It might stick out to anyone visiting this page that the Corps Knowledge campaign is led by someone who is neither a TFA corps alum, a member of its board or person on its staff. More pointedly, when I was in college TFA was what the smart kids did…and I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it, so I steered clear. I also thought I’d never be working in education. I liked to write—I wanted to do that all my life because it felt like what I was made for.
Fast forward almost 20 years and I am over a decade into advocating for a wide range of education polices—from picking great schools to picking great people—and now I work daily with folks who are TFA alumni. Whether it’s a person on the 50CAN national staff, an ally in Newark, a state superintendent in Tennessee or Louisiana, or the executive director of one of my sister CANs, these men and women are among the brightest, most talented, committed people I know. In the same way that I could not imagine my work without them, I won’t countenance a present where our kids don’t have their benefit either.
Some of you also may not know what a CAN is. NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now is part of a network of state-based education reform advocacy groups under the 50CAN umbrella. NYCAN, among all the CANs, has a particular focus on communications in addition to its efforts on education policy change in New York City and state. This focus is one reason why we’re starting the Corps Knowledge campaign.
Trying to make our classrooms better so our country gets better is tough work. It’s also nasty work. In this effort it’s as common to see folks dissemble the truth as it is to see them take options off of the table for our kids because they make some folks uncomfortable.
And if I said the opposition to “change” in our schools rested on the veiled pillars of racially fueled injustice and strong economic and political interests, I’d be greatly understating not only the truth, but what drives the work here at NYCAN.
I also know that TFA, as an organization and as the alumni who teach in classrooms across this country, is crucial to how we improve education for our children. Particularly in places like where I grew up. It is precisely because of this that they—their efforts, their history and their mission—are under attack.
We’re not standing for it anymore.
I hired a former corps member, Ned Stanley, whose work you’ll also see during this campaign, because I felt like NYCAN was a place where we could take on the defense of TFA's efforts and their alumni, as a proxy for our broad defense of education reform, period. I don’t go halfway in because my goal is not to make our kids halfway free. Where this is concerned, it’s all or it’s nothing.
I’ve also recruited two stellar advisory board members who feel as strongly about TFA’s right to exist as they do about the need to use every tool and organization at our disposal to make sure our kids get great teachers. I’m delighted to have them standing with us as we continue to grow the ranks of our advisory board.
At NYCAN, we take a stand. We’re taking a stand for TFA—and the work of its alumni—because when people lie enough it becomes the truth. This “truth,” one that besmirches talented people with a heart for service and a desire to ensure our kids have great teachers as a matter of equity, can wreck the prospects of many students who need us to go all in for their futures. We’ve started Corps Knowledge to combat that “truth,” to rally corps alums and to showcase how they have changed our classrooms and our country.
We’re protecting something we believe is important. I hope you’ll join us while we do it.
This post was written by Derrell Bradford, NYCAN executive director. He writes from New York City.