The Corner

Education

True Higher Education Should Be about Teaching

At many colleges and universities, the emphasis is on money, perceived prestige, sports, resume-building, student amenities — but not mentoring the students. Sure, they pay lip service to liberal education, but that’s all.

In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins writes about this problem, focusing on the observations of Professor Zena Hitz, who teaches at St. John’s College in Annapolis. That is one of the remaining schools where the attention is all on teaching.

She graduated from St. John’s herself, earned her Ph.D. at Princeton, and subsequently taught at a number of institutions.

Watkins writes, “Unlike many scholars, Hitz experienced two very different models of education in her academic formation. Her experiences prompted her to think deeply about the nature of the intellectual life and how the modern-day academy often inhibits its development.”

Yes, because so few professors are really interested in teaching. There’s no reward for doing it well and no cost for doing it poorly.

Students who really want to learn can sometimes find professors willing to mentor them, but it takes a lot of effort to find them.

Hitz concludes that the perfect student/faculty relationship is two-sided: “To share with your students the questions that, to you, feel open, so that they can see that not everything is sound bites and slogans and digestible pieces—bullet-points for the Powerpoint presentation.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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