Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Interesting op-ed in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education: Harvard, Be Honest, by Leonard Cassuto (Fordham University, English Department):
Dear Harvard: It was with eager anticipation that I opened your recently released task-force report, A Compact to Enhance Teaching and Learning at Harvard, on the charged topic of the role of teaching in the research university. As a graduate-school alumnus, I had high hopes.
But I confess that I am disappointed. You say that you must value teaching more, and you speak of the need to "make choices" to achieve that goal. Yet you refuse to acknowledge the most important choice. In fact, your report implicitly suggests that you don't have to make any choices at all. ...
Try as you may to avoide or elide the fact, faculty members at Harvard (and most other institutions) play in a zero-sum game. Will your new focus on teaching detract from Harvard's renowned research chops? No, you insist, faculty members will "commit themselves equally" to excellence in research and teaching. No loss, then. You'll just add more teaching to the mix. But you can't keep adding more and more air to the same size balloon. Good teaching takes time. Spend more time on teaching, and you'll spend less on research — or on leisure, vacation, or family time. Devote more time to teaching, and you'll have two choices: less research or no life. ...
What you're really doing is calling for achieving institutional priorities on the backs of faculty members. And the faculty members who will suffer most are the ones striving for tenure.