In his article "Foreign Affairs; My Favorite Teacher," Thomas L. Friedman claims that his high school journalism teacher, Hattie M. Steinberg, was "someone who made the most important difference in...

In his article "Foreign Affairs; My Favorite Teacher," Thomas L. Friedman claims that his high school journalism teacher, Hattie M. Steinberg, was "someone who made the most important difference in my life." What descriptive details does Friedman use to support this thesis?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his opinion article "Foreign Affairs; My Favorite Teacher," writer Thomas L. Friedman mainly argues that Hattie M. Steinberg was his most inspirational teacher because of the fundamentals she taught.

He asserts that she "pounded such fundamentals of journalism into her students" as how to accurately copy a spoken direct quote and how to write the opening paragraph in a news story to include who, what, where, when, why, and how. But he also asserts that the most consequential fundamentals she drilled into her students were the importance of conducting one's self in a professional manner and to "always do quality work." As evidence of just how deeply she drilled fundamentals into her students, Friedman pointed out that he can't forget to "wear a tie on assignment" without thinking of Miss Steinberg reprimanding him.

Another interesting point of evidence he uses to prove how inspirational a teacher she was concerns his description of how popular a teacher she also was. He describes that the students who worked on the school newspaper and the yearbook, both of which she oversaw, "lived" in her classroom, hanging out there both "before and after school," as if it was a "malt shop." He explains her popularity was due to the fact that her students respected being "harangued by her," meaning lectured by her in a sermonizing manner, "disciplined by her," and especially "taught by her."

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Friedman‘s article paints a picture of high school life in Minnesota in the late 60s. His journalism teacher, Hattie Steinberg, was an inspirational force in his life and subsequent career as a journalist. She was tough, demanding, and scrupulous about fairness and professionalism. Some of the details Friedman mentions include:

  • Every time he forgets to wear a tie on assignment, he hears her scolding him
  • He remembers a time when a person he interviewed for the school paper used an expletive, and she decided to print the word in the paper, with serious consequences for the man who had been interviewed
  • Kids hung out in her class room “like it was a malt shop.”
  • She would not let him be a reporter on the school paper in the 11th grade because his writing was not good enough
  • She was single and almost 60 when Friedman knew her; her students were like her family
  • Even though she was “the polar opposite of cool,” kids were drawn to her because “she was a woman of clarity in an age of uncertainty.”

droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author describes Hattie as "legendary," an adjective that suggests she made a difference not only in his own life, but in the lives of many others. He even suggests that her high-school-level journalism course was so good that he, a published journalist, has "never needed, or taken, another course in journalism since." This detail is allowed to speak for itself: Hattie, we can infer, is the person who has the single greatest influence on the writer's journalistic career, as nobody else has ever given input or instruction in this area.

The author also emphasizes the different arenas in which Hattie conveyed the "fundamentals" to her students. In showing the breadth of her input, into how to write articles, but also how to behave professionally and dress appropriately, the author serves to emphasize the extent to which Hattie made a significant difference to his life. She has influenced him not only professionally, but in further-reaching ways.