Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Teacher Should Moderate the Next Presidential Debate

I wasted a good 47 minutes last night watching the presidential debate. My wife, being far smarter than I, fell asleep.  I watched as Trump allowed absolutely nothing of consequence to occur. He spoke over Biden, and he spoke over the moderator. He tossed juvenile insults across the room as though they were meaningful. He insulted Biden's intelligence and his family.

All through the debacle, Chris Wallace sat there trying to moderate, but couldn't manage to do so. He tossed out questions while Trump said whatever he wanted. There was two minutes for this, and two minutes for that, none of which was respected by Trump, and then a free 15 minutes, where Trump could scream and shout about absolutely anything that caught his fancy.

Frequently it looked like the three old men were all shouting at the same time, vying for the attention of the largely lost audience. Biden managed a few good moments speaking directly into the camera. Still, it was mostly an incoherent shout fest.

To me, it was like a class in my first few years of teaching over which I'd completely lost control. I recall teaching music to 50 kids at John F. Kennedy High School when one kids said, "Let's give it the bum's rush," and they all pushed out a few moments before the bell. I would observe older teachers whose classes sat there, doing the work, or doing whatever, and wonder what they had that I didn't.

Well, whatever it is, Chris Wallace hasn't got it. He hasn't even got a little of it. For one thing, when there's chaos, trying to shout above it doesn't really work. I no longer lose my temper, ever, in class. If I'm angry or frustrated, I actually become far less crazy than usual. I become very quiet, and silently focus on how exactly I can make that behavior inconvenient. Should I call the parents? Talk to the coach? Do something utterly diabolical?

My very last option with a student who misbehaves is to remove him from the class. I haven't done that in years. I remember once I had a girl who threatened to beat up a boy, and I really believed she would. I had her removed, and by the next day she had calmed down. It's always better to prevent violence than to stop it.

And yet, scary though this girl was, she didn't happen to be President of the United States. What do you do with a guy like that?

 I actually don't think I've ever had a student quite like that.  I guess you would have to remove the student after a while. Still, decades of being in front of 34 teenagers have taught me coping skills that you wouldn't acquire by sitting around in a Fox studio. I'd try everything I could think of. I did have one thing last night that Chris Wallace didn't--a remote control.

I was thus able to change channels midway to find out whether Rick and Morty was on. In fact, if I didn't have that idea, I could've just gone straight to the mute button. Should the moderator at a Presidential debate have the option to mute a candidate? If you muted Donald Trump, would he then tell one of his groups of thugs to come around and kill you and stuff? 

I wonder if a teacher could manage this feat. Judge Judy is pretty good at getting people to shut up. She screams at people pretty much as well as Trump. Although she's opinionated and offensive, she doesn't just make stuff up on the spot. Still, she's got that bailiff guy to drag people out whenever they get too uncooperative or belligerent.

The reason why this debate was such a fiasco was that there was clearly no one in charge. That's why the first few years of my class were so spotty too. I wonder whether Trump's handlers really want to sent him out to scream and shout like that. It makes as much sense as anything else he does or says, and for all I know, that's his only speed.

Unless the next moderator has the ability to moderate, the next debates will be time wasters just like this one. I guess Biden has to hang around for them simply because that's part of the job, but honestly, it's like watching a train wreck. I know that appeals to some people.

I'm just not one of them.  

Update: Peter Greene makes a great counter-argument.

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