Retiring "Work hard. Be nice." as KIPP’s national slogan

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 

After adopting a new mission and vision, we understood that Work hard. Be nice. needed to change; we needed to lift up a new national slogan. We learned many KIPP Regions had either passively stopped using it or were actively removing it from their schools. We planned to replace the slogan as part of a larger rebranding effort this summer but paused the rebrand when COVID hit. We cannot wait any longer to remove the old slogan. While the broader effort remains paused, we will move forward with taking down the old slogan, even without a replacement ready to go.

Feedback on the slogan falls into a few buckets:

  • Working hard and being nice is not going to dismantle systemic racism. For example, in the words of student performers at KIPP School Summit: “I’ve been told I should just work hard and be nice. That it’ll pay off in the end. I’ve worked hard and I’ve been nice but the nice guys finish last.”
  • It suggests being compliant and submissive. For example, in the words of an alum: “Asking us to ‘be nice’ puts the onus on kids to be quiet, be compliant, be controlled. It doesn’t actively challenge us to disrupt the systems that are trying to control us.”
  • It supports the illusion of meritocracy. For example, in the words of Orpheus Williams who leads the Foundation’s equity programming: “The slogan passively supports ongoing efforts to pacify and control Black and Brown bodies in order to better condition them to be compliant and further reproduce current social norms that center whiteness and meritocracy as normal.”

And finally: it doesn’t represent what’s possible in our schools. Schools where individual students are seen and supported. Schools that are actively anti-racist. Schools that live up to our stated mission: Together with families and communities, we create joyful, academically excellent schools that prepare students with the skills and confidence to pursue the paths they choose—college, career, and beyond—so they can lead fulfilling lives and build a more just world.

We know that changing our national slogan is a relatively symbolic action item. We also know that what we say matters. So, we’re taking two steps:

  1. We are retiring the slogan. This means it is being removed from our website and our brand guidelines. This is happening now. The Foundation will be creating resources to support regions in making the same decision.
  2. We are replacing it. We are not going to rush this part. Aligned with our shared mission and vision, we know we need to lift up a slogan that better represents the tomorrow we are hoping to build, together. While the Foundation’s Marketing and Alumni Impact teams will facilitate the process, we want the new slogan to be designed by our students, alumni, and families. We will share more details on this effort when we have them.