When Will Universities Reward Teaching?Roundup
tags: education, academia, Stanford University
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of “The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America."
In 1990, Stanford president Donald Kennedy boldly admitted that his university had neglected teaching in favor of research. Older professors rarely taught undergraduates, who were sloughed off on visiting or temporary instructors. And younger faculty who devoted themselves to the classroom were often denied tenure, Kennedy said, because they didn’t publish enough scholarship.
“It is time for us to reaffirm that education—that is, teaching in all its forms—is the primary task,” Kennedy declared, in a speech to the university. “We need to make it first among our labors.”
When Kennedy died last week from complications of the coronavirus, obituaries reported that he raised millions of dollars for Stanford and divested it from companies doing business in South Africa. They also noted that Kennedy resigned in 1991, the year after his teaching speech, amid a scandal over research expenses improperly billed to the federal government.
But no media account mentioned the speech itself, which made national headlines at the time. A few months earlier, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching had released a report calling on universities to reward teaching as much as research. Kennedy’s speech was another reminder that the 1990s would become “The Decade of the Undergraduate," newspapers predicted.