Teaching

Obama seems to be able to get people to cheer for news they might not like hearing from someone else.

One of the astonishing things about Barack Obama is his ability to get crowds to cheer when he tells them things they might not want to hear if someone else told them. He tells a crowd of college students he wants to give them scholarships, and gets a round of polite applause. Then he tells them they’re going to have to earn those scholarships with community service, and they get worked up into a frenzy of cheering.

And look what happens when Obama tells an African-American crowd they can’t blame their children’s academic problems on the schools, and what the families have to do about it. The crowd screams itself hoarse.

THE GOLDEN RULE

Obama cracks a ruler, and the crowd goes wild

By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 29, 2008

They came to cheer. They got a lecture. The crowd went wild.

During a Barack Obama town-hall meeting on the economy, the topic turned to education, which, the Illinois senator said, could not be remedied by spending alone. “It doesn’t matter how much money we put in if parents don’t parent,” he scolded.

The line is one the Democrat delivers often, but on Thursday in Beaumont, Texas, he struck a remarkable chord with his mostly African American audience.

“It’s not good enough for you to say to your child, ‘Do good in school,’ and then when that child comes home, you’ve got the TV set on,” Obama lectured. “You’ve got the radio on. You don’t check their homework. There’s not a book in the house. You’ve got the video game playing.”

Each line was punctuated by a roar, and Obama began to shout, falling into a preacher’s rhythm. “Am I right?”

“So turn off the TV set. Put the video game away. Buy a little desk. Or put that child at the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework. If they don’t know how to do it, give ’em help. If you don’t know how to do it, call the teacher.”

By now, the crowd of nearly 2,000 was lifted from the red velveteen seats of the Julie Rogers Theatre, hands raised to the gilded ceiling. “Make ’em go to bed at a reasonable time! Keep ’em off the streets! Give ’em some breakfast! Come on! Can I get an amen here?”

Whooooooooooooooooo, went the crowd. “You know I’m right,” Obama laughed. “And, since I’m on a roll, if your child misbehaves in school, don’t cuss out the teacher! You know I’m right about that! Don’t cuss out the teacher! Do something with your child!”

Pandemonium.

“All right, all right,” he finished, “settle down. We’re having too much fun here. . . . I’m speaking the truth!”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com