John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

If Ever There Was A Teachable Moment!

September 30, 2013John N. GardnerInsights0

John N. Gardner

Timing in life is everything. I write two days before a probable shut down of the US government and 19 days before what may be the first default by the United States of our full faith and credit since the founding of our Republic. If ever there was a teachable moment, it is here; it is now.

No matter what your role in the life of your campus, if you have any contact with students at all, surely you can do something, even in the briefest of interactions, to encourage them to look at and learn from what is going on this week. What are the big questions they could be asking?

What is at stake here for them individually, for their loved ones, for their futures, for our country, for the world?

What does this tell us about what it takes for a democracy to work?

What did these elected leaders, college educated and privileged, NOT learn in college, that might have influenced them to think and communicate differently than we see them this week?

What happens when we put self-interests before the good of the larger community?

What is the value of compromise, consensus, standing one’s ground, the consequences be damned?

What can a student learn about leadership style vs. substance?

What can be learned about how to achieve, discourage, obstruct, civility in our leadership discourse?

Who are these people leading us?

Who should lead?

What is justice?

As I find is so often the case, the questions may be more important than the answers. I am thankful this week for my liberal arts education that is helping me understand this week what in the world is going on; how in the world did we get to this point; and what might I personally be able to do about this.

We all have a role in getting our students to this point too. This is truly a teachable moment.


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