Welcome new readers!

The "New to the blog? Start here" page will give you an overview of the blog and point you to some posts you might be interested in. You can also subscribe to receive future posts via RSS, Facebook or Twitter using the links on the right-hand side of the page, or via email by entering your address in the box. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

When your audience doesn't want to be there

Since the presidential campaign began, there have been references to 'Professor Obama', often said sarcastically or in a way that suggests that this is not a compliment. I won't go on a tirade about those who seem to think it's a bad thing for politicians to be smart and well-informed about the actual substance of public policy issues. I just wanted to point out that there are many times when the way Obama talks to Congress reminds me of the way I talk to my students but it's more about style than substance. I don't mean this as an insult (nor do I mean to compare my rhetorical abilities to Obama's!); it's more just an observation about how we choose to deal with an audience that doesn't want to be there. As a teacher, I'm usually talking to people (students) who may or may not actually want to be sitting there listening to me, and who may or may not be remotely interested in what I have to say, but they are somewhat compelled to be there and listen to me anyway. Some teachers get annoyed by this; some ignore it; some try desperately to change it. My personal approach is just to recognize it and be upfront about it, and I see Obama doing the same thing with Congress. Sometimes he makes jokes about it; for example, during the State of the Union, at one point Obama said, "I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait." And I thought: that's exactly what I would say to my students! Other times, it's just being blunt; Obama does this all the time when he tells people that change will not be easy or that Democrats AND Republicans need to stop playing politics and make some compromises.

It's probably a sad commentary about Washington that the analogy that comes to my mind most often is that Congress acts like a bunch of my students who would rather make excuses than do the work they are supposed to do to earn the grade they want. But given that that is how they act, I wonder if Professor Obama will be able to manage them...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments that contribute to the discussion are always welcome! Please note that spammy comments whose only purpose seems to be to direct traffic to a commercial site will be deleted.