Originally published Sept. 12, 2013

Co-written with editorial board

As the world continues to change, so does the workplace, which adjusts annually to accommodate breakthroughs in technology, expansion of knowledge and adoptions of contemporary philosophies. So if an expert leaves the workplace in 1990 and maintains a constant teaching position until 2013, how does that 23-year absence from the field affect his/her teaching ability? Presumably, the field has added new protocols in that 23-year gap, and while the professor can keep up with shifts in jargon and theory by subscribing to appropriate scholarly journals, s/he surely cannot comprehend — and then convey to the class—the complex experience of implementing new procedures and technology in the field.

They don’t get the hands-on experience that would translate to a more extensive and informed classroom pedagogy. To be clear, we’re talking professors from majors with an emphasis on practice — not necessarily the humanities or social sciences where scholars are training pupils to become scholars. Other majors require knowledge garnered not in the confines of a college, but out in the workplace, and these are the professors who need to be up-to-date.

Most professions require people — who actually work in the field — to recertify or take continuing education classes every so often to make sure that their skills are up-to-date.

And why not? Most professions require people — who actually work in the field — to recertify or take continuing education classes every so often to make sure that their skills are relevant. Isn’t it only just that those passing knowledge to the next generation of workers understands the new skill requirements and, for the most part, meets them?

Students pay to gather knowledge from the brains of experts, not former experts. They’re paying to learn from experience incarnate.

Consider it this way: if you’re about to head into your first battle, would you rather receive your training from a WWII veteran who has spent his last 70 years behind a desk or from a decorated Iraq War veteran with experience in modern warfare? Sure, you’d get a good history lesson from the elder sage, but you’d receive more practical survival methods from the fresh vet. The same question can be applied to teaching — and the same answer will presumably be found.

Perhaps one solution to this perceived deficit of practical knowledge is for a more appropriate use of sabbaticals. Professors could use sabbaticals not to conduct more personal research and read more books, but to familiarize themselves with practical experience and become accustomed to the modern practices of their very changed fields.

No matter the solution, the problem still remains (as Lanthorn editors have come to find) and needs to be addressed.

 

Original publication (on A4): https://issuu.com/grandvalleylanthorn/docs/issue_7_86b9da4608fa74

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