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« We seem to be reaching critical mass here | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

February 02, 2012


In the stories we tell about teaching and research, we generally cast teaching as the beneficiary of burning the midnight oil over, say, obscure Reformation polemics or the works of the Bollandists.

I like how you use the phrase "stories we tell," which connotes a certain amount of skepticism about the claim, and I like it mostly because I've become more skeptical over time that research affects teaching skill, especially at the undergrad level, when students need so much help with basic skills like close reading and simple analysis. The gap between those things and research on the Bollandists (or, in my case, the academic novel) seems pretty damn wide—which is one of the points that Louis Menand makes in The Marketplace of Ideas:

The argument that [graduate students or professors] need the training [of acquiring a PhD] to be qualified to teach undergraduates is belief by the fact that they are already teaching undergraduates. Undergraduate teaching is part of doctoral education; at many institutions, graduate students begin teaching classes the year they arrive. And the idea that the doctoral thesis is a rigorous requirement is belief by the quality of most doctoral theses.

Would your lecture in the Gothic course really have been substantially worse without current research? Maybe.


I have at least one colleague whose yellow-pad lecture notes (based, as near as I can tell, on class notes taken in the late '80s) I have -- against my better judgement -- found in my classroom and returned. I didn't have the forethought to get a picture, though, which I deeply regret.

This is the same colleague whose World Since 1500 surveys never leave Europe and rarely get past Napoleon.

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