Saturday, February 12, 2011
What troubles Gladwell (and what troubles me, not just Gladwell's reader but a faculty member at an Ivy League University who seeks and values student engagement above all else) is how U.S. News has elected to measure this elusive quality. Apparently engagement is determined by the following factors: class size, faculty salary, professors with the highest degree in their fields, the student-faculty ratio, and the proportion of faculty who are full-time. All of which, with the exception of class size (and mine is currently oversubscribed) just about kicks me out of having any shot at all at having a positive statistical impact on the University of Pennsylvania's 'faculty resources' score.
This offends me deeply, and it especially offended me yesterday, having just spent the better part of three days writing notes to my beautiful and (it seems to me) engaged students—notes inspired by the glean of their talents and the nature of their writerly ambitions and the ways in which they work (so hard) toward amplified versions of themselves. I teach because it is an honor to work with those who stand on the verge. I spend the time I spend because I recognize the depth of my responsibility and the abject importance of never rushing past a student who wants more or who struggles for more or could be even more.
Maybe you can't really measure that. But I suspect that my salary and my degree and my part-time status should not, in some machine somewhere, be diminishing the ranking for Penn.