Saturday, February 26, 2005
The Role of the Professor
Source: Rabbi Hillel Goldberg via Rocky Mountain News
The role of the professor is to teach - to enable students through careful tutelage in critical reading and careful research to reach their own conclusions. The role of the professor is not to spout off, and the definition of a good university is not a place where the spouting is equally balanced between left and right.
Wherein, then, lies quality and diversity in the social sciences and humanities? Not in the university as a whole. Not in a faculty equally liberal and conservative. But in the integrity of every single classroom. Professors in a genuine bastion of the social sciences and humanities expose their students to a variety of interpretations of history, politics and literature, without favoring any particular position.
The professor with integrity in, for example, political science can teach an entire course without his students being able to guess at his political predilections (at least based on his classroom performance).
The professor with integrity can debate, at least to a draw, any religious, political, or cultural position diametrically opposed to his own.
Such a professor will grade his students not on any position they take, but on thoroughness of research and felicity of expression. This professor will, with no twinge of conscience, award an A to a student he disagrees with, provided only that the student's knowledge rises to excellence. Real professors rejoice in their students' advancement, regardless of the direction of their reasoning.
....It is not a professor's free speech, but the student's rigorous, unbiased training, that is the university's purpose. If a professor must fall back on free speech or academic freedom to defend himself, it's usually because he violated his mission: focus on the student.