Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Could Ezra Klein Be More Wrong?

The answer is no.

Building on AnthonyS' post from yesterday
, it's amazing that Klein (and I'd guess a few other progressives here and there) actually buy into the idea that paying professors based on course evaluations is a good idea. He says he grew up around academics. Well, we all rebel over something from our childhood and I guess he is rebelling over what I assume are his academic parents. But that doesn't excuse his promoting such a shockingly stupid idea. For someone who grew up around academics, he clearly knows very little about the academy.

As for Klein's claims that academics hate teaching and are terrible teachers, I suppose there is a kernel of truth there. But only a kernel. Maybe his parents and childhood acquaintances taught at the most elite institutions and did feel this way. But while I agree that institutions do not emphasize teaching enough, either in their hiring practices or their tenure evaluations, the reality is that the large majority of academics work very hard in their teaching. I know I do. Whether that makes me good or not is not for me to judge. But basically everyone I know also works hard in teaching. To say that we don't like or care about teaching is an insult and a stereotype.

And to answer his question, paying someone $10,000 for good teaching evaluations is NOT going to provide incentive for professors to take teaching seriously. It's going to have the exact opposite effect.

It's sad to see someone who is right about so many issues be so irresponsibly wrong when discussing higher education.

UPDATE (1/15)--Klein apologizes for his post.

It's also worth reading the comment thread to Klein's post, where he gets roundly slammed, including by me.