Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2

(Sometimes you write a blog post just because you've given yourself an occasion to use a cool allusion in a title.)

There is a great deal of ambivalence among academics about education, in part, no doubt, because they are feeling pressures on the system that worry them. But it's also because the sort of intelligence you need to be a successful scholar is actually not exactly the same kind you need to be a "good student". University teachers are often much less authoritarian (or perhaps authoritative) than the institutions they work for presume to be. So they cultivate a light irony in the classroom, rather than the "dark sarcasm" of Roger Waters' famous song.

I don't really have a position on it ready. (I'm traveling and my plane is delayed and I thought for once I'd write and post something spontaneously.) I only want to say that I believe that a significant part of the purpose of research is to supply materials for teaching. Indeed, research should be a way for teachers to keep their minds in shape to the benefit of the students. Or put another way: I think the knowledge of scholars is best transmitted to society through teaching (not patents or popular books). Research writing is not about communicating knowledge but qualifying it through conversations with peers.

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