Readers Write: Teaching isn't one directional; Steve Jobs' misunderstood graduation speech

Letters to the Editor for the July 8, 2013 weekly print edition:

Articles on the transformation of higher learning too often mis-portray professors as performing static, scripted lectures. Rather, teaching is dynamic communication.

Steve Jobs's 2005 message to Stanford graduates wasn't about the pursuit of selfish interest over service to mankind. Rather, using your unique gifts will naturally encompass service to the world.

Teaching isn't one directional

The June 3 cover story, "The reinvention of college," (and other articles covering the transformation of education) contains a subtle, unstated, and misguided assumption. This is regarding the depiction of the professor as one who stands up and performs a static lecture for an audience while students take notes. Professors are portrayed as repeating the lecture as if it was from a script; just hit replay to get the performance again.

After more than 35 years of teaching I can assure everyone that in-the-moment feedback from students changes a good lecture. Students' eyes and body language convey enough information that a skilled teacher can adjust for the needs for each group. And each is a bit different. I have seen a statistical epiphany in the eyes of a student who was certain she couldn't understand statistics. I then spun this for the benefit of all in the room.

"Learning" might be one directional sometimes, but teaching isn't. It's communication. With a good book, a few individuals can learn by themselves, but most do better with an involved teacher.

Recommended: Commentary

Bruce Pigozzi

Professor of geography

Michigan State University

Lansing, Mich.

Being authentic blesses others

I think that Jonathan Zimmerman in his June 3 commentary, "Graduates, ask not what you can do for yourself," may have misunderstood Steve Jobs's message to Stanford graduates in 2005 when he said that "everything is secondary" to following "your heart and intuition." Mr. Jobs wasn't speaking about a selfish pursuit at all costs, but about listening to that "still, small voice" and being authentic – whether that leads to establishing a business that offers a livelihood for thousands of people or becoming a social worker.

The point is that everyone can discern his or her own unique life path. If graduates use their God-given gifts throughout the course of their lives, this will naturally encompass service to family, country, and the world. We don't need more "do-gooders" in this world; we need more people doing good.

Connie Cohrt

New York

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