Wednesday, September 06, 2006

emery & ivory tower

In the most recent Queen's Alumni Review my colleague George Emery writes of his 4th year undergrad history seminar at Queen's U in 1964. Remarkably, 5 of the 11 members of the class went on to university teaching careers. It's hard to imagine that happening today; it would be more likely to take a class of 11 graduate students -- or just PhD students -- to reach those odds.

I got to wondering how George's own experience affected his teaching -- and he's by all accounts a great teacher, by the way. Did he unconsciously (or consciously) teach senior undergraduate History classes as if almost half the students would end up on his side of the desk? That sounds like a bad thing, but maybe that's the way to demand the most of students: to imagine and make them imagine they are becoming professionals in the field. ...But I'm not convincing myself. There just aren't that many jobs for historians in Canada, academic or otherwise, for me to teach undergrads as if they're all going to join the field. I wouldn't want them to. So what I should take from George's article, and my thinking about George's article, is this: what will my undergrad students most need from this course now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now?


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