When I taught high school, I was usually called “the German teacher,” although I also taught history. That’s understandable. German teachers were scarce, and history teachers were plentiful. Principals hired me to teach three or four German classes and filled the rest of my schedule with history.
In some ways, Mr. Mourdock reminds me of Matthew, the most annoying and possibly the smartest history student I ever taught. Matt was every bit as conservative as Mourdock or any other tea party politician. He was certainly more conservative than any of my other students — ever! We argued incessantly but without animosity. Our arguments didn’t lead to agreement or even compromise, but they did lead to mutual respect. I think I learned as much from him as he learned from me.
When he began applying to colleges, I gave him one of the best recommendations I ever wrote: “We disagree on more political, economic and social issues than either of us can count. No other student has ever challenged my ideas and values as he does. He reads constantly and thinks well on his feet. He quickly analyzes new information within the context of his prior knowledge and uses both to support his views. He possesses the intellect and the work ethic to enrich the academic environment of any university.”
Mr. Mourdock would like Matt. They are, to quote Lucy Maud Montgomery, “kindred spirits.” Despite that, Mourdock may lack Matt’s innate talent for self-expression: knowing how to say the right thing in the right way at the right time. That deficiency may limit his political prospects.
I recently criticized Mr. Mourdock for comparing our present-day U.S. economy to Nazi Germany’s. I also dispute his claim bipartisanship should consist of his opponents’ complete acceptance of his views.