I may be completely delusional (as opposed to partially delusional, which I freely admit to being), but I really don't recognize the academic universe described in a recent article in the Sunday New York Times (Education supplement). The article discusses which statistics reported by a college or university might not give a true picture of the institution.
I liked the start of the article: an example of a University of Michigan student who has taken small classes with a cohort of fellow students for much of her undergraduate career. The point is that these environments and programs exist at big universities, not just at small colleges.
But then there's a section titled: "Prizes and Ph.D's: They Don't Teach". I do not recognize the academic environment described. Not even close. Is there really any U.S. university, no matter how highly ranked and festooned with Nobel Prize laureates, at which teaching is not important? The scary thing is that the following quotation comes from a 'career and college counselor' and author of a guide to colleges:
"People who self-select into Ph.D. programs are academic research types, not teachers," he says. "Their knowledge is so deep and so profound they often don't have the ability to communicate well with undergraduates who need the basics." And this: "A person with a Nobel Prize-winner mind is in the loftiest stratospheres of their arcane pursuit and, in general, is not that gifted a teacher."
Where to start, where to start..
It's true that I often don't have the ability to communicate well with people, particularly when I'm asleep or alone. Otherwise, I typically do just fine.
Re. arcane pursuits: since I have no perspective, despite my deep and profound knowledge of some things, I Googled the term "arcane pursuits" to see if things like inventing magnetic resonance imaging and semiconductors or understanding the causes of diseases really are "arcane". Nope. It turns out that the following are arcane, though: Latin grammar, programming multicast applications, archiving television audio, fly fishing.
Anyway, I am really tired of reading this professors-can't-teach (or the variant: professors-don't-teach) myth in the mainstream press. Of course there are research professors and there are some not-so-great teachers at universities (and colleges), but I don't have any colleagues here or elsewhere who don't devote a lot of time and energy to teaching, to being very good teachers, and to integrating teaching and research. We are better teachers for our intensive involvement in research.
Another myth that is repeated in the article: that full-time faculty are better than adjuncts or part-time faculty: ".. being around (full-time) tends to increase their participation in the life of the campus and their students' development." Without getting into the issue of universities exploiting their adjuncts and not giving them sufficient respect or salary, it is clearly not the case that part-time faculty aren't as committed as full-time faculty.
6 months ago