Teaching Men To Fish

A little conversation with my fellow conservatives, here.  Readers on the political left are welcome to eavesdrop, but this idea is for those of us who like to talk more about limited government and personal responsibility.

When we say these things, we also really like to quote the saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  This is wise, and useful.  But only if we actually go out and teach men to fish.

Yes, I know, conservatives actually give more to charity than liberals do–maybe our friends on the left think that their social safety nets are effective and sufficient–but is this really enough for us?

If we believe that the best charity isn’t in the form of monetary handouts, but people in the trenches doing one-on-one training with those whose skills aren’t as secure as ours, doesn’t that obligate us to actually give time to our communities doing just that?  Not just a little time, either, but enough to make a real difference?

I’m not saying that we don’t do that at all now, but I am suggesting that maybe we should do more.  Imagine a concerted, volunteer, conservative community mentoring effort for the needy that was so effective, the most liberal observers would have to admit, “Wow, those Tea Party types are really on to something here–they surely do care about their communities, and they’re clearly doing good to a degree that our generations of public programs simply aren’t.”  I don’t care about “converting” those on the left, but wouldn’t it be nice to silence the media’s snide stereotyping of us as heartless misers, as well as reducing the social ills that plague our communities?  I’m sure we all care about at least one of those goals.

So what say you?  Who’s up for actually teaching men how to fish?


Focus and Philosophy of Teaching

For an award I tried out for a couple of months ago, I had to begin my application binder with a short essay about my “focus and philosophy of teaching.”  I didn’t get the award, but I still like what I put together for it.  Here’s what I wrote for this section:

        I.            The best teacher is a trusted mentor, and I strive to become such for my students.  This means that I establish a comfortable rapport, which I do by the same method used for creating relevance and interest in my curriculum: by utilizing students’ prior knowledge and interests of their cultural milieu and introducing material (and myself) accordingly.  This is consistently brought to my attention as one of the most effective things I do for students; their understanding of, respect for, and recollection of class learning and skills are greatly augmented by it. 

      II.            By no means, however, does this mean that I water down content or lower expectations for student work.  (Indeed, if my personable class atmosphere is the first thing that most students seem to remember about my classes, the strenuous work load comes in a close second.) Rather, I use our amiable relationship as a way to elicit greater effort from students—more diligence and attentiveness to their work, greater care for its quality, and a commitment to read, write, study, and think more.  As a mentor teacher, I begin by modeling these things myself, discussing with students what I’ve been reading, conferencing with them in person and via email regarding their writing for class and giving genuine feedback, and leading my classes with the tenor of one who is comfortable acting casually, but only because he is holding himself to exacting intellectual standards, and who is requiring the same from those whose minds are in his care.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I inspire desire.

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