Posted by: dannyjwkim | December 14, 2007

Super-Teacher Theory Applied to Obama?

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Growing Pains starring Kirk Cameron as “Mike Seaver”. He predates Zach Morris as the classic goofball, wise-guy student. (I think he was my hero. I’m not sure.) Anyway, the show carried on long enough for “teenager Mike” to grow up into “adult Mike“ who ironically becomes a teacher at the very high school that he himself once tormented.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the series finale. He ended up being a really good teacher, being particularly adept at handling the trouble-making, goofball, wise-guy rebellious types because, after all, he was the king.

Principal Dewitt (the same principal for whom “teenage Mike” had caused much headache) marvels at the dramatic role reversal and cautiously wonders aloud whether Mike Seaver might be the fulfillment of the “Super-Teacher Theory”.

The theory goes that if you could take the most troublesome student and somehow make that student understand what it meant to be a teacher – then that student has the unique potential of becoming a “Super-Teacher” – at least in terms of knowing how to handle the very type of student that he/she once was.

In other words, a person on the fringes who then makes his or her way into the “main” will be more successful in positively affecting someone who is still on the fringes, at least more so than someone who has never been on the fringes themselves but instead (through absolutely no fault of their own) have simply always been in the “main”.

But what is truly powerful is that the “fringe-to-main” person is also able to be a genuine ally and peer of the “perennially-main” person.

Andrew Sullivan’s recent MUST-READ articulates many things about Why Obama Matters and everything above was just a half-serious segue to touch on just one of the (many) reasons.

Barack Hussein Obama

Just try to imagine the America he experienced with that name, his biraciality, his having lived in a foreign country. Imagine all the internal negotiating and wrestling that needed to occur in his heart and mind as a person of the minority culture and then to still end up going through the very “normal” and “respectable” steps of Columbia University then community organizing then Christ-accepting then Harvard Law then some more community organizing, civil rights lawyering, constitutional law teaching until being shoved into politics and have this “insane” notion that it would be a vehicle through which to make better the lives of people on a macro level rather than just the micro level, then attacked for such “naivete” but still believing and using the same skillset he needed to reconcile his own identity to reconcile the cynicism/corruption of politics with his personal idealism/optimism to actually get things done.

My contention then is that a person of the minority culture (and I’m not talking about race only) who has to acquiesce to/learn the ways of the majority culture/status quo in order to thrive, let alone survive, will definitely have a truer, fuller and more nuanced worldview than even the brightest and most “experienced” person of life-long privilege; and therefore has more potential to positively affect members of both groups because he/she belongs to both.

I truly believe that Obama’s understanding of America and the world is fuller and more nuanced by the very nature of his biography and I simply have never trusted any politician as naturally as I currently trust Barack Obama – his own life confirms it for me. The presidency is not an “end” as the ultimate career/resume achievement but as an actual “means” to a greater positive vision for America and literally the entire world in which we live.

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Responses

  1. http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/holier-than-they/

    thought this was an interesting blog post. talks about religion and politics. i’m sure you’ll like the obama quote in there, though I’m not sure if you could love him any more than you already do. GET A ROOM! =p

  2. http://www.newsweek.com/id/78157

    This guy sorta makes the same point.


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