Just a thought…

I remember when 9/11 occurred I was teaching a journalism class when another teacher came in and said a plane had hit the World Trade Centers. We had a TV in the room, and I immediately flipped it on and we started watching as Aaron Brown tried to make sense of what was happening. After a couple of seconds, I told my kids to take out their notebooks and begin jotting down key quotes, interview names, etc. as the pieces began to trickle in. It was a mistake on my part, I realized, as the gravity of the event began to grow and settle in. At some point, I told them to put their notebooks away, that this wasn’t a great time for an exercise, and we watched until the TV feed was cut by our superintendent. Still, for the next couple of weeks after the dust cleared a bit, I threw out the curriculum, and we divvied up the pieces of this complex story and followed them, reported to one another and the school about what was happening, and worked through our emotions in the process. We learned a lot about the world and the times as they presented themselves.

I’m not in a classroom any longer, but moments like the one we’re in right now I wish I was. We are watching a slow unfolding of history as opposed to that day seven years ago that came at us in such a rush. In the midst of all of this angst and uncertainty that we’re dealing with, there are a host of teachable moments that would serve to make all of our kids better, more able, more functional citizens. I’m sure there are more, but how about these topics, just for a start:

  • How mortgages work
  • What credit is
  • What the tax code is
  • The intricacies of borrowing money
  • Investing in the stock market
  • Balanced budgets
  • What debt, both personal and national, is
  • The political process (or lack thereof) of the two Houses of Congress
  • The electoral college
  • Truth in advertising
  • Vetting of expertise (as in talking heads)
  • The “Global Economy” and our effects on it

Please feel free to add your own in the comments if you like, but I wonder how many teachers are throwing out the curriculum at this point and focusing on real events that have real consequences. (Here is one example by a social studies supervisor who I used to teach with back in the day.) If we’re not doing it now, when?

One last point. This is a perfect time to teach our kids “editing” as well. I’m still struggling with this whole debacle in terms of what it means for the average person. This morning on the news, I heard one “expert” put it simply: if credit dries up, the economy stops. In other words, if banks don’t have money to lend, not only will we not get loans, our credit cards will be pretty much useless, and cash on hand will be king. If that’s true, inaction could be really, really costly, which is what many seem to be saying. But who do we trust at times like these? We have to teach ourselves and our kids how to answer that question.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a president who was a teacher as well? I think the times demand it.