The Corner

Timing (Plus Textbooks)

Toward the top of my column today, I say,

Does everyone think the candidate he favors gets shortchanged on time? Does everyone think the other guy got more time? I thought Obama got loads more time — more time to talk. I thought Romney got way less time.

Probably all partisans feel this way. Maybe Obama partisans thought Romney got way more time. I guess a statistician, a timekeeper, will tell us.

“In the event,” as British people say — I’ve never liked the phrase, probably because I didn’t grow up with it — Obama spoke for four more minutes than Romney did. Four minutes. That’s kind of a long time, considering.

I’ve moderated a million panels — and you always make sure that people get roughly equal time. I mean, this is in rinky-dink forums (though I love those forums, trust me). But in a presidential debate? Very important.

Okay, Issue 2, as they say on The McLaughlin Group: Somewhere in that column, I write,

Obama says “textbooks that are ten years old,” like that’s some great tragedy. Hell, probably the textbooks were better in some subjects 50 years ago!

This remark has occasioned a lot of mail. Let me publish just one letter:

Boy howdy, you got that right. [Don’t you love to receive letters that say that?] I teach junior-high history and am a hoarder of old textbooks. In my second year of teaching I was moved to one of our high schools. (Union rules: Someone senior to me decided he wanted my job, and I didn’t have “tenure” yet.) The department head at my new school was apologetic about textbooks; he didn’t have enough of the newest version for me to use in my classes. In some storage room he had found hundreds of an older version — I was overjoyed to use them. More (and better) words, fewer pictures, and graphs with real data instead of mush.

The following year, I was back at the junior high school, and our school district bought new books for the 7th and 8th grades. I squirreled away 50 copies of the old textbook just in case, and have used it when I can ever since.

Over the years, I have bought several old textbooks, on various subjects — through online services, for example. You can learn a lot from Lydia. (Do you know that song?)

P.S. You might say, Obama needs and deserves more time, considering all the explaining he has to do . . .


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