Omar Bonilla" />
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Monday, September 25, 2023


Professors should educate, not entertain

During the years we spend cruising through many lectures and labs, we get to work with different professors, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. We become comfortable with some and annoyed by others. We recognize the ones that deserve our respect, and also the ones that will be better forgotten at the turn of the semester.

After discussing the recruiting process with the dean of a local college, I no longer wonder how some of my professors ever came to be. I received a painful confirmation of what I have come to believe over the years: that mastering of the subject and true commitment to keep learning is not the main requirement.

With the commercialization of higher education triggered by increased competition and a lack of interest by the youth and the pressure for getting and keeping students in the classrooms have now contaminated the teachers’ realm.

A teacher is now expected to go and sell his class to the students by putting on a convincing, albeit insubstantial, show. Deep covering of the subject and proficient question answering is not necessary if a visual, even cinematographic, performance is delivered.

Visual aids and handouts are certainly helpful and welcomed by students and teachers alike, but I condemn those students who prefer them as a way to make the class easier or the clock run faster just as much as teachers who prefer them as the means to stay away from complicated discussions that may put their knowledge to the test.

It is true that an efficient instructor needs not only deep knowledge of the subject, but also the ability to teach it.

Unfortunately, the same person may not have those two traits. The problem then becomes a matter of choice between mastering of the subject or mastering of the crowd.

Any student may rather have the teacher who knows little but can teach that little instead of the one who knows it all but cannot teach a thing. It seems sensible for the authorities to select a good salesman who can be trained on the subject to be taught; after all, there is always a good teacher assistant to prepare an impressive power point or detailed handouts.

On the other hand, are we really making a responsible decision? Should the academic standards be lowered just to keep the students happy? Could it be possible and would it not be better to help the really knowledgeable individual – perhaps using that same teacher assistant – become an efficient presenter?

Some say that education used to be better, and the realities of emerging countries such as India, China or Japan may be proving them right. Somewhere along the lines, the responsibility for learning was passed from the students to the teachers. Not long ago it was the student who had the obligation to go and search for the tools that suit him best: notes, overviews, flashcards, graphs, extra work or tutoring. Not learning was his or her loss, and the consequences were only his or hers to suffer. Now, if teachers do not get that underachiever to learn, it is either their heads on the chopping block or their bonuses taken away.

If higher education in our country is to return to the glorious days of the type of scientific and technologic achievement that resulted in modern wonders like computers, nuclear power or the space shuttle, we need to bring education back to be a commitment of learning, not just an obligation in high school and a social convenience in college.

Let’s bring the more academically capable teachers to the classroom and make it work together. The teacher can and will learn to communicate better, but it should be the students’ burden to take on the challenge of learning for their success and achievements will benefit him or her alone.

Gold and oil are not within hand’s reach. We work hard to get them. Knowledge is the biggest treasure. It is time we remember that education is not a right, but a privilege.

Bonilla, a computer-science technology senior, can be reached via [email protected].

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