August 12, 2003

The Perils of Appropriate Instruction

The latest trend in academics is the idea that only specifically qualified instructors can teach in a given discpline; for example, only black instructors can teach black history. Erin O'Connor points to an example of criminals teaching criminology. I wonder if the department's hiring committee had a conversation like this one:

Dept. Head: Okay, we're here to discuss the new faculty hires for the upcoming school year. As you know, we've been extrememly fortunate to fill most of our slots with appropriate personnel, but we still have one very important opening to fill and frankly, I'm out of ideas. Yes, Dr. Wyrm?

Wyrm: Which opening is left?

Head: Advanced Criminal Behavior. We've had a few candidates apply, but they just weren't what we were looking for...Yes, Dr. Wyrm?

Wyrm: I personally reviewed the ACB applications: we had over 250 applicants for the slot! Why didn't you go with my recommendation?

Head: Ah, yes, you recommended a Mr. Eric Robert Rudolph. Frankly, Dr. Wyrm, I was surprised.

Wyrm: Why? He has excellent credentials!

Head: Excellent? A couple of small time bombings and death by collateral damage? Please. I hardly think that someone dropping dead from a heart attack counts as a casualty in a bombing. And bombings are so declasse'. We are a prestigious private university, Dr. Surely we can do better than Eric Rudolph!

Wyrm: I know the department was leaning more toward serial killer than domestic terrorist...

Head: Exactly. We don't want too much overlap with our Arabic studies professor, a Mr. Muhammed something-or-other death to America.

Wyrm: That last part isn't his name, it's just the way he ends all of his sentences.

Head: Whatever. I simply find it difficult to believe that out of 250 of the top criminals in the US, we couldn't do any better than Eric Rudolph. I mean, he's a white Southerner, for heaven's sake!

Wyrm: I thought that might be good for the diversity requirement.

Head: Really, Dr. Wyrm, your attempts at humor don't help the situation. What about this fellow, here--Latino, had a good thing going along the railroads?

Wrym: He's possibly insane, his english isn't so good, and he might be innocent.

Head: And? I know that the department had its heart set on a female African-American serial killer to fill the slot, but we can do with a male Latino schizophrenic murderer in a pinch.

Wyrm: Statistically, serial killers tend to be white males...

Head: That's just because they've oppressed everyone else, and it's our duty to show our students the beauty of diversity!

Wyrm: What about teaching them about crime?

Head: Yeah, yeah, that too.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at August 12, 2003 09:36 AM

The problem I keep stumbling into is that apparently no one out there is thinking along the lines of looking for folk that *can* teach and then teaching them the tasks to be taught. What I keep seeing is an HR dept that wants to hire someone who knows the skill to be taught without reference to whether or not they can actually teach, the one does not necessarily follow from the other. So the question that the search committee *should* be asking is: "Can Mr. Rudolph teach?"

Posted by: JS Allison at August 12, 2003 04:11 PM

Re: JS Allison's comment. The only problem with what you've written is that you've described training, rather than education. Save in a specific research methods class in history, for example, a history professor does not teach students how to do "tasks," nor should he.

Posted by: Michael at August 12, 2003 05:09 PM