Indeed, it seems obvious that students whose K-12 education is destroyed by minor but endemic classroom misbehavior are unlikely to ever get it together sufficiently to become effective activists — druggies or drug dealers perhaps, effective activists no.


  2. Labor Lawyer: The Black Lives Matter movement is going to radicalize black students who would be far better served by directing their energy and attention to their studies. I think KIPP is making a big mistake that it will regret down the line.


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