Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The long arc of education

I just posted Trump, our new FDR?

In the early 1970's I was a student at the Anglo-American School in Stockholm, Sweden. My father's career in the international oil industry took us many places and we were in Sweden for several years. A wonderful country.

I can clearly recall my American social studies teacher instructing us in 8th or 9th grade about various aspects of American history. It was in that class where I first learned to be cautious about the authority of the printed text. One textbook we were using erroneously referred to John F. Kennedy as having been a governor of Massachusetts early in his political career. A fellow student from the northeast caught that one. It made a strong impression on my mind that a textbook could have let slip such a fundamental factual error.

I can call to my mind's eye the classroom scene where we discussed FDR's fireside chats. The classroom was on the fourth or fifth flour. Late fall and already the perpetual gloom of winter was on us. Between the sun not rising much in those northern latitudes and the frequency of heavy overcast clouds, it seemed often to be a near eternal gloaming. In contrast, the classroom was typical institutional bright florescent lights, linoleum floors, seats and desks in a U-shape around the teacher's desk at the front.

It was in that setting that Mr. B. told us about FDR's fireside chats, among much else. Of course I have seen reference to fireside chats since then but Mr. B's thumbnail sketch was the foundation and not much that I learned later did more than provide greater context. That nugget sat there, dormant and unused, for near forty years before seeing Trump's twitter announcements in the news, allowing me to make the connection.

I consider the long arc of education to be one of the magical implications of teaching. Whatever other issues might attach to the profession, you never know what knowledge sticks nor how and when it might ever be used. There is something existentially wonderful about that.

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