Saturday, February 26, 2005


The Role of the Professor

This is the most excellent exposition about what college ought to be about that I cannot improve on it one bit. Read it and wonder why this isn't the ideal any more.

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.

Source: Rabbi Hillel Goldberg via Rocky Mountain News

Unfortunatley, the metrics used to measure performance on a college campus don't reflect the public's view of the main purpose of Higher Education. Moreover, the emphasis is on research, soft dollars attained, and being published. There needs to be a complete overhaul of how we measure quality in the faculty ranks. That said, there is no shortage of opinions about how that should be done. And many tie some kind of corporate metrics to the act, discipline, and art of teaching. High quality teaching is not measured in test output by students. Such misguided rubrics fail to realize that while teaching is the primary responsiblity of the teacher, learning is the primary responsiblity of the student. When one fails, the test scores don't corrolate.
I completely agree with your outrage! I'm sure the ACLU is foaming at the mouth on this. My blog has been attacked by the left. Some liberal blog posted an article and sent everyone to attack me. I could use any help defending it. The traffic is almost out of control!
Thanks for the post and thanks to the rabbi for saying it so well.
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