Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Can't what?

kw: proverbs; refutation

The ironic saying is, "Those who can, do. Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach consult." 'Tain't so. Those who can't do can't teach either, and consulting is a species of teaching. There may be consultants and teachers out there who were failures at "doing", but they can't be called successful.

The single most interesting and exciting college course I took was titled "Geochemistry of the Solar System", taught by a professor who was fully involved in NASA programs to explore the planets and other solar system bodies. At the time the course was taught (1983), there was no on-site geochemistry of Martian materials (and no Martian meteorites had yet been identified), but there were plenty of results already on moon rocks and meteorites. Thus, much of the course depended on remote sensing results by robotic spacecraft that had passed by the terrestrial planets and larger moons.

I have on occasion been bothered by the tendency of many professors to stop teaching once they get tenure. Some teach only the minimum they are required to do. But the best are those who can't wait to talk about the exciting results of their professional activities with students in classes and seminars. So, while "publish or perish" may be a brutal way of keeping current the skills of our professors, it makes it that much more likely that what they are teaching will be more relevant.

The proverb needs updating: "Those who teach best do and teach and consult all at once." (there has got to be a better phrasing)

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