The best teachers and professors resemble parental figures

Aug 20, 2014 by

Students crave emotional mentorship from their teachers that their parents can’t give them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

By William Deresiewicz

If you want a good education, you need to have good teachers. It seems ridiculous to have to say as much, but such is the state that matters have reached, both in academia and in the public conver­sation that surrounds it, that apparently we do. Between the long-term trend toward the use of adjuncts and other part-time faculty and the recent rush to online instruction, we seem to be deciding that we can do without teachers in college altogether, at least in any meaningful sense. But the kind of learning that college is for is sim­ply not possible without them.

Teaching is not an engineering problem. It isn’t a question of transferring a certain quantity of information from one brain to another. “Educate” means “lead forth.” A teacher’s job is to lead forth the powers that lie asleep within her students. To put it in the language of computers, you can download all the data you want, but it won’t be any good to you unless you have the software to make use of it. That software, the ability to operate on information—to understand it, to synthe­size it into new combinations, to discover and create with it—is what college is meant to “install.” But here the analogy breaks down, for unlike actual software, the installation isn’t quick and easy, and it certainly isn’t passive.

via The best teachers and professors resemble parental figures: They provide their students with emotional mentorship..

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