The Hard Road Ahead for Teachers

Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, recently gave an amazing commencement address at Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York, where he outlined the challenges facing teachers today. But this was not a negative speech. It clearly outlines the issues and gives a call to action, one that is powerful and succinct.

He starts by highlighting the extraordinary nature of teachers:

With courage, you have chosen to enter or advance in the nation’s most critical profession, at a time when selfish and misguided elites have made public education, and its teachers, scapegoats for the unacceptable racial and economic inequality that those elites have permitted, indeed encouraged, to persist and grow in America.

Then he poses the difficult questions that he proceeds to tackle:

This leaves you, the graduates, with a burning question you will spend your teaching careers, at least for the foreseeable future, pondering: How do you do the good work for which Bank Street has prepared you, within a system that may undermine your efforts and thwart your students’ education?

The call to action is short and sweet:

Dedicated teachers devote a lot of attention, and anguish, to considering these ethical dilemmas. They do so mostly in private, sometimes with their colleagues, sometimes only with their spouses or partners, sometimes only to themselves. If I can summon up the arrogance to make any recommendation to you, it is to consider how you can make your anguish more public.

It is important for teachers to be part of the public conversation, have open dialogue and speak truth to power. Join the conversation below in comments, or contact us at

The full transcript of the speech was published by the Washington Post.

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