Filling young minds with wisdom (lots and lots and lots of it…)

Busy day — speaking this morning, speaking tonight. Yakkety-yak. In fact, if you’re the last-minute type, you might want to attend the Politics and Media Conference at The Riley Institute at Furman tonight. I’m on a panel with some media types, followed by another panel with Bob Inglis and Vincent Sheheen. In fact, I’d better run if I’m going to get up there (no Virtual Front Page today, I’m afraid). They’ll feed me if I get there in time. But before I go, about this morning’s appearance…

Kelly Payne, the former state superintendent of education candidate who teaches a “Current Issues” class at Dutch Fork High School, is one of those… intense kinds of teachers you may remember from your own schooldays. A teacher with certain expectations. I remember them, because slackers like me tended to run afoul of them sometimes.

Anyway, Kelly asked me to come out today for a second time to speak to her class, so I guess it went OK the first time. I wanted to go straight to questions and answers, knowing the kids would have questions (I prefer that as a speaker; I don’t have to think as hard), but she asked me to talk for a few minutes first about “SC Politics,” so I started speaking nonstop about why we’re so different, why people say “there’s the South, there’s the Deep South, and there’s South Carolina,” starting with Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Locke and the colonial period an The War and what followed, generally explaining to them in FAR more detail than they want to know why we have some of the problems we have, and why we are SO resistant to changing that fact, and…

… once they were good and glassy-eyed, I asked them to throw their questions at me. Because I knew they had some. In most high school classes I’ve spoken to (admittedly, I don’t do it often; I generally shy away from anything earlier than post-grad, because there’s only so much of that bored-kids look you can take), you can wait awhile for a question.

But not Kelly Payne’s class — because of what I said about intensity, and expectations and such.

I knew there were questions because they were printed out on the lectern in front of me, pages of them, with kids’ names attached. They were to ask them in order. So we got started. Unfortunately, the 90-minute class was over before we could get to all of them. In fact, we only got to the first eight. I like to give thorough answers. Anyway, here are ALL the questions, since they bothered to compile them:

1. Explain the difficulties you’ve experienced in transitioning from being a full-time journalist to your current activities.
2. Since you were last here the media hasn’t made much progress in gaining the public trust. What will it take for it to improve at doing so?
3. When you were an editor at the paper, did you have other editors to check your grammar and spelling to keep you from making mistakes?
Hannah Jane
4. How significant a factor are your feelings about a topic when you write a story? If you’re really angry or really happy about a topic do those emotions impair your objectivity?
5. How can social media be an effective tool in reporting? What social media platforms do you use (e.g., texting, Twitter, Facebook) to deliver news content?
6. What do you miss most about your old job at the paper?
7. Do blogs really move public opinion or do they just provide “some fun” for people in the Echo Chamber to take anonymous shots? Is there any way to assure a little more fairness in blogs?
8. What do you think about requiring public officials who hire bloggers to shill for them to disclose those relationships in order to improve transparency and increase public trust?
9. If elected officials make blog comments hiding behind assumed names, wouldn’t the publics’ interest in transparency and its desire for more civil conversation be better met by calling on those public officials to “man-up,” take ownership of their comments, and stop hiding behind assumed names?
10. How do you rationalize disagreements between your religious convictions and
your political beliefs? (i.e., gay rights)
11. What should the response of the United States be to Gadahfi’s suppression of his own people?
12. You’ve criticized the Governor for her appointment on the USC Board of Trustees. Please explain why you don’t believe that election outcomes matter.
13. You seem very focused on the need for the Governor and her team to guard against “gender politics” yet your profession admonishes society on the need to be “gender sensitive.” Please explain this dichotomy.
14. Eleanor Kitzman recently spoke to our class and we loved her. Why do you criticize her for defending the Governor’s honor and performance given the Governor selected her for that position?
15. Why do you think being loyal to the Governor makes Eleanor Kitzman disloyal to the other four Budget & Control Board members?
16. The Governor has talked about more transparency with legislative votes and the Treasurer has talked about “calendar transparency.” Which of these ideas do you think is the most sophomoric?
17. Given that Senator Sheheen and the Governor are about the same age, why is he more appealing to young people?
18. What do you think should be done to keep deep pockets from having an excessive influence on election outcomes? (i.e., Bloomberg, Schumer, candidates supported by Howard Rich, etc.)
19. How soon do you think it will be before we see meaningful restructuring in state government?
20. Which of our Constitutional Officers would it make more sense to appoint? Explain your reasons.
21. What’s your opinion of eliminating the Budget & Control Board and replacing it with a Department of Administration reporting to the Governor?
22. Give the best reason to support and the best reason to oppose the Voter ID Bill?
23. Please explain the post you recently wrote on daylight savings time.
24. What is the legacy you hope to leave?
25. What do you think about paying teachers based on classroom outcomes?
26. Why are the two major political parties so segregated along racial lines?
27. How can South Carolina Republicans be so diverse as to have elected two Republican Senators that are so different in their ideology? (Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint….earmarks)
28. I’m optimistic about the next generation of public servants — my fellow classmates and me– who will soon by making decisions that impact our daily lives. What advice can you give us as we move in this direction?

Frankly, with that many questions, I could have talked for a month. But it was great. Been pressed for time, I was really antsy this morning about all I had to do, and ran late and got lost (turns out that Kelly Payne doesn’t teach at Dutch Fork Middle School, which I went to first — they have a nice office — even though I’d been to the right place previously), and I was rattled.

But driving away, I felt nice and relaxed. Ninety minutes of high-speed, non-stop, stream-of-consciousness talking does that for me. It probably doesn’t do all that much for the people listening (so it’s nice when they HAVE to sit there and listen, or get a flunking grade), but I find it… calming. Probably why Freud was such a hit back in the day.

If I don’t hit the road, they won’t feed me in Greenville. As Vincent Sheheen’s Uncle Bob always used to say to bring interviews to a sudden stop: Gottagobye.

And yes, that IS a picture of me, speaking to the class last year, in the upper left-hand corner. Kelly's like that. Very thorough.

14 thoughts on “Filling young minds with wisdom (lots and lots and lots of it…)

  1. Herb Brasher

    Great post–thanks Brad! Encouraging to know that there kids with really good questions out there–and of course we know that a good teacher has a lot to do with that!

    Wish I could have been in your class; would love to hear you talk about SC–to try and understand how the state got where it is. I probably need to finish Walter Edgar’s book though first. I’ve checked it out three times, and am not halfway through, yet.

  2. Phillip

    Was that the same Taylor who penned questions #8 and #12? Yikes. So sad to see a young person’s mind already poisoned like that.

  3. Phillip

    I also see that Ms. Payne has “Citizen Watchdog Reporters” and “” website written on the top of her Board behind you. It’s to her credit that she had you as a guest; somewhere I saw something about her bringing people of diverse viewpoints into the class; but the public record of most videos, etc., from her class at Dutch Fork are Sharron Angle, and some others that are promoted on the Nerve website. I guess my question would be to what extent does she treat this class as an opportunity to indoctrinate the students in a very specific political viewpoint (I guess I’d call it the Deification of the Marketplace) as opposed to opening up all viewpoints, EVEN her own, to vigorous challenge. Interesting that the first questions that could be considered “anti-Haley” at all don’t appear in the list until #16….just sayin’.

  4. Rob

    Wow, did these kids really write these questions? These kids must be the most politically informed students in the state. I think I may have been the only kid in my high school who could name South Carolina’s two Senators – and I’m pretty sure no one knew what a Budget and Control Board was.

  5. Brad

    Yeah, Phillip, I noticed that honorific description next to thenerve on the blackboard, too. Seems like it at least should have been in quotes — although I’ll say this for those folks: Kevin Dietrich and Rick Brundrett actually are a couple of decent reporters. Which makes that particular experiment in advocacy “journalism” particularly intriguing.

    I mean, you know, the whole point of the 1st Amendment is that it’s about being a watchdog, and I’ve never known a reporter who didn’t take that really seriously (some perhaps a bit TOO seriously, of course, to the point of self-importance, which is a hazard of the trade). And the fact is, that reporters have always taken it so seriously, have always been so much about telling people what is WRONG at City Hall or in their state or national government, that we mostly forgot to tell people that the reason why these cases of corruption and stupidity and malfeasance were NEWS was that they were departures from the norm….

    But over time, we zealous media types created an indelible impression in the public mind that government and public service are just nothing but crooks and venality and stupidity. We didn’t SAY that, but somehow people got that impression, because we weren’t telling them about 99 percent of people who were just trying to do a good job.

    And so this anti-government movement took on these huge proportions in our politics, and the next thing you know, organizations like SC Policy Council were created, and well-funded. And now the Policy Council is spending its money to do “journalism” that is INTENDED to push the idea that government is nothing but bad, and evil, and stupid and wasteful. In other words, it’s set up, and financed, to exacerbate the problem that that watchdog journalism of the past unintentionally fostered.

    Which is kind of a surreal turn of events. And really not a promising development in the annals of self-government.

  6. Rob

    I think Phillip brings up a good point that has not been addressed. Ms. Payne’s class as a political forum has garnered statewide attention among political observers like myself. And while she has had Democrats or Democrat-aligned speakers come in to speak to her students on occasion, it appears that the overwhelming number of political officials who have spoken in her class are from the Republican or conservative side. Now, this might could be chocked up to the fact that Democrats in and around state government are pretty scarce in South Carolina these days – but it also shows that there is really not any sort of balance when it comes to the speakers she is bringing into her class. And I say this as a conservative Republican myself – I just think if you are going to do this kind of thing in a public school, you need to provide balance and not have 80-90% of your speakers come from the same party.

  7. Rose

    I’m having a hard time believing those students came up with those questions all on their own. I agree it sounds like some indoctrination going on there – AND I would complain about a Democrat doing the same thing.

  8. Pat

    *Phillip and Rob both make good points. Thanks for bringing it up. I didn’t notice what was on the board until it was mentioned.
    *One student said “…election outcomes matter”. I’ve been reading that a lot lately as it is being applied to different situations. The first time I heard it, though, was when Sen. Graham said it regarding his interview and vote on the last Supreme Court Justice.
    *I was also glad to read that one student question was about the flow of out of state money to influence elections here. But Rose adds a good thought, too. Those questions were written from submissions, weren’t they? Was there discussion? Did you get to interact with the students? I would like to think that students are being taught to think critically and will someday do this kind of research before they vote.

  9. Patriarchate of Antioch

    Hey DeRob/Rose/Roy, shouldn’t the Treas have been in Columbia tending the money on the day of Brad’s visit rather than skipping off to CHSN to fundraise and try and drum-up media attention? He needs to describe THAT better on his calendar. Converse would have. Just sayin’.

  10. obiewankenobie

    “…to what extent does she treat this class as an opportunity to indoctrinate the students in a very specific political viewpoint (I guess I’d call it the Deification of the Marketplace) as opposed to opening up all viewpoints, EVEN her own, to vigorous challenge.”

    Not intending to drag up an old thread — and the editor may shwoosh this, of course, at his discretion — but, apparently EVERY extent. Alas, now though, we may have the sacrificial lamb/fall chick being slain at the altar with the “road to hell” business in the news now.

    Kelly Payne may have just been a useful tool, but ¡Hola! people, these are the ones educating our children for crying out loud.

    >end of rant<


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