Friday, January 25, 2008

Why Teach?

There's a meme going around, and though I wasn't specifically tagged, this being the blogosphere, I'll feel free to jump in anyway.

Why do you teach? Why is academic freedom crucial to that effort?

Several reasons why I do this.

1) It's important work. I'm preparing students to take their place not only in their careers, but as citizens. That means it's important to hold them to high standards, and to model the sort of behavior I want them to exhibit in society--reliability, honesty, integrity, etc.

2) Let's face it, it's fun. Yes, sometimes the 'performance' aspect gets a little scary--how do I get their attention? How do I keep it? How do I make this interesting? And the feedback--for better or worse--is pretty immediate.

3) It keeps me on my toes. Every semester there's something new to learn. I get a question no one ever asked before. A student asks something that forces me to go out and learn a little more. I find myself reading farther and farther afield, and saying "I can use that in class..." New technologies, new fads, new controversies. It's all good.

4) Because it's an interesting, exciting subject. Seriously. This stuff is just cool. And I get to explain how it works and help other people learn how to do cool stuff with it. How great is that?

And as for academic freedom.... One of the courses I teach is on the societal and ethical impact of computing. We discuss how tech is used and misused, and why it matters. Along the way I usually manage to get at least a few students, on both sides of the aisle, seriously offended. I try to point out inconvenient truths that annoy both sides, and make students who happen to agree with me defend their positions just as rigorously as those who don't. This means I sometimes say some politically extremely-incorrect things at the front of the classroom. Part of education is having one's preconceptions challenged. If I have to start watching what I say and not saying something that someone somewhere might find offensive, I have a much more difficult time being effective. [Do I go out of my way to be offensive for its own sake? No. Do I let it stop me from doing my job? Also no.]

1 comment:

cps said...

Thanks for joining the meme--we will add it to our inventory of posts.

cps@ Free Exchange