From Clinton into the Classroom

Posted on 09.06.2012


I had a lot of fun watching and listening to Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC2012 tonight and although exhausted from last minute writing of my African American History Syllabus there were three notions that struck me about his speech that I think might be useful to bring into my classroom:

Our country runs best on cooperation and collaboration.  Clinton had some great lines about the fundamental idea that we are more productive and generate far better ideas when we, the collective ‘we’, come together and work on the issue together.  Clinton was so slick in actually giving credit to republicans even.  He acknowledged that they had some good ideas and policies.  His point is that we are better together, not as two broken parts.

I think this is a powerful idea to bring into the classroom.  It’s a great lesson for students to learn in practice and in theory.  Not only should ideas be shared, but that people are smarter than individuals.  James Surowieki wrote a great book about this notion called The Wisdom of Crowds.  In my classroom, work should be done through collaboration because it will probably produce better results.  If it doesn’t, we’ll have to reflect on why.

Use facts and information to describe what you are talking about, use values to make a judgement on it I really like how Clinton did not hold back on the facts, figure and “math”.  He did research, gave us data and then let us generate our own opinions about it using our values.  Facts and statistics do not create opinions; values do.  I think Clinton was able to make that distinction.  This is so important to teach!  I would like students to get good a finding information and then understanding how their own perspective informs their opinion or conclusions on that information.  Facts are just facts until you add some sort of perspective to them; context if you will.  This year I want to be more deliberate in teaching this difference and honing in on asking students what they think about their research… more importantly ask them why.

ok, so I just hit a wall and realized that I have a big day tomorrow, the more I think about this speech the more I am realizing that there should be a follow up post and I need to go back to the transcript to find some quotes and examples.  Hopefully these two ideas can be developed further and brought into the classroom in productive ways.


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