Commonplace Book #52

Why do so many academics labor with an unsettled conscience?  A preliminary answer to this question is not far to seek. The fact that university faculty tend to think that classroom teaching and collegiality are strangely not part of their “own work” is a tribute to the socializing power of our graduate schools.  These students learn, regardless of their field of study, that research and publication constitute their tasks and that all other activities–teaching, lecturing, university service–somehow just go with the territory.  The feeble efforts that most graduate schools make to provide their students with “teaching experience” (it is rather like giving would-be doctors training in “bedside manner”: the training seems vaguely distasteful, but it somehow must be done) merely reinforces the suspicion that pedagogy is really not a part of one’s work.  Leaving aside the very important question of whether or not any teacher-training program could be successful at the graduate level (Tell me, Socrates, can teaching be taught?), the results of five to ten years of graduate training are unmistakable.  Publication, graduate students discover, is the vocational aspiration.  To expect a recent Ph.D. to think otherwise would be the same as expecting a recent law school graduate to think like an engineer.

Mark Schwehn, Exiles from Eden, 5.

2 thoughts on “Commonplace Book #52

  1. I think Schwerin has a good point. I have had professors who obviously “really knew their stuff” but who had no difficulty putting the class to sleep—-especially in afternoon classes. By the same token I have had less studied instructors and professors who could put their more limited academic material straight across the plate at the waist-high level.


  2. Leaving the field wide open to Historians(TM) like David Barton (and other Conspiracy Truther types). While academia publishes to each other, these guys are VERY interested in teaching and making converts to THEIR One True History.

    “Effective Propaganda consists of Simplification and Repetition.”
    “A Lie, repeated often enough, becomes the Truth.”
    — both Reichsminister Goebbels

    “Good philosophy is needed, if nothing else than to counter bad philosophy.”
    — attr to C.S.Lewis


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