Monday, November 14, 2005

research

I stopped by the UH Manoa main web site today to look up some email addresses, and right at the top is this big banner which says, in fancy-ish graphics, "Research. Manoa's Essence is Research."

I kindly beg to differ. Oh, this is not a slam on the University's research program. They do excellent research in some areas, and fine research in many others. What I take issue with is that the university's essence - its core, its primary goal - is to do great research. The simple fact is that it's not. I have heard this before and may have written a blog entry earlier. This is a research university and not a teaching school like, I guess, community colleges or liberal arts colleges. It's false. If the University never published a single article ever again but did a bang-up job of teaching the young adults of Hawaii, the state funding of this state institution would continue unabated. However, if we stopped teaching and instead published stunning research, the whole institution would be phased out. At best, a handful of departments would get some support - the National Weather Service is here, etc. But linguistics, English, history, foreign languages, psychology, economics, most basic sciences, etc. would all go away. No, our purpose is to teach. To reveal what we have learned to the next generation. To make them think. Perhaps even to make them better people. That is what we are paid to do. Research is great as well, but it is not the Essence. It is this erroneous belief, held strongly in academia and by professors I greatly admire, which gets amazing teachers fired for people who publish the right number of articles in the right places. (It's also the fact that most Professors have no idea how to measure teaching, but we can literally count the number of pages in refereed journals.) Don't get me wrong. I do understand that research can help us be better educators. And I realize that part of what we are teaching is, in fact, how to do research. But we exist to educate. The end.

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