“Teachable Moment”? Peggy Noonan Says Sherrod Speech Should Be Required In Schools


Okay, you’re probably sick of hearing the phrase “teachable moment.” It’s made quite the comeback amid the Shirley Sherrod hoopla. But in today’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan has a slightly different take on it. Noonan argues Sherrod’s speech has lessons that students could — and should — learn from.

Noting that “it wasn’t pretty, what was done to Shirley Sherrod this week,” Noonan finds a silver lining of sorts by finding a way to seek redemption:

This September, when school begins, we should make the speech required viewing in the nation’s high schools. It packs quite a lesson within quite a story.

The column also makes the interesting observation that Sherrod tells the story “not in a tone of rage or self-pity but of simple remembered sadness” — which makes the message ring all the more true. The story, Noonan writes, is about a woman who took the painful experiences of discrimination and hatred from her past and channeled them into doing some good for others — but she also acknowledges that “it’s not a perfect speech.”

But speeches don’t have to be perfect to provide good lessons. The most obvious thing to be learned from the Sherrod ordeal is that we’re too quick to judge, and that we should be more skeptical of what the media tell us. Noonan includes these. However, the more important lesson for students — and for anyone else, too, to be honest — is:

And for students? What can they learn? How about: Individuals can change, just like nations. They can get better, if they want to be.

What’s more important than that? What do students need to hear more?

It really can be a teachable moment. It can.

Good point. If high school students graduated having learned, or at least been exposed to, this lesson, they’d be better for it. High school administrations often emphasize that they are preparing their students for the proverbial Real World. Well, a real-world lesson could certainly help.

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