As a future professor I expect to be questioned
I connected so much with Parker Palmer’s piece, “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited.” There were so many quotes I thought were so thoughtful, but I will start with a few of my favorites.
“… I decided to become a professor, animated in part by the belief that education can humanize us”
“… taught to value intellectual detachment above engagement with the world. They refused to recognize what they knew”
“Does education humanize us? Not nearly often enough. We have yet to uproot the myth of “value-free” knowledge, and hence we turn our graduates loose on the world as people who know, but do not recognize that our justice system often fails the poor, that corporate logic usually favors short-term profits over sustainability, that practical politics is more about manipulating public opinion than discerning the will of the people, that our approach to international relations is laced with arrogance about our culture and ignorance of others, that science and technology are not neutral but rather means to social ends.”
I had a conversation with my roommate this past weekend about what I want out of (potentially) becoming a future professor. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and what I want. Whether I want to be at a predominantly teaching institution or research institution. I don’t believe I should have to choose and compromise one for the other. I want to be able to do research with the necessary resources and my job is to teach students. I am passionate about both and I don’t want to go to an institution that won’t support me doing both. To most people when I tell them that they tell me to go to a teaching school, but I think I want to work at a research institution because I see the teaching there being more of a challenge. I see large public institutions being where I can get the most diversity of opinion and backgrounds in the classroom (diversity being amongst the college going population, which is inherently not diverse, but hopefully slightly more diverse than the private institutions). My teaching strategy is what I think to be pretty straightforward. While I would be teaching in a geosciences department, I don’t expect to be teaching geoscience majors, I expect art history majors, business majors, economics majors, biology majors.
I couldn’t care less if my students become geology majors. That’s wonderful if they feel connected to the material, but I don’t feel that that is my job as a future professor. My job is to get them to think and critically engage with what they are learning and the wealth of literature and knowledge that I’m asking them to engage with. My job is to get my students to think. My job is to create members of society that can critically consume what they are being told, not just blindly accept. That can recognize bias and think about how they think and in what ways they may be biased. I want them to question, I want them to question me, I want them to question their peers. Memorizing the geologic time scale front and back doesn’t tell me anything about their ability to critically think. If they can take context clues and put those together with how they’ve learned to think, that’s what I care about. Science is driven by observation and asking questions, that’s what I expect of my students.
There is so much more I could say about Parker Palmer’s piece, but I will leave it here for the sake of space.