Introducing Charles Cooper, 2012 Humanities Texas Teacher of the Year

October 2nd, 2013

Today, we’re introducing the first member of our new teacher advisory council: Charles Cooper. In a brief interview, Charles shares his thoughts about using technology in the classroom, the importance of civic education, and how to model serious class discussion.

Charles is a government teacher at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas. He also teaches at Northwest Texas Community College. Charles earned his BA in Education from the University of North Texas and an MA in Political Philosophy and American Government from the University of Dallas. He was recognized by the Humanities Texas organization with a 2012 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award. 

You can find Charles on Twitter under the handle @Thrasymachus. He blogs at Thrasymakos.

What courses are you teaching this school year?

I will be teaching college-level American Government classes to high school seniors as well as a fully online College American Government course to college freshmen.

Are there any topics or texts you are particularly excited about teaching?

With a degree in political philosophy, I can’t help but be excited about this aspect of my course. I always enjoy introducing my students to the classical and modern strands of thought in Western political theory as well as how those strands influence our own approach to governing. 

Within the main scope of my curriculum, I love teaching the founding, demographic shifts as they relate to voting and voting trends, presidential war powers, Supreme Court cases, and the ins-and-outs of federalism.

Are you trying anything new this year in the classroom?

I’m always trying new lessons or types of technology in my classroom to spice things up for my students as well as for myself. I’ve recently discovered the greatness of using Skype to co-teach with other government teachers in other states. Plenty of planning is needed to pull this off, but the student engagement I see is well worth it. 

I also plan on pulling in quite a few lessons from the What So Proudly We Hail website. I really appreciate the way the lessons are intended to allow for deep discussions about serious topics. Modeling serious—which is not to say boring—conversation is a dead or dying art that needs reviving. So many complain about the divisive nature of politics and culture today, but do little to address that divisiveness. I love that What So Proudly We Hail is taking action in this respect, which is why I will be implementing many of these lessons in my own classroom.

Why is civic education important? What can schools do to help create citizens who are thoughtfully and knowledgeably attached to our country and eager to live an active civic life?

Freedom allows people to make decisions for themselves and to move in different directions. Freedom, then, can move a people further apart from each other. A proper civic education allows a free people to share a common bond. 

Our nation’s history is a great dialogue that bends toward truth. Ideas have inspired our people, and those people have steered events in our history. The more knowledgeable our young men and women are of these American elements the more apt they are to recognize and prepare for coming challenges. The more well-educated and civic-minded citizens engage in the public discourse, the more likely well-thought-out laws will be passed. These citizens will not only elect better qualified candidates, they will hold them in check while those candidates are in office.

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