When hiring a professor, nearly every college uses traditional criteria. Perhaps the most important is whether the applicant has a graduate degree.
On one hand, credentials are an important part of a school’s brand. Given that students are coughing up an arm and a leg for today’s tuition, it’s helpful when a school can boast that “every single one of our faculty holds an advanced degree.” Indeed, this percentage contributes to a school’s ranking.
This makes sense, especially from a marketing perspective. And yet, this description pertains primarily to tenure-track professors, whose full-time job is in academe.
By contrast, consider adjunct professors—people who teach as a side gig. These folk typically have another job that pays the bills; they don’t teach for the money, but because they love doing it.
In other words, adjuncts are the JV team.
Here, then, is the question: should the JV team be held to the same standard as varsity? (For the sake of essentialization, let’s put aside the pay disparity.) For most colleges, the answer is clear: every professor, regardless of rank, must have a Masters degree or more. But this blanket rule seems myopic. Isn’t it preferable to judge each person on his own merits, rather than deploying a one-diploma-fits-all catchall? Isn’t a scalpel a better judge of ability than a sledgehammer?
Fair enough. But shouldn’t educators be well-educated? Shouldn’t they master the theories of pedagogy before they practice on live minds? Just as we require everyone from a manicurist to a lawyer to get licensed, so we should demand certain credentials of a professor.
That sounds reasonable, right? It does… until you talk with longtime instructors. They’ll tell you that teaching is more of an art than a science. Just because you earned a PhD from Princeton in 17th-century French literature doesn’t mean you know how to make Molière come alive for two hours at the front of a classroom of easily distracted students.
So where does this leave us? Ultimately, what you think boils down to which you care more about: rules, or outcomes? Put another way: is your primary goal to perpetuate the perception of excellence, or to make that perception an everyday reality?
Let’s not rule out an entire class of people based solely on their resume. As any user of Ashley Madison now well-knows, who you are on paper (or pixels) is often decidedly different from who you are in person.