Phi Beta Cons

A Teachable Moment

I was spending some time with a good college friend of mine. We were screwing around, debating where to head that night after one of those unexpected, nearly unwelcome humid spring afternoons. I picked up a copy of a large book from the apartment table. World War II for Kids. My friend, an elementary-schoolteacher-in-training, had picked up the book for an assignment that dealt with how to teach the war to young students. 

I playfully launched in to a mock exam, using the small images of each of the war’s principals from the front cover. “Okay, who’s this?” I demanded, pointing to the visage of Winston Churchill. 

From my friend, silence. And a blank stare. ”Uh, alright,” I hesitated unevenly, “how about him?” I pointed to Stalin. 

“Oh, Franklin Roosevelt, I think,” offered my friend earnestly.

Mental panic was setting in. “And this?” I pointed to Hirohito.

“ . . . Gandhi?”

Our impromptu exam ended with howls of laughter from my chair, and a red face in the other.

You don’t need to be a history fanatic to recognize most of those men. And if you’re, say, an elementary-ed student expected to teach the subject, it’s helpful to know the subject, right? And preferably before you pick up a book on it . . . “for kids.”

But here’s the thing: my friend is smart. An “A” student, attending a respected university.

For all the talk about lesson planning, creative learning, compassionate engagement, etc., from the education reform crowd, how often is it asked: Do our teachers know their subjects?

If not, it’ll show. The students will immediately recognize it. No amount of lesson planning can succeed in engaging students on a subject when they notice that not even their teacher was curious enough to learn about it.

Lesson planning and presentation are a core focus of the elementary-ed instruction my college friend receives, all while the specific names — and here, literally, the faces — of the subject are neglected.

Rarely has the vituperative slur ”style over substance” been made so real.

Most Popular

Culture

Ezra Klein’s Intellectual Demagoguery

Ezra Klein wants you to know that he doesn’t think Sam Harris is a racist. “I’m not here to say you’re racist, I don’t think you are,” Klein explains in a two-hour debate with Harris on the latter’s podcast, Waking Up. “We have not called you one.” No, not at all. Klein is telling the truth ... Read More
Education

The Scholarship/Activism Balance — A Rejoinder

The Martin Center recently published an article by sociology professor Fabio Rojas, in which he argued that professors should maintain the right balance between their teaching and scholarship on the one hand, and activism on the other. In today's article, the Center's Jay Schalin pushes back somewhat. Schalin ... Read More
U.S.

The Book Comey Wanted to Write

Making the click-through worthwhile: the book James Comey had wanted to write, Facebook starts to feel useless to some writers, an infamous D.C. city councilman manages to make everything worse, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign finds its wish granted. What Did James Comey’s First Draft of A Higher ... Read More
Film & TV

Pro-Life Feminist

My paisana at the Human Life Review are hosting an event in NYC on Thursday, May 3, at the Sheen Center (18 Bleeker Street) for the airing of director Jim Hanon’s half-hour documentary, Pro-Life Feminist. After the viewing, he’ll join the trio of castmates -- Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, Aimee Murphy, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Good News for Pompeo

Looks like he's in, as he should be. https://twitter.com/TomCottonAR/status/987050849317867521 But this fight has been a hint of what life will be like for Trump if the Democrats somehow take the Senate -- they'd refuse to confirm anyone for anything. Read More