Interweaving stories of Socrates and other philosophers in a discussion on the problems in American education, University of Hartford President Humphrey Tonkin presented the first in a new series of lectures focusing on teaching last Wednesday. Tonkin, a former English professor at the University, posed the question of how teachers can explain their disciplines to students in a way that students can understand. "Teaching is, above all, the art of interpretation," Tonkin told 40 people gathered in the Faculty Club to hear the speech. The speech was the first organized by the newly formed Lindback Society, which is made up of faculty members who have won the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. Tonkin discussed the generation gap that exists between teachers and students and said different cultures and values separate the two. "A new generation required new ways of teaching," he said, referring to students in the 1960s. "We must recognize that the aggregate character of students has changed." Tonkin characterized much of today's faculty as "tenured and self-satisfied," criticizing what he said was the large number of professors who teach only one course a semester and are not willing to advise students. He discussed academia's conflict over the relative importance of scholarship and teaching, saying that teaching ability is not emphasized enough in the "publish or perish world" of college professors. "Scholarship without teaching is vain," he said. Tonkin said that despite the problems in higher education, the media portrays educators too negatively, often characterizing the entire profession based on isolated problems. He urged colleagues to defend their profession. Tonkin spoke of the continued rise in the percentage of people graduating from high school. To improve the quality, he said, the education of teachers must be taken seriously, and college professors must help to improve primary and secondary education as well. "As good teachers, we must consider the effect of teaching on those we teach," he said. Arabic Professor Roger Allen, the president of the Lindback society, said the society's goals are to focus on the discussion, evaluation and improvement of teaching. Wharton junior David Kaufman, the chairperson of the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, said he enjoyed the lecture. "Even though he went into a lot of philosophy, the message was that teaching is the most important thing," he said. "I was also pleased that he admitted students are good judges of teachers."Comments powered by Disqus
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