The Cut (New York Magazine), Elizabeth Warren’s Classroom Strategy:
A lifelong teacher, she’s the most professorial presidential candidate ever. But does America want to be taught?
The story of Elizabeth Warren’s career in education — at least in legal education — begins with one word: assumpsit. It is literally the first word of the first case she had to read for the first class she ever took as a 24-year-old law student at Rutgers University in 1973. She has recalled, in vivid detail, the fear and confusion she’d felt as a young mother, former public-school teacher, and unlikely law student when her first law professor walked into the room and called on a student whose name began with A, asking her, “Ms. Aaronson, what is ‘assumpsit’?” Ms. Aaronson had not known, and neither had the next several students he called on after her. Ms. Warren also had not known what assumpsit meant, despite having done the reading for the day.
Since her last name was at the end of the alphabet, Warren was spared public humiliation, but she left her first law-school class badly shaken, with a degree of clarity about how she must move forward: “Read all the words and look up what you don’t know.”
In the following years, Warren became a law-school professor: first teaching night classes at Rutgers and eventually landing at Harvard, where she worked for 16 years before becoming a U.S. senator from Massachusetts in 2013.
In 1999, more than 20 years after Warren attended her first law class at Rutgers, Jay O’Keeffe, who now works as a consumer-protection lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia, attended his first law class at Harvard. It was taught by Warren. “She did not say anything like ‘Hello’ or ‘I’m Liz Warren, and welcome to Contracts,’ ” O’Keeffe recalled. “Instead, she put her books down, looked over her glasses at her seating chart, and said, ‘Mr. Szeliga, what’s ‘assumpsit’?’ ”
Assumpsit — which, Warren told me, “means that the action is in contract rather than in tort” — became Professor Warren’s calling card, though she says no matter how widely advance warnings spread, 96 percent of new law students would walk in unprepared for it. When Joseph Kennedy III introduced Warren at the Democratic National Convention three summers ago, the Massachusetts representative and grandson of Robert Kennedy recalled his “first day of law school, my very first class” in 2006, during which he had been the unlucky mark: “Mr. Kennedy, do you own a dictionary? That’s what people do when they don’t know what a word means; they look it up,” he recalled her saying during his public immolation. “I never showed up unprepared for Professor Elizabeth Warren ever again.”
“Yes, I do to my students what my teacher did to me,” Warren said gleefully, as she drank tea on her Cambridge sunporch in July. She spoke in the present tense, as she often does, about her teaching career, even though it’s been more than eight years since she has commanded a classroom.
So much of Warren’s approach to pedagogy can be understood via the assumpsit gambit: With it, she establishes direct communication and affirms that she’s not going to be doing all the talking or all the thinking; she’s going to be hearing from everyone in the room. By starting with a question that so many get wrong but wind up learning the answer to, she’s also telegraphing that not knowing is part of the process of learning.
Warren’s work as a teacher — the profession she dreamed of from the time she was in second grade — remains a crucial part of her identity, self-presentation, and communicative style. ...
Warren has won multiple teaching awards, and when I first profiled her in 2011, early in her Senate run and during what would be her last semester of teaching at Harvard, I spoke to students who were so over the moon about her that my editors decided I could not use many of their quotes because they were simply too laudatory. Many former students I interviewed for this story spoke in similarly soaring terms. One, Jonas Blank, described her as “patient and plainspoken, like an elementary-school teacher is expected to be, but also intense and sharp the way a law professor is supposed to be.” Several former students who are now (and were then) Republicans declined to talk to me on the record precisely because they liked her so much and did not want to contribute to furthering her political prospects by speaking warmly of her.
Yet it remains an open question whether the work Warren does so very well — the profession about which she is passionate and that informs her approach to politics — will work for her on the presidential-campaign trail. ...
It may be true that we don’t want a president who asks us to do homework. But we might want one who manages to see in us, somehow, potential.
Wall Street Journal, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Professors:
Elizabeth Warren shows how to accumulate a small fortune while working at a ‘non-profit’ called Harvard.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) likes to talk a lot about an affordability crisis in higher education. Fortunately for Ms. Warren and her husband, there’s no crisis at all for the people who work there.
This week Forbes magazine estimates the net worth of various 2020 presidential candidates. While it’s no surprise that a number of former business and finance executives come to the campaign with sizable fortunes, what’s remarkable is how much wealth is now attainable for those in the allegedly non-profit sector of the U.S economy.
Dan Alexander, Chase Peterson-Withorn and Michela Tindera of Forbes estimate that Sen. Warren and her husband enjoy a net worth of $12 million. ...
Nobody is claiming that any of the current crop of presidential candidates is as good as the Clintons when it comes to monetizing political power. But some voters may be surprised at how well educators at non-profit, tax-advantaged institutions are compensated, particularly when university schedules allow them to supplement their incomes with outside projects. In April of this year, Matt Murphy reported for the State House News Service in Massachusetts:
Warren and her husband Bruce Mann reported total income of $905,742 in 2018... After deductions, Warren and Mann had an adjusted gross income of $846,394. ...
Generally Americans don’t begrudge anyone earning an honest buck. But voters may find it hard to reconcile the Warren wealth with her constant demands for more taxpayer subsidies benefiting institutions like the one where she and her husband made their fortune.