George Lucas Educational Foundation

Celebrity Q&A: Brian Williams on Challenging the Truth

This just in, from the award-winning news anchor.

Edutopia Team
Related Tags: Teacher Development
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Brian Williams is not your typical deskbound news anchor. As managing editor of NBC Nightly News, Williams frequently departs the narcissistic cocoon of Midtown Manhattan to get to the heart of the story.

For his efforts, he has received four Edward R. Murrow Awards, five Emmy Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, and the industry's highest honor, the George Foster Peabody Award. Most were given for his work in New Orleans while covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. All were awarded to Williams in only his second year on the job.

What is your idea of a perfect teacher?

Intellectual, excitable, passionate, and flexible.

What was your most memorable school experience?

A high school teacher, Bob Kitson, helping turn my life around. He got me reading the classics.

What was the low point of your school career?

Right before meeting Bob Kitson.

Did you go to public or private school?

Public until Catholic high school.

Where did you fit in your schools' social hierarchies?

Until senior year, I was unrecognizable to most of the student body.

What was your favorite subject?


What is impossible to learn in school?

How to make your way in life.

If you could change one thing about education in America, what would it be?

The teaching of American and world history of the last century and the basics -- we have become more concerned with the individual and less concerned with what they learn.

What should they teach that they don't teach now?

Comprehensive U.S. and world history.

What did you learn today?

I learned, on this sparkling, sunny, crisp day in New York, that the haunting memory of September 11 will never leave us.

What did you teach?

I taught our newsroom a lesson in never being above our audience. A former firefighter buddy told me the stories that are important to him, and I passed along that lesson.

What is in your dream lunch box?

A peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and ice-cold milk.

If you wrote a textbook, what would it be called?

What Is Past Is Prologue: The Lessons History Can Teach Us.

If the prom were tomorrow, whom would you take?

Since Jennifer Aniston appears to have reached a level of happiness in her life, I would take my wife and love of twenty-one years and not waste all those dating years in between.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Fran Shaw's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a U.S. and world history teacher, I can heartily agree with Mr. Williams' comments. I spend two years (7th and 8th grade) teaching U.S. history from the earliest settlements through modern day. Our children need to learn about the world, but they are citizens of the United States, first and foremost. While some can laugh at Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments, where ordinary citizens are asked basic history/government questions and give ridiculous answers, I find it sad and somewhat terrifying that there are people in this country who will one day be government or business leaders and who are appallingly ignorant of their country's history. Even more terrifying is that they find themselves funny in their ignorance.
As Mr. Williams said in the quiz, "What Is Past Is Prologue....". We're not very good at learning lessons from the past, but maybe it's not too late to start.

Lori Safford's picture

Thanks, Brian Williams, for validating how important it is for our youth to have a REAL and Authentic education. Our group, Maine Arts & Sports Academy is just emerging in Maine-- we meld academics with the arts and sports by having students "do" math & science (skateboarding physics, chemistry in pottery, math in the kitchen). We also have an apprenticing program that matches students with community professionals who are passionate about their job choice. These professionals share their history, their mistakes, their triumphs, and students benefit from all this. Students will be exposed to 30-40 occupations before they finish high school. It is a fabulous way to "do" school!!!!!
check it out:

Natasha Peterson's picture

Reading Brian Williams' comments about the need for more US AND WORLD HISTORY makes my heart ache over the fact that our local High School canceled its one and only semester of world history this year due to, 'students' lack of interest'. This is sad especially since many educators, myself included believe as Doug Lemov does that, "a belief that content is boring is a self-fulfilling prophecy". (taken from Lemov's book: Teach Like a Champion).
According to the local newspaper, canceling world history class is becoming a more popular choice across Idaho. The newspaper had several quotes from teachers who apparently feel that world history is boring and not relevant to their students.
I believe that this is horrible but do not know how to stop this trend.

Jane Steele's picture

By virtue of all of us being here online discusing this topic allows us to become a part of the global family. And if we are to truly know each other then not canceling world history courses should be taken seriously.
Here we are already teaching young people to taking the test in order to pass onto the next grade and other young people from around the world are beating our students by a country mile in knowing history that took place here better than our students could ever know it. We need to stop here and now and decide for once and for all that all of us here in our country are important and matter and that our futures are urgently important if only we woll learn from out past/mistakes so that we can make things better for us all. But are we really able to do this? Jane Steele,MA History Educator

Jane Steele's picture

The Jaywalking comments stopped being funny a long time ago with people snickering with glee about the comments about our countrys history that were answered so wrong. All due respect to Mr. Leno but this should all give us pause. Jane Steele,MA

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