By Jane Weinkrantz

Recently, The New York Times Magazine ran an article called “Case Study” which examined Barack Obama’s teaching style during his years at the University of Chicago law school and speculated on how those years might inform his presidency. Though Obama is often described as having one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate, his classroom tells a different tale, one of examining possible bias, listening to both sides of an issue, relating issues to real people and staying focused on logic. In the article, former Obama students engaged in a little “Rate My Teacher.” According to attorney Richard Hess, Obama encouraged his students to make decisions “based on sound empirical reasons.” Jaime Escuder, now a public defender, said that Obama “wanted his students to consider the impact laws and judicial opinions had on real people.” Dan Johnston-Weinberger envisioned an Obama presidency characterized not by liberalism but by “ruthless pragmatism.” All of this made me wonder: if Obama’s years as a law professor can help us anticipate what he would be like as President, does McCain’s time in the Senate and on the campaign trail help us imagine what he would be like in the classroom?

I imagine Mr. McCain’s classroom as one that is extremely teacher centered and regimented. No sitting in a circle or cooperative learning for him. Known as a man with a quick temper who easily becomes sarcastic, it is not difficult to imagine McCain’s students quaking in their boots before giving an answer with which he might disagree. (Remember his debate sneers? That kind of contempt wouldn’t exactly encourage academic risk. )

Also, a McCain classroom would have to be short on critical thinking skills. How else could McCain continue to contradict his record of support for a hands-off government with claims that he is now in favor of finance regulation? How else could he cast himself an agent of change when he has been in the Senate since there was war in the Falklands and the Commodore 64 was cutting edge technology? How can McCain accuse Obama of not supporting our troops when he has voted against increasing VA funding on at least four separate occasions? Only by assuming that there is brainless digestion of his rhetoric and a complete absence of critical thinking can McCain think Americans will not see him for the hypocrite he is.

“Erratic” is a word Barack Obama has been using to describe McCain and, as veteran teachers know, students require consistency. Remember how John McCain first thought the economy was strong, then said no, the economy wasn’t strong, but the workers were, then said the economy was in crisis, then cancelled his campaign to go back to the Senate to fix the economy, also cancelling an appearance on Letterman ostensibly to save the economy, but really to be with Katie Couric, then returned to Washington, claiming he would not “phone it in”, did just that,  supported the bailout, announced the House passage of the bailout---which hadn’t happened --- voted for the bailout in the Senate and then said President Bush should veto the bailout.  Whew! Now imagine how incompetent you would think a teacher was if he first said the test was on Friday, then moved it to Tuesday, claimed it would be multiple choice, then wanted to move it back to Friday, but Friday had passed, so now the test was planned for  Wednesday, but now it would be an essay, was absent  on Tuesday to go to a conference, but really was out golfing, and finally gave a test that was fill-in-the-blank with an incomplete word bank and you failed it anyway… on Thursday.

Also, let’s think about teacher’s pets. It’s clear that McCain has no real respect for those who do their homework. Why should he? He doesn’t do his own homework or the vetting process of Sarah Palin would have been thorough enough to discover Troopergate  and all her other baggage earlier. If McCain valued homework and research, he would have selected a running mate who knows the name of our commanding general in Afghanistan, the reason for global warming, a couple of Supreme Court cases besides Roe v. Wade and the names of a few newspapers and magazines. (Speaking of future teachers, Katie Couric will make a fine kindergarten teacher if her media gig ever ends. Her patience is positively saintly.) Instead, he picked someone whom his own party consistently refers to as “hot” and “a babe.” Tell me you’d want your daughter in his class.

Now, imagine McCain relating to students from diverse backgrounds. If he thinks choosing Sarah Palin a woman who made rape victims in Wasilla pay for their own rape kits, is likely to get him the vote of former female Hillary Clinton supporters because Palin and Clinton share similar plumbing, you can just picture him trying to warm the heart of an African American student by bringing up Clarence Thomas.

Then, there’s the question of technology. Inventor of the Blackberry or not, John McCain has admitted that he is still learning to email and that he does sometimes use “the Google.” In an age where most students get almost all their information from the internet, Teacher McCain would seem positively prehistoric, much like the dinosaurs his running mate thinks co-existed with Man.

All of us know what a classroom is like without qualities like patience, consistency, tolerance of differing opinions, knowledge, fairness, and the ability to see the students as individuals and as part of a class at the same time.  It’s chaotic and leaderless. I can’t think of an administrator who would give a guy like John McCain tenure. Don’t you give him tenure either. Vote for Barack Obama, a teacher’s teacher.

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