Friday, November 13, 2009

America's Top College Professor

An interesting article about a contest to determine the "best college professor." Best is, of course, purely subjective. Still, there are some metrics that can be applied: popularity with students, to my mind, a, if not the, most important measure.

The prize itself—sponsored by Baylor University and called the Cherry Teaching Award, after the late alumnus whose donation made it possible—is one of the biggest money awards that an American professor can win ($200,000). And its measure of merit is not scholarly output but classroom performance—that crucial aspect of the teaching mission that is so often overshadowed, these days, by the arcana of specialized research and the mad race for publication and tenure.

$200,000 is nice money. Publish or perish is the real demand placed on faculty by schools.

The Cherry award seeks out college teachers who, according to both students and fellow teachers, are especially good at making clear, forceful, inspiring, knowledge-rich classroom presentations that actually help students to learn. The finalists this year include, in addition to Prof. West, Roger Rosenblatt of Stony Brook University and Edward Burger of Williams College. Each has been asked to deliver a public lecture at Baylor and another lecture on his home campus. The winner—chosen by a panel of Baylor-appointed judges—will have the privilege of spending a semester teaching at Baylor (as well as cashing that hefty award-check).

Baylor is shown to be A top Texas Christian University in a google search. Text in its webpage adds: A Nationally Ranked Christian University, Undergraduate & Graduate Research Colleges Universities Schools in Texas.

A history professor at the University of Arkansas,a math professor at Williams College, and Roger Rosenblatt, whom the article does not identify by discipline but whom a search in Stony Brook's website shows to be in the English department (Creative Writing), are the three professors discussed.

Once I had wanted to be a college professor, and this article made me wistful for the time that never became; but, this being the Wall Street Journal, the writer's tone of rebuke comes through. Nonetheless, a very interesting piece.

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