Beyond the Book
Frank submitted a story about a teacher who left a lasting impact through the form on the Chalk and Chances website. He described the way Miss Andrews, his sixth-grade geography teacher, taught him to think beyond the text.
I was a conscientious student and a proficient reader. So, when Miss Andrews began asking questions in geography, I was ready. When called upon, I answered her question about exports from Portugal by quoting verbatim the relevant paragraph from the textbook. I was very proud of myself. She affirmed I was correct, but then she stumped me. She asked whether the textbook was correct! I was stunned. I never questioned "received knowledge" before. From that date in 1951 until now, I evaluate "authoritative" information for myself, rather than simply relying on the reputation of the source, both positive and negative. This approach has made me less gullible and more thoughtful than I otherwise would have been. It completely changed my view of the world and my place in it. I owe Miss Andrews an enormous debt.
Reading Frank’s story caused me to reflect on the power of questions. Through one seemingly simple question, Miss Andrews facilitated a lifelong habit of critical thinking. Our democracy depends on citizens being willing and able to question the veracity of documents and depictions, even when offered by an authority. Miss Andrews gave Frank the chance to decide for himself. When did a teacher prompt you to think beyond the book? Share in the comments below.
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