From the Letters to the Editor column of the February 2003 Perspectives

Watch That Teacher?

Stanley Sandler, February 2003

Leon Fink, et al., seem to be asserting in their October 2003 article, "Hey, Prof., Watch That Teacher!" that (a) all college-level teaching is done by dull, boring professors who merely lecture at their inattentive students; and (b) that secondary schools are filled with dynamic teachers who do anything but lecture, employing a variety of whiz-bangs to challenge their bright-eyed students to greater learning activity.

But their research base (at least that mentioned) is so small as to be meaningless. Are they saying that their few examples represent the general situation? At any rate, it seems self-evident that a lecture by an involved, dynamic scholar can give just as much learning as the usual PowerPoint presentation. For what it is worth, the best teacher I ever had violated all of the precepts laid down in teachers' colleges: he didn't even stand before the class, but slumped in his chair and talked. But what talk! I was far more enthralled by what he said than by how he presented it, and he was an English professor, not a historian. On the other hand, I well remember high school history teachers who lazily made us memorize dates and facts. And I can say that judging from my current Western civ students' recollections, my experiences were hardly unique.

—Stanley Sandler, Houghton College