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Wednesday
Apr152009

Thoughts on Faculty "Education"

It seems as though there are several sorts of faculty "profiles" or strategies in college these days. There is the option of doing nothing but presenting something in the nature of standardized ABC's -- the basic trivia of a subject. This approach might rely heavily upon a textbook. And there are those who rely heavily upon a pleasant sort of entertainment for students -- be it in their personality (interaction, arranging for talk) or in some sort of creative educational agenda (simulations and so forth). This approach uses entertainment and some kind of social psychology I think. And there are those who rely heavily on task assignments. They like to have kids doing small projects that they can manage and oversee (while they are away doing research). This approach is least labor-intensive from the standpoint of really wanting to prepare something in the class.

But there is a final pedagogy. And it says that what young minds must develop in college is not ABC's, skills such as how to use the library, or to feel the experience of "fun" in class. Rather, it is to inculcate the intellect with, shall we say, "voices." That it is to plant things in the mind that either grow or get stored somewhere, where they might later grow.

Of course, the truth is that many will not do anything with these seeds. They'll occupy the mind like other articles of junk. But still, with many (more?), these voices will stay throughout the life, either to be voiced away by the greater experiences of life or to be summoned in the aid of insight -- but either way to be a frame of reference.

I note this because I think college professors are in trouble these days. Too many are not intellectually interesting. Too many are data wonks. Too many are baby sitters or entertainers. Too many teach ABC's. Too many are now being replaced by online instruction, which can deliver information about as good as the next. Very few, I think, try to impress upon curiosity the gift of insight. Very few love the idea for its own sake any more. They day the Greeks die in the academy is the day that all the institutions are worthless in Rome.

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