A Teaching Moment

One thing that has, for good or ill, come out of the whole Gates-Crowley-Obama affair is the creation or dissemination of the phrase, “a teaching moment.” It seems to be the new catchphrase in the lexicon of race relations, especially relations between Blacks and Whites.

I assume, possibly incorrectly due to the odd inconsistency with which social engineers’ expropriate and redefine words and terms, that “teaching moment” is a corruption of Robert Havighurst’s term, “teachable moment.”

Teachable Moment
Pronunciation: \?t?-ch?-b?l\ \?m?-m?nt\
Function: noun
Date: 1952

Definition(s):

  1. A moment of educational opportunity: a time at which a person, especially a child, is likely to be particularly disposed to learn something or particularly responsive to being taught or made aware of something.

Specifically, in 1952 Havighurst advised educators that,

A developmental task is a task which is learned at a specific point and which makes achievement of succeeding tasks possible. When the timing is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible. This is referred to as a ‘teachable moment.’ It is important to keep in mind that unless the time is right, learning will not occur. Hence, it is important to repeat important points whenever possible so that when a student’s teachable moment occurs, s/he can benefit from the knowledge.

— Robert Havighurst
Human Development and Education

Both the phrase and its meaning make perfect sense to me. Likewise, I cannot do other than agree with the idea that repetition is often necessary in order give the best chance of teaching someone something. It makes even more sense in the context of social engineering or any of its sub-disciplines. If you keep repeating something, people will eventually believe it and accept it as fact.

But, since these phrases, “teachable moment” and “teaching moment” are currently coming to forefront of the rhetoric surrounding prejudice, racism, and race relations between Blacks and Whites in America, I have a couple of very serious questions:

  1. Who is intended to be the Teachers and who the Students?
  2. Who decided upon the Curriculum?

If these “teachable moments” are solely meant to be uni-directional and solely meant to be used by Blacks to teach Whites about the Blacks’ perception of America, as I suspect that most of the people using the term intend things to be, then they need to cease and desist misusing and abusing such lofty terms as “race relations” and “racial reconciliation.” Both relationships and reconciliation requires compromise, collaboration, and bi-directional learning / teaching.

Related Reading:

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (Harvest in Translation)
Black: Architecture in Monochrome
Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars
Social Engineering: The Art of Psychological Warfare, Human Hacking, Persuasion, and Deception
Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean, 3rd Edition

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6 Responses to “A Teaching Moment”

  1. Personal Failure Says:

    I’m guessing you don’t spend too much time with actual black people, eh?

    You know, feminist blogs can be a little . . . too much at times (and I’m a feminist), but I suggest Feministe and do a search on “privilege”. It’ll be educational.

  2. jonolan Says:

    Define “actual” Black people, Personal Failure. It’ll make a big difference in the course of this conversation – if there is one.

    Also, do a search on “ethno-guiltism.” It’ll be educational.

  3. zhann Says:

    I don’t know about you, but the only thing I truly learned out of this fiasco … Don’t forget your keys!

  4. jonolan Says:

    😆 Thanks, zhann.

  5. ichabod Says:

    Hi jonolan;

    First, I do not consider this a feminist blog, never have.

    The two points you raise are valid as hell as is the rest of the post.

    You bring up an issue which is defined well enough above, but which has wide ranging implications in so many areas of life.

    You are an educated man with experience.

    You are writing to an educated audience. Even though the three involved in this situation are educated, the professor and the President were out of turn, otherwise they would not be having their little beer swilling session. 🙂

    Which brings up the two points you raise once again.

  6. jonolan Says:

    Thank you, ichabod.

    I don’t really think of myself as “an educated man with experience” though. I think of myself as an experienced man with an education, much of it earned in the course of gaining – or being subjected to – that experience.

    As for the wider implications of the points I made in this post – Oh yes! Anytime the “lesson” is rooted in sociology, social engineering, or other similarly subjective topics, one has to ask who is the teacher, who is the student, and who chose the curriculum.

    BTW: Personal Failure, in her drive-by comment, wasn’t saying that Reflections From A Murky Pond was feminist blog. She was commenting on the nature of feminist blogs before suggesting that I review the content of one for my own education.

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