Remarks By Governor Christie At Harvard Graduate School Of Education On April 29, 2011
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
Thank you very much. It’s great to be here. It’s a beautiful day here at Boston. My two youngest children Patrick and Bridget are on break this week. So when I was leaving this morning to come here they were still at home, not school, and so Patrick my ten-year-old said to me so what are you doing today? I said I’m going to Boston. He said what are you going to Boston for? I said I’m going to give a speech at Harvard. He looked at me and he said to me you don’t go there do you? It took me about thirty years to get here. Here I am Patrick so…
I want to thank Dr. West and Dave Donaldson for extending an invitation to be a part of the forum and I look forward to a really good conversation today. We’ll talk about what’s going on in New Jersey, the challenges that we face in K-to-12 education in our state and really across the country, and I’ll leave time for you all to ask me questions.
So I think it’s kind of interesting to be here in Boston to be talking about this issue, because I do think that there are now smoldering around the country the embers of revolution in K-to-12 education. In the very same way that the British colonies needed to have revolution, the embers of that revolution were smoldering here over 240 years ago. Those embers of revolution in K-to-12 education across the country need to be stoked and in some respect throw gasoline on them. Because the need for revolutionary change in K-to-12 education in our country is as apparent as anything I believe in public life today. We are losing generations of children. We are losing them as we speak. As the baby boomers which I guess I am at the very tail end of that definition, stretching that definition, from 1962, but that generation which is generally considered one of the best if not the best educated generations in American history. As we all begin to age out of our productive years in driving America’s business and industry and academics and our economy what is there to follow for that generation of Americans? How will America maintain its primacy in innovation and economics and industry across the world and as a result as a leader then of political thought across the world if we don’t have an equally well-educated populace to be able to follow the group that has led America over the past forty years. Let me report to you from the front lines that we don’t. Present company excluded. But we don’t. And the risk that runs for our country in my view is much more significant than the other more obvious more apparent risks that face America and challenge our freedom our liberty our democracy. We see unrest in the Middle East, we see continuing acts of terror around the world and continued attempts of terror in the United States, we see a declining industrial base in America and you look at all those things and you say those are the obvious and apparent threats to America. I’d suggest to you that given the course of conduct we are undertaking as a country that those are going to be much more easily dealt with than the problem that is being confronted in K-to-12 education or more appropriately in my view not confronted in K-to-12 education in America.
We have a situation in our country now where we have an educational system which is set up for the ease, comfort, and security of those who operate it. Not for the challenge and effectiveness and efficiency of those who are supposed to be benefitting from it. We have a system where we are unwilling to speak the truth about what we know because we are afraid to offend special interests in this country who have heretofore been untouchable. Until we come to grips with that very basic truth all the rest of the things that I will talk about today are simply in my view pie in the sky, wishes and dreams. It will not be able to be accomplished on the ground to get them done. So in my view this is the biggest fight that we can have. It harkens back to me, I talked a lot about this during the campaign in 2009, about urban education in particular. Now folks in my party would tell me during the campaign you are crazy what are you doing spending this much time both your physical time in places like Newark and rhetorical time talking about urban education. I got like twenty-nine votes in Newark in November of 2009. Maybe it was thirty I don’t know. In Paterson, in Jersey City, in Passaic, in Camden, in Trenton, these are not the bedrocks of the Republican base in New Jersey. I told them that I’m talking about it because there’s no bigger fight for us to have. Both education and economically unless you take this on, the rest of it is all sideshow and relatively unimportant as far as I can tell.
So let’s talk about Newark for a second, our largest city, with over 275,000 citizens, a school district of about seventy schools, where we spend on average $24,500 per pupil per year. For a young man or woman who is entering the ninth grade in Newark this year, they have a 29% graduation rate. 29% graduation rate. Now if that doesn’t alarm you enough let me tell you about those 29% who do graduate. Of those 29%, 90%+ if they go on to higher education, of the ones that do, 90%+ of them need at least one year of remedial coursework in order to qualify to sit in a college classroom. What it tells you of course is that the high school diploma that’s given in Newark through the authority of the State of New Jersey is meaningless. It is a meaningless document. Let’s go to a town that all of you in New Jersey know but for only one reason. Because Bruce Springsteen’s first album was called Greetings from Asbury Park. That’s why I first knew about Asbury Park. Asbury Park, NJ not as high profile a place as Newark and not nearly as large. In Asbury Park we spend $33,000 per pupil per year. Less than 50% of the high school students in Asbury Park can do math at an eighth-grade proficiency. For $33,000 per pupil per year. And yet we have a debate raging in my state right now, a state that last full school year spent $25B on K-to-12 education. $10B from state aid, $15B from property taxes. We spend on average $17,200 per pupil per year in New Jersey the highest per capita spent on K-to-12 education than any state in America. The raging debate in New Jersey right now as we speak is whether the Supreme Court will order the Legislature and the Governor to spend an additional $1.6B. Because if we do that will finally produce results. Now we all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. New Jersey has perfected this model in our K-to-12 education system. Governor Kean used to say New Jersey and you perfect together, He could now say New Jersey and ineffective education spending and its students perfect together. Because that’s what we have. New Jerseyans have been extraordinarily generous. We have the highest property taxes in America. We have the third-highest income tax rates in America. We are in the top ten in sales tax rates. We are in the top ten in corporate business tax rates. All that money, a large chunk of it, is going to K-to-12 education. Now are there many places in New Jersey where children are getting a very good K-to-12 education? Absolutely. There is no question. There are some absolutely great public school districts. And there are some very good school districts who think they are great and really are. But the reputation is great and so people still call them great. When you dig down a little deeper they are not so great. They are good but not great. Then you have the disasters. Predominantly these thirty-one districts that in New Jersey are called Abbott districts after a case that’s now before the Supreme Court which I just referenced, which is Abbott vs. Burke XXI. Version XXI. Now imagine why you would go to version XXI. If the first twenty hadn’t fixed it, it would seem to me that these people have no hope of fixing it. This is a group of lawyers in black robes who decided that this is the equation. Money equals performance. Money equals performance. We now have a twenty-five plus year experiment in New Jersey on this, and let me be I hope not the first to tell you here at Harvard. It’s failed.
Let me give you some specifics on those failing districts. Of those thirty-one districts in 1988, twenty-two years ago, they got 36% of all the state aid in New Jersey, which at that time amounted to about $800M in direct state aid. Twenty-two years later they now get 59% of all the state aid in New Jersey which last year was $4.5B. To thirty-one districts. What’s the comparison between those thirty-one districts in state aid and the other 550 districts in New Jersey? The average per pupil in those thirty-one districts in state aid is $16,200 per pupil. The average in the other 550 districts is $2900 per pupil per year. $16,200 to $2900. Yet what the Supreme Court in New Jersey will tell you is if you just bump up that $16,200 a little bit more and took it from the $2900 we’d reach what they like to call parity. It’s parity unless they are in a classroom there. It’s parity unless you are trying to learn. It’s parity if you have no hopes and dreams for the future. That’s parity. Money is not the answer to this problem. New Jersey is the laboratory which proves the failure of that experiment. No one spends more, and in our urban districts I suspect very few achieve less than what we are achieving in New Jersey. If you’ve come to the conclusion that having 104,000 students in 200 chronically failing schools, trapped there, is not where you want to be in terms of our educational future. And if you’ve already spent $25B and have a group of activist lawyers in black robes, $1.6B more and then we’ll really break the camel’s back. That’s the one that’s going to send us over.
If you know that’s failed where do you turn to? I think what we’ve decided in New Jersey or at least what I’ve decided that we’re going to stake our reputation on is changing fundamentally the way education is provided to students.
First, we have to examine tenure. In New Jersey, despite whatever the union will tell you, tenure is a job for life after three years and one day. It is a job for life. Here’s the evidence of it. We have about 150,000 public school teachers in New Jersey. In the last ten years how many teachers do you believe were dismissed for incompetence who were tenured teachers? Now keep it in context. Ten years at 150,000, 1.5M opportunities to do this in the last ten years. The answer is seventeen. Seventeen in ten years. Now do really believe that we don’t have seventeen underperforming teachers in Newark alone? In one year? Seventeen underperforming teachers dismissed and losing tenure in ten years. There are really only two professions left in America where there are no rewards for excellence and no consequences for failure. The first one of course is obvious. It’s weathermen. You all know this. You’ve seen it. They tell you it is going to rain tomorrow, you get your umbrella, you get your raincoat, you go out and it looks like today, you go home that night and turn on the TV and the same dope is still standing there on TV saying well the high pressure system is moving that way, that’s why we missed the rain, that’s what you’re paid for. How the high pressure system is going to move. How the low pressure system is going to move. That’s what you’re paid for. How could you mess this up? Now most of the time this is an inconvenience and a little aggravation.
The second profession of course is teacher. That leads to a lot more than inconvenience and aggravation. So here’s what we propose in New Jersey. First that we change the entire way that you evaluate teachers. Of course you will hear from the union that Governor Christie wants to base all the decisions regarding teacher effectiveness on test scores, and then we will have to teach to the test. Awful things will happen when we have to teach to the test. Creativity will be lost, innovation will be lost, imagination will be lost, I would actually agree with that if that’s exactly what I was proposing. Except no more than 35% of any teacher’s evaluation under my proposal will be based upon student test scores. No more than 35%. Our proposal says 50% on student performance, 50% on teacher practice. I’ll tell you what I think that means and what it means in our legislation. No more than 35% of the 50% of student performance can be on test scores, standardized test scores. There must be other ways that you judge student performance. Through your portfolio of work, through your grades, and other ways that teachers evaluate student performance each and every day. The 50% that remains is on teacher practice. Because I recognize and appreciate that teaching is still a craft. It’s a craft. And there are certain practices in that craft which have been proven over time to be effective. The best people to evaluate that effectiveness are teachers themselves. And so that 50% is done by a teacher’s peers, the department chair people in the larger schools, their principals and other teachers. So what is wrong with having an evaluation system of teacher effectiveness that says half of it should be on how your students perform demonstrably, and half of it should be on how you conduct yourself in the classroom, what we call the eyeball test. Going in there and watching. Does the teacher update their lesson plans? Does the teacher adjust through the use of technology? Do they adjust to the students that they have in the classroom and how are they responding? Do they use some of the most modern techniques to be able to try to get across their subject matter? Do they update their lesson plans from year to year to deal with changing facts and theories?
Now the teacher’s union will tell you it is much too complex for mere mortals to evaluate teachers. You must come here and get a PhD to even have hope of being able to effectively evaluate teachers. Now I agree I do not have a PhD in education, I do not have a master’s in education. I’ve sat in a lot of classrooms in my life but I don’t have any of those things. But let me ask the parents who are in this room who have had children in school. How long does it take you to figure out whether your child has an effective or ineffective teacher? I would suggest to you who have children who have been in school, Back to School night is about the cutoff date if not before because you know, you have a third grade daughter and you turn to a parent who has a child who’s older in the school and you say who did you get for third grade and you say I’ve got Mrs. Smith. Good luck. Or they say we got Mr. Jones. I love him. God is he great. My child learns so much from him. He is incredible.
Now that’s not the litmus test. But over the course of a year watching as a parent how a teacher operates, you can begin to get a pretty good feeling, and the current system we have, the union says no one can really evaluate it. If anybody can just leave it to us we’ll take care of it. But once they’re tenured it really doesn’t matter anyway.
We then go to the way we pay teachers. Moving from an evaluation system if you want try to differentiate pay you have to base it on a solid evaluation system. That’s why we start there. Because there is no such thing as pay differentiation in the public schools in America in the main. Everyone gets paid based upon the frosted mirror test. If you fog up the frosted mirror you are therefore alive. If you are alive you get a step increase. All pay in the public schools is based upon seniority. The premise that the older a teacher gets the better and more effective they are. Now in some instances that’s true. In some instances it isn’t. Yet when you talk about pay differentiation, what you call merit pay, whatever you call it, the teacher union response is that will destroy morale in the school. Teachers will no longer collaborate or work with each other if they are competing for pay for heaven’s sake. Because I’m sure at Facebook given the competition for pay they don’t collaborate. They don’t collaborate at Microsoft, at IBM, at Honeywell, or at Caterpillar. It’s ridiculous. Of course they collaborate. I think that the union degrades their members by saying because we are going to make differentiation based on performance and how people are paid, that will make them somehow bitter angry people who will not enjoy their job and not work with each other to try to advance children’s learning. What an awfully cynical, ugly characterization of teachers. Because I will tell you this. I don’t think any teacher goes into teaching to get rich. They go into teaching mostly I believe because of the psychic value of being able to share your knowledge with children and watching those children learn and respond to you. To say that those teachers would stop collaborating and stop working with each other merely because there is an opportunity for the better ones to be paid more is just to me ridiculous.
There’s been a lot of conversation in my state that I don’t like public schools, that I don’t like public school teachers. I’m a product of the public schools in New Jersey, a proud product of the public schools in New Jersey. On Election night when I was elected there were a group of four or five people that I actually thanked. If you go on YouTube and look this up, if you’re the least bit interested or if you think I’m not telling the truth about thus, go ahead and look. On that night before any of that debate started, one of the groups of people whom I thanked were my teachers in Livingston where I grew up who I said along with my parents laid the foundation to give me the opportunity to become the 55th Governor of New Jersey. Lots of people in fact on Election Night. If I didn’t respect and love the teachers who helped me develop through my thirteen years of public school in Livingston I would not have taken the time to thank them. Now it doesn’t mean though that I believe that the teacher’s union is acting in their interests. They are not. In fact I said all the time that the teachers in New Jersey deserve a union as good as they are. They are not even close. Because when you say you are only going to go for a pay system which pays people purely on seniority if you want to end and our proposal says should end based on those evaluations that we talked about before. When you say that you’re only going to pay them on seniority you are dis-incentivizing people from achieving greatness. Because while I don’t believe money is the main motivating factor in getting teachers into teaching they do have bills to pay. There is a natural human resentment, a resentment I’m worried about. It’s not the competition between teachers for that pay. It’s when the really good teacher watches the really bad teacher.
Let’s do an experiment here. What’s your name sir? John. What’s your name? Pamela. OK. John and Pamela are third-grade teachers in my school and I’m the principal. At the end of the school year it’s time for me to give them their evaluation. So I say to John, John you’ve done an amazing job this year. You’re extraordinary, your students love you, and they achieve extraordinarily by every measure that we can measure them. They are doing extraordinarily well. You come well before the bell rings and you leave well after it rings, because you stay there to help them. Your lesson plans are always updated and they are interesting and get the kids interested and the parents, you communicate with them all the time by e-mail and telephone to make sure their kids understand what’s going on and that they know what’s happening inside your classroom. As a result, people bang down my doors as principal every June that their third grader gets sent to your class. We’re thrilled to have you as part of our school John, I want you to come back next year and I want to give you a 4% raise.
You on the other hand Pamela are a disaster. You come in as soon as the bell rings and you leave as soon as it rings. Your lesson plans haven’t been updated for years, parents can call and e-mail you five and six and seven times and you don’t respond. When I call you down to excoriate you about it you call your union representative immediately. Your children don’t achieve nearly as well as John’s and they are not nearly as well prepared, parents knock on the door about you too except they want their kids out of your classroom not in it, and as many times as we’ve tried to come to you and say we’ll give you extra help, we’ll work with you to try to make you better, you are convinced you are as good as you can be and you don’t really care. We’d love to have you back next year and give you a 4% raise.
It’s funny except that’s what’s happening in public schools all across America. Right now. The union structure does not permit me to make differentiation between John and Pamela. I’m not worried about Pam. She’s a lost cause. Pam it’s true I’ve come to the conclusion just in out short interaction that you are a lost cause. However, I am worried about John. John is going to keep watching year after year get paid the same and get treated the same as Pamela and eventually I’m worried that John just turns off. Just decides why should I stay the extra hours? Why should I do the extra work? It’s not going to make any difference anyway. Now I hope that doesn’t happen but I’m worried that it will.
So when the union says I want to eliminate tenure that’s not true. Here’s what I want to do with tenure. Based on this evaluation system I want to say after three years where you are adjudged effective or highly effective you get tenure and for every year thereafter where you are graded effective or highly effective you keep tenure and keep all the job protections that go along with tenure. But if you have two years in a row of partially effective or one year of ineffective you lose your tenure rights. Now that may mean a school district fires you or maybe they don’t, maybe they work with you to get you to earn it back your tenure in the same way you earned it the first time. Have three consecutive years of being rated effective or highly effective. You can earn your protection back. I don’t want teachers to be afraid of political firings, retaliatory firings, inappropriate firings. You know the legal system will still be there for them. I want the tenure system to protect against that. But I want that tenure to be earned. Not earned once after three years but earned every year. Because my child may not even be there the first three years you are in the classroom. My child may be there the fifteenth year you are in the classroom. I want you to know that my child’s education is just as important as the children who came in the three years that you had to work hard to get tenure. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. I would suspect that any of you out there who have had jobs in the real world you know that’s the way you’re judged every day too. In this conversation with Diane Sawyer, a daughter of a teacher, a niece of teachers, she said shouldn’t tenure once you get it be a presumption that you’re competent? I said well I don’t know Diane does ABC presume you’re competent because they made you news anchor once? Or is every year you have to prove yourself as a competent interviewer, a competent reporter, a competent anchor. You know the answer to that question. I don’t know why education should be any different.
We have to provide people with more choice too. Because especially in these failing districts parents are trapped and in New Jersey here’s the choice that they get now. If you’re in one of those 200 failing schools in New Jersey here’s your choice. You go to that failing school or you go to that failing school. If you don’t have the personal financial resources to send your child to a private or parochial school, or if you are not fortunate enough to have your ping pong ball picked out of a bin for one of the charter schools, you’re stuck. Your destiny is determined by your zip code. Your future is mandated by your parent’s economic resources. Is there anything more un-American than that? Our country is supposed to be about the exact opposite. Your future, your destiny is determined by what is in here, by how hard you are working, by how big you are willing to dream. In the current system, those 104,000 kids in those 200 failing schools, that’s not what’s determining their future. I am for all different types of schools as long as they are good. Charter schools are public schools. In Newark we have some of the highest-performing charter schools in America. With thousands of children on the waiting list. I remember at one of those schools a national blue ribbon school of excellence, the Robert Treat Academy in Newark, a K-to-8 school, I remember when I was the United States Attorney going for a visit there to talk about the dangers of gangs and drugs to these children who come from inner city Newark. I met a mother there and I talked to her about her son who had been in the school for a few years at this point and I said how did he get in and she said like everybody through the lottery. I sat there that night in a gym waiting to see if his ping pong ball would be picked out of the bin or not. I said what was that like? She said to me Mr. Christie I knew that whether my son’s ping pong ball got picked out or not would determine whether or not he was going to go to college or go to jail.
Imagine any mother in America let alone a mother who was living in a school district that spent nearly $25,000 per pupil per year. She believed in her heart that her son’s only hope of avoiding jail was getting out of the school that spent $25,000 per pupil per year and into the charter school that spends about $13,000 per pupil per year. That’s why I’m for charter schools. Not because charter schools are the fix for public education. They are a building block for the fix. One piece of the fix. We should have more and we should have better ones to give people more choice particularly in these failing districts. They are not the panacea and the bad ones should be closed. We will close the bad ones in New Jersey. We have a proposal before the Legislature I got called the Opportunity Scholarship Act which is private corporations donating money to fund vouchers for kids in failing school districts to go to private or parochial school. Our Office of Legislative Services in our state has judged that the bill is revenue neutral. The taxes they would get versus the money that would be saved for children who leave the public school system. Yet the forces who stand up against this in concert with the union are the people ironically who represent the children who need it most. It’s not suburban Republican or Democratic legislators who stands up against this, it’s inner city urban legislators who represent the families of children who are trapped in these schools who stand foursquare with the union and say no we can’t have any type of school choice. It’s taking money away from the public school system. Baloney. It’s not and by the way even if it did how about doing that? How about saying I’m not sending my child to a failing factory. Maybe that failing factory should be closed.
It’s easy for the union members making four and five hundred thousand dollars a year sending their kids to some of the best schools in New Jersey to pontificate about how those children should wait until the schools improve in their neighborhood. I have a daughter in the second grade right now, our youngest. She’s only got one year in the second grade. How long are we going to make her wait? To third or fourth or fifth? When she’s so far behind she has no hope of ever catching up. This is not a problem with an infinite time frame to fix. Every year we don’t fix it we’re losing more children. Irretrievable in many instances. So I’m for choice not as the solution to the problem in public schools but as a building block. I think we should forget about how a school starts and worry about how it performs. So whether it starts as a private school or as a parochial school, whether it starts as a charter school or a regular public school, let’s reward excellence. Let’s encourage excellence. Let’s fund excellence rather than just worrying about maintaining a system that looks almost exactly like it would when this country started. When you look at all the institutions of our country there’s probably only two who look almost exactly the same now as they did at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Churches and K-to-12 education. Kids in the classroom behind desks with the teacher standing at the front. Everything else in our society has changed and evolved multiple times over. For this we say we can’t change. We can’t change. By the way all these things that I talked about, evaluation of teachers, differentiation, and all the rest, have to also apply to principals. The two indispensable elements to a great school are excellent teachers in the classroom and strong principal leadership in the principal’s office. You cannot have a successful school without both. All these things, the way we evaluate them, the way we pay them must apply to principals as well. They must be held to the same standards of excellence. Challenged in the same way and rewarded in the same way. So we can have great principals who want to look forward to stay in the leadership of our public schools.
Now this approach to public education from the public education establishment has been called an attack on teachers. I hope that you really listen to what I just talked about. In no other subject matter that I deal with as Governor is there such a vast gulf between what is said and what is heard than on this subject. I defy you to go back and look at the tape of this or look at a transcript of it and find where I attacked teachers. Yet if you read the reports that come out of New Jersey, they’ll tell you in many press accounts about my attack on teachers. I want to empower teachers. I want to honor teachers. I want to pay teachers more. I want more excellent teachers who stay in schools for their whole careers. I want teachers who understand they are going to be rewarded for excellence and that there are going to be consequences for failure. I don’t think that is an attack on teachers. It is an attack on a system that puts the feelings of adults ahead of the needs of children. Michelle Rhee said that and there’s no better description of our public school system today. When I was first became Governor I got a call from a recently retired Republican governor from out of state who called me with some advice. He said to me Chris listen, it’s tough being a Republican governor in a blue state but what you should do right off the bat is you should find a really small relatively inconsequential union to pick a fight with. Win the fight and then you’ll set the tone for everybody else. I was getting a lot of advice during the transition so I just took it in. I thanked him. Four months later in April, four months into my term he called me back and said Chris I didn’t mean the teacher’s union. I said I didn’t misunderstand you advice I rejected it. There is a difference.
The reason I am engaging in this battle with the teacher’s union is because it is the only fight worth having. It is the only fight worth having. The reason for that is because if we don’t change what we’re doing failure will continue to follow and I didn’t come into this job for failure I came into this job for success. Success will be defined in large measure by how generations after us succeed or fail. I can’t sit around and wait any longer. I’ve been called impatient too. I am impatient about this topic. We’ve waited on this much too long. And so it’s going to mean having uncomfortable conversations. It’s going to mean getting rid of underperforming teachers. It’s going to mean creating a system where people are accountable for the work they do. It’s going to mean finally putting children ahead of economic interests. Children ahead of the feelings of adults. When the teacher’s union puts out their advertisements that say New Jersey Education Association, it’s for the kids. Four and five percent salary increases in a zero percent inflation world demanded by the union are for the kids. Free health benefits from the day they’re hired till the day they die, for the kids, a pension system where they contribute 5 ½% of their salary yet collect benefits over the course of their lives that dwarf their contribution, for the kids. Listen let’s call it what it is—they are there to protect the lowest performers and to protect a system of post-employment compensation that dwarfs anything that occurs in America today in public or private industry. For you to believe that is for the kids you would have to believe that a child will learn better under the warm comforting knowledge that their teacher pays nothing for his health benefits. It’s crazy. Kids don’t care about that. If the union wanted to be as good as its members they would be in this to make sure that every teacher at the front of every classroom is as good as they can be. Every principal in every principal’s office is as good as he or she can be. That every kid is being addressed, acknowledged, and taught to their maximum potential. Instead we have a system where we acknowledge the failure and say it’s too hard to do anything about it, it’s too uncomfortable.
The New York Times Magazine did a story on me recently. As a Republican that is a moment of desperation and fear. You agree to do this knowing that this could be the end of your life as you know it. As it turned out I think it turned out to be pretty fair but they called me about a week and a half before and they said by the way you’re going to be the cover of the New York Times Magazine that week. Now more fear because if you look like me I’m really worried about that picture. That even turned out OK but the thing that I liked the most about the story was the title. They called me the Disrupter. I’ve been called much worse. They called me the Disrupter. I plead guilty. I plead guilty. What I hope that all of you will do with the education that you’re getting, I hope that all of you will do with the challenge that lays before you is that every day you decide that you too want to be a disrupter. That you want to disrupt the status quo because it’s failing our kids. That you want to disrupt the comfortable, staid, failed teaching methods that are not working for our kids. You want to disrupt a union that has become so fat and rich and entitled that it believes you have no voice of your own and must speak only through them. That you want to disrupt the child sitting in the back of your classroom who have been ignored for years and is in that state of near-coma that comes when a child’s mind is not disrupted into action.
So I came to Harvard today because you are among the leaders of our educational future. If you’re not disrupted yet, I want to disrupt you now because you being disrupters I think is one of the keys to America in the 21st Century which will be as great as the America of the 20th Century. Thank you all very much.