post script Column 3 “Seeing is Believing”

Tucker Carlson doesn’t really belong in the story of my education but his craven Foxian disinformation gave me a chance to leak a little of my current political thoughts into the story of the video from the student teacher. Every week I read something that pushes me to write about our current political turmoil but I am trying my best to stick to education at least until the election. But don’t be surprised if I manage to bring highlight the depravity of the Republican party on occasion to contrast it with my earlier experiences with a kinder and gentler partisanship. Think Texas. I do all the time.

Sorry, I’m not sure if the Reader will be keeping up its webpage. The last column hasn’t appeared yet even though the publication is on the news stands.

Here’s what I wrote with one significant correction. I should have added a NOT to a sentence in the second paragraph. I was racing to send it in before hopping in my car for a long drive to see my son in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I always hate it when I publish the opposite of what I mean.

Seeing is Believing

Fox’s Chairman of the Dan White Fan Club is apparently offended that police are required to wear cameras and its implication that they can’t be trusted. So he has suggested that the shoe, or rather the camera, be put on liberal feet. Fearful that teachers will teach the far fetched notion that our nation hasn’t fully lived up to the promise of equality under the law Tucker wants teachers to wear cameras too. That way we can catch them red handed when they spew liberal propaganda. He may have a point. Cameras were introduced to Minnesota Courtrooms for the first time during the George Floyd trial. And other videos caught his murder. These were all salutary uses of video. As for teachers goodness knows they have become much more adept with videos during all the Zoom classes of their quarantine year. But how about their regular classes? Look, I’m no fan of Big Brother but I am reminded of my teacher training.

I had all sorts of grand ideas about a good education back when I was young. I thought I learned more in my extracurriculars than in class. I also thought grades should be a two-way-street. When I got to college I got involved in a project to have students evaluate their teachers. We pulled it off one spring. At the end of the semester we gave 15,000 students computer coded multiple choice evaluations in every class of Mankato State’s 700 teachers. The results were tabulated and released and so mind numbing it was never again repeated. So, I’m NOT against the collection of information. In fact, I can think of one example where a video had a salutary effect.

After I dropped my Poly Sci. degree I switched over to Education classes. I completed them from Spring through the Summer and was ready for my student teaching in the Fall.  Thirty or so future teachers were given some touchy-feely last minute training before being sent out for our solo flights. Our teacher supervisor offered us pointers and tried to encourage us. I was not so confident. I was afraid that I needed a Wikipedia’s worth of info in my head to teach, and of course, there was no Wikipedia in 1973. My supervisor breezily assured me that I already knew a lot more than I needed to teach.
I only remember two of the other student teachers. One of them, was a fellow,  teaching at New Ulm with me. All I remember of him was that he dated one of his students. I quietly disapproved. Sure, it was unprofessional but it somehow seemed far worse than that to me.

It was, however, another student teacher who made more of an impression. He seemed terribly ill suited to the classroom. He was sunny but incredibly naïve and innocent. I wonder now if he wasn’t on some spectrum. In any case a good teacher needs a little guile and this fellow had none. I was sure he would be eaten alive. Two months later after we all finished our stints as student teachers we got together again to compare notes.  I noticed Mr. Naïf was nowhere to be seen. I made inquiries and this is the story I was told.
At the small school Mr. Naïf was assigned he proved to be an immediate disaster. Kids sized him up and his classes were unruly. The District pleaded with Mankato State’s Education Department to take him back but this was refused. Eager to figure out some solution Mr. Naïf himself asked for advice on how to improve. It was suggested that he set up a video camera in the back of his room and tape himself. It was suggested that this way he could see what he was doing wrong and learn from it to do a more effective job. It was good advice.

It also did the anxious school’s administrators a big favor. After seeing the video the School administrators showed it to Mankato State’s teacher supervisor. This is what I heard the video recorded.

Mr. Naïf comes to the front of the room after starting the video. Kids are already throwing paper airplanes, talking together, and getting up and walking around the classroom as Mr. Naïf tries to conduct class. No one is paying him the slightest attention. This goes on for some time until a girl in the class raises her hand. Mr. Naïf brightens and calls on her. She says clearly. Mr. Naïf “You’re pants are unzipped.”  Hearing this Mr. Naïf slowly looks down below his belt buckle. Sure enough his pants are unzipped. Mr. Naïf turns around and slowly walks to the blackboard at the front of the class. He stands before the blackboard with his back to the students for the rest of the hour and the video.
This video persuaded Mankato State to spare the School District and Mr. Naïf any more pain. Videos can and will do the same thing for police. Goodness knows, there is a lot more video of Tucker Carlson than of any teacher or policeman. Sadly, in television, all the video in the world, is no guarantee of honest news analysis.

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