Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wilting Ivy

Here's an interesting article on why even Harvard doesn't offer much of an education anymore. At the risk of cutting off the branch that I'm sitting on, this comment is spot on:

"In practice, moreover, a significant number of the courses in Harvard College are taught by graduate students, not as assistants to professors but in full control of the content. Although they are called 'tutors,' evoking an image of learned Oxbridge dons passing on their wisdom one-on-one, what they are is a collection of inexperienced leaders of discussion or pseudo-discussion groups. The overwhelming majority of these young men and women, to whom is entrusted a good chunk of a typical undergraduate’s education, will never be considered good enough to belong to Harvard’s regular faculty."

I'm certainly not at Harvard. But, to be blunt, I don't believe that I should have my job either. Three days of instruction isn't nearly enough to equal the skills of a seasoned lecturer. The students get limited contact with those experienced scholars, and more contact with those of us who have no qualifications aside from the fact that we've taken the course before and are a cheap source of labor. It's no way to run a business, even if we're talking about Mall University.


Becky said...

I just got through bashing BYU further down the page, but I do have to give it to them on this one. All my classes there were taught by full or associate professors. Some of the large ones would then have additional lab sections that were led by TA's, but usually they just led study sessions.

Rufus said...

Yeah, the recitations that I teach are the equivalent of a lab section for the professor's lecture. We just have grad students teaching the summer courses, and occasionally the gen ed courses. It sounds like Harvard is actually worse for that. Part of the problem too is that places like ours have numerous profs who only teach one seminar a year, but stay on as Distinguished Faculty. This doesn't help tuition rates at all.