Education Opinion

It Doesn’t Take a Genius

April 14, 2006 1 min read

This book by two award-winning high school teachers and hall-of-fame debate team coaches is so heartwarming that I was afraid that my internal organs might combust while reading it.

“Randy and Tommie,” as the coauthors refer to themselves and each other throughout the book, take turns discussing the five so-called truths that inspire students to succeed. Tommie writes with something of the moral fervor of the missionary, while Randy is the funny one, or at least tries to be. His puns are actually quite atrocious (“Your van Gogh just up and van Went.”)

The book contains frequent testimonials from Randy’s and Tommie’s grateful former students, many of whom came from rough backgrounds but who have since gone on to careers in law, medicine, business, education, and the arts. Given the main title of their book, it should come as no great surprise that the “truths” Randy and Tommie preach aren’t particularly sophisticated or subtle. In fact, they largely boil down to “Take away the barriers to learning, and an awakening will occur.” And how do teachers take away these barriers? By believing in themselves and in the potential of each child.

It’s easy to dismiss this as naïve, but maybe teachers need to act as though high expectations and kindness are enough to overcome poverty, racism, and other societal barriers to learning. Randy and Tommie propose saving the world one child at a time. There are worse educational philosophies to follow.