Our goal is to change the world through education. It may sound idealistic, but this is precisely our mission. It is what motivates the work of everyone at the Harvard Graduate School of Education — from faculty and staff, to students and alumni, to our partners and supporters. It inspires our teaching and our research. It fuels our work with teachers, principals, and leaders in education both here and across the globe.
We are driven by the belief that every child deserves a high-quality education and that educational opportunity is a basic human right. Regardless of where a child is born, who his parents are, the color of her skin, whether he can see or hear, or whether she sleeps in a mansion or a shelter: that child deserves a high-quality education. Providing ample educational opportunities is one of the most fundamental obligations each generation owes to the ones that follow.
We are witnessing an intersection of great challenge and great opportunity. At the moment, far too many students lack access to a high-quality education; still others are unable to achieve their full potential. Our classrooms were designed for the 19th century, while technology continues to evolve at a dizzying pace. And much too often, ideology and politics trump evidence and common sense, making it difficult to have honest conversations about the best ways to fix what is broken in education. That is the challenge.
At the same time, we have tools available today that were unimaginable a generation ago, in the form of learning technologies and new insights into how the brain develops and functions, which together could change the very nature of teaching and learning. Education also has the full attention of the world. All across the globe, individuals, organizations, and governments recognize that education is the defining issue of our time, crucial to everything from personal opportunity and social mobility to world peace and prosperity. And there is a fierce hunger for reliable evidence about what works, creative solutions to long-standing problems, and strong leaders who can enact transformational change in schools and school systems. That is the opportunity.
With a tradition of leadership and innovation nearly a century long, the Harvard Graduate School of Education is prepared to seize this opportunity. In 1920, we created the first doctorate in education (the Ed.D.), and in 2010 we created a doctorate in education leadership (the Ed.L.D.) like no other. Our faculty have produced research that has exerted enormous influence on the field, from Jeanne Chall’s research on literacy, which shaped the way millions of students are taught reading; to Howard Gardner’s brilliant depiction of multiple intelligences, which changed the way we think of ourselves, our children, and our students; to Gerald Lesser’s shaping of Sesame Street, which reaches more than 150 million viewers in more than 150 countries. Our alumni are teachers, principals, superintendents, CEOs, state commissioners of education, founders of charter schools, education entrepreneurs, and college and university leaders. They include brilliant social entrepreneurs like Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada and path-breaking leaders like Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School; Anne Sweeney, president of ABC-Disney Television; and Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, a member of Parliament in Kenya. Collectively, our alumni have improved the lives of millions of young people. There may be a lot wrong in education, but HGSE has been a key part of what is right about education.
HGSE is poised to make a genuine difference in the world. The tradition of innovation that has marked the school is as vibrant as ever. That we are located within the finest research university in the world gives us unrivaled opportunities. Our students and faculty are unmatched anywhere in the country. We are diverse in our outlook and our approach, beholden not to any ideology but to a fierce desire to discover — and help implement — what works.
No other institution has this opportunity, but with opportunity comes responsibility. We must accept this responsibility and seize this moment. The future, as President Faust has described, is indeed impatient. With your help, we will begin the next chapter in the life of an education school that has been, and will continue to be, like no other. Together, we will learn to change the world. Thank you for your support.
James E. Ryan
Dean of the Faculty
Charles William Eliot Professor