Conservatives may see Harvard as the heart of liberal darkness, but on Friday it gave a warm, even enthusiastic reception to Gov. Chris Christie and his ideas on education overhaul.He saved some choice comments for the thugs from the NJEA.
Speaking to almost 200 students and staff members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the New Jersey governor drew rounds of applause with his talk of sharply limiting teacher tenure, rigorously evaluating teachers and administrators, curbing the power of teachers’ unions and pledging to appoint more-conservative justices to the State Supreme Court.
Mr. Christie’s first ovation came when he said, “The reason I’m engaging in this battle with the teachers’ union is because it’s the only fight worth having.”
The ground he covered would be familiar to anyone who has watched the town hall-style forums in New Jersey that have made Mr. Christie a YouTube star. There, at least a few detractors usually show up to question him, and his policies and pugnacious statements can make even some supporters uncomfortable.
But here, during Mr. Christie’s 40-minute opening talk and a question-and-answer session of the same length, the response was less equivocal.
“I came away very encouraged, and I admire him for saying things that might be unpopular,” said Matt Shiraki, 26, a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government.
The closest thing to a hostile question Mr. Christie faced came after he embraced the title bestowed on him recently by The New York Times Magazine: The Disrupter. Jenny Hanson, a graduate student in education, told him that she liked his ideas, but added, “I think using language like ‘disrupter’ and ‘battle’ and ‘fight’ could prevent buy-in.”
Mr. Christie, uncharacteristically, said he often thought about — and “struggled a lot” with — the notion that he is too combative, his language too harsh.
But he said he would not change his tone until the teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association, agreed that schools are in crisis and showed more willingness to make major changes.
“I have to convince the public that the house is on fire,” he said.
Christie spoke about various obstacles to reform and cited the New Jersey Education Association, which he called a “political thuggery operation” and said was “fat, rich and entitled.”An NJEA spokes-thug responded.
Earlier this month, Christie referred to the leadership as “bullies and thugs” during a speech in New York.
Now the governor is exporting his lies to Massachusetts, maybe because they’re not selling here in New Jersey," Wollmer said.Uh, yes, they are.
Update: Via the comments, a first-hand account. If anyone has video, feel free to forward.