Sunday, March 25, 2012

Aside on the Politics of Teaching

Paul Krugman says:

"OK, I wasn’t going to post anything else, but as Robert Farley says, this WaPo piece on underworked college teachers is outrageous."

I'll agree.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to know the backstory behind this piece. It's clearly not an intellectually honest contribution, so why did he write it?

Anonymous said...

As in aspiring junior faculty, I would feel a lot better if the response had some facts in it. Mr. Farley seemed mostly to fight assertion with assertion—thought the link to the UC data was a welcome exception. Is there more data available like this?

I would love to be dissuaded by this view, but I kind of agree in some cases (though I do think that Levy vastly over states his case). There are universities where 70% of the revenue comes from tuition, yet the faculty are selected primarily for their research abilities, not for their teaching quality. I do not think the students want to fund their professors 70% to teach only 40% of the time. Moreover, my impression is that the research that comes out of these third rate institutions is often of dubious quality.

What are the good counter arguments to this? Those backed with data especially welcome.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anon #2: You're reading a different article than the one written by Mr. Levy. You talk about research, and I assume when you say, "I do not think the students want to fund their professors 70% to teach only 40% of the time." you are referring to people who do research at primarily teaching institutions. Mr. Levy is pretty explicit that this is not what he's talking about at all. (He specifically calls attention to schools where the duties are teaching and service, not research.)

If you want to have a discussion as to whether faculty at university tier X should be doing research, and how much time they spend on it against how much time they spend teaching, by all means let's have that discussion. That's not what Mr. Levy's article is about. (Mr. Farley does bring it in, but primarily to point out that Mr. Levy is apparently unclear on which schools he's talking about. Many state schools have research programs -- and my impression is that they're more valuable than you're giving credit for, but again, that's a different argument.)

Levy argues that 15 hours of class time (plus other university duties) is much less than a 40 hour work week. My experience (with a mother who taught -- not as tenured faculty, but as an adjunct hire) at Cal State schools for years is that 15 hours of class time can easily translate to a 60 hour work week, never mind other duties. This matches what Farley says in his response, and I think is the main "lie" in the Levy article.

Harry Lewis said...

Yes, Mr. Levy seems not to understand what good teaching demands at the college level.

There are places to attack the system in which even teaching institutions demand the qualifications of research faculty -- I think if he had stuck closer to Wm James' original argument on this he would have done better. As you say, he certainly has his ratios wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon #2. I just wanted to thank Michael for his clear response.