Tony Gurr

BLOGGING – the “secret weapon” that is (finally) helping TEACHers “trump” SCHOLars?

In Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 28/05/2012 at 9:11 am

One of my favourite EDUreads from the last 15 years or so is Larry Cuban’s How Scholars Trumped Teachers.

Larry is my kinda EDUscholar and EDUcatora real “thunking doer” who tells it like it is and does not pull his punches where the LEARNing of others, especially our “kids”, is concerned.

He also has an amazing blog – Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practiceand, if you ain’t checked it out, you just don’t know the EDUblogosphere.


Anyways, the book, written in 1999 (yes, we “oldies” actually read these paper-based thingies back in the day) describes the development of the American Academe over 1890-1990 – using Stanford as his “case study”.

OK, so he picks up that old chestnut of a question:

What is more important within the university – teaching or research?

But…his “answer” really hits the “spot”and probably cost him a few “Academy pals”!


Most of us in EDUland know:

… don’t we?

Larry does! And, he basically “proves” that it is what academics are “trained” to do that has won outagain, and again, and again.

Not only in the States – all over the bloody globe!

What Larry also does is also help us “see” through the smoke n’ mirrors that have characterised the type of “changes” and “reforms” the Academe claims to have realised over the years…

It’s a good read! A VERY good read…

We TEACHers – knowing how much we have been “trumped” left, right and centre – have been known to get a bit miffed about this. We tend to work harder (with the “people” who “matter”), we put in more hours (planning for the people who matter) – and we take more crap from the parents of the people who matter…and journalists, politicians, wanabe EDUgurus, publishers – do I need to go on?

A lot of us see coventional higher LEARNing for what it is…and accept that…

We also know that the famed “holy trinity” that represents the “purpose” of the Academe – TEACHing, RESEARCH and PUBLIC SERVICE – basically, and in practice, “translate” into:

We also see that our universities can and do make some very serious “mistakes”:

Even…the best of them!

It is because of these, and that fact that we do focus so much of our energy on LEARNing the people that matter, that many of us also ask the question:

A fair question really!

Because…every one of us “knows” (in our heart-of-hearts) that…

I mean, would any university department seriously consider putting together a “research team” (on the back of a fat government grant) made up of people who had not been trained in research methodology, had limited experience of conducting field work or (God forbid) did not have clue about MLA citations.

That last one is quite interesting – and it now seems that we can even cite our tweets in MLA format. This little change is one tiny example of the “campus tsunami” everyone is banging on about these days…

The difference…is that TEACHers are ahead of the game, this time – and blogging is our secret weapon!

The WORLD has changed…

EDUcational THUNKing has changed…

LEARNers are changing…

LITERACY is being transformed

SCHOLARship (and AUTHORship) are being assimilated…

Blogging is leading the charge with allthingsdemocratisation – and TEACHers have proven themselves to be the BORG of the blogosphere. Just take a look at the blogging figures – those groups of professionals out there actually using the blogoshere to get their voices “out there”and inspire others to find their voices!

TEACHers rule!

It used to be the case that we ran around our classrooms “exposing” ourselves to every Tom, Dick or Harriet who presented themselves to us…Now, we are sharing, reflecting…and ADAPTing on a global scale – the likes of which God has never seen!

Good for us…GOOD for our LEARNers!

And, it’s fair to ask, I thunk:

 Where are all the SCHOLars?

  1. Didja know that scholar comes from the greek word for school which also meant “leisure” besides “instruction”… cuz the folks who were lucky enough to be in school could be there at their ease.

    I’ve always found this disconnect a bit surprising, and will never forget my absolute favorite professor at university who didn’t get tenure because he didn’t publish enough, and yet he was a wizard in class. What a disappointment.

    Fine read as always, Tony.

  2. I am supposed to be on the Scholars’ side, but I couldn’t agree more about what you wrote. Stunning post Tony.

  3. That’s where I wanna stand anyway 🙂

  4. We need more of a spectrum or resarch and teaching and fewer people at the extremes. There are always going to be some good teachers who just aren’t interested in research and some excellent researchers who shouldn’t be allowed to set foot in a classroom, but most people shuld be somewhere in the middle, rather than having this split between “real faculty” and “teaching staff”. Incidentally, BUSEL has been making some steps in the right direction in this regard.

    • Robin,

      Thanks for this – words of wisdom, indeed – amd I’m happy that our old “training ground” is (again) moving in the right direction 😉


  5. I’d love to know what BUSEL has been doing to bridge the teaching/ research divide, because other depts at Bilkent certainly have not even got to first base as far as this issue is concerned. I’d treat these comments with considerable skepticism. Good article, Tony, even though you make your points with a sledgehammer rather than a rapier.

    • Laurence,

      I grew up in North Manchester – don’t even know what a bloody rapier is, my man 😉

      Thx for dropping in 😉


      P.S: Robin – we need a tag-team thingy on this one – over to you 😉

    • See, for example, Small steps, but in the right direction. The problem is that teachers are doing research in their spare time, so major research projects are hard to set up.

      • Many Thanks, Robin, for the info. I think your comments sum up the dilemma in which many university cultures are placed: research is seen as extraneous to the ‘real business’ of teaching, just as teaching is seen as extraneous to the ‘real business’ of research in other departments at Bilkent, as well as in other institutions. Until such time as provosts, vice chancellors, and other decision makers understand that teaching, learning, and research are three sides of the same coin, then I’m afraid very little will actually change.

      • And while we’re having this particular gripe … Universities tend to give credit to publication based on where you publish it, using citation indexes of peer-reviewed academic journals. Those of us who are more focussed on teaching tend to publish more elsewhere (e.g. conference proceedings, professional journals and of course teh interwebs). For example, I have gained nothing in the academic publishing stakes for my last article in Modern English Teacher, but I bet a lot more people will benefit from it than from your typical peer-reviewed article.

      • R,

        So true – the house of cards that many a university turns out to be, is frequently built on the sands of “prestige” (along with smoke n’ mirrors). Prestige that is all too frequently little more than a club of “pals patting themselves on the back”. We all know – we can’t eat prestige. But, we can have a bite or two on added-value – if anybody bothers to “measure” that 😉


      • The truth is, as an academic who published in ‘both’ prestige journals as well as other areas, the ‘prestige’ market is looking for ways to diversify itself into more accessible areas. Many academics don’t want to believe it (I read this wonderful article in the most recent NEW YORKER trashing brainstorming), but it’s coming nonetheless

      • Viva la rEVOLUTION, my man 😉


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