There is a great editorial in the Globe and Mail today concerning the relationship between teaching and research at Canadian universities. Written by Stephen Saideman, a professor of Political Science at McGill University, the article seeks to expose the false dichotomy in current debates about teaching in higher education. For many observers, research has become over-emphasized, and the quality of instruction has suffered. But for Saideman, teaching and research are not a zero-sum game. The two are ‘inextricably linked’, and can’t be separated in the university context.
From the article:
Some believe otherwise, such as Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson, who contrasts teaching versus research as a matter of serving public versus private interests. The funny thing is that Mr. Simpson almost realizes this distinction is a false one: “The young professor, like the doctors, nurses, judges and lawyers, are providers of a ‘public’ service – in this case, imparting knowledge and encouraging critical and creative thinking.”
Where does this knowledge come from? Magic? Do only dead professors, such as Einstein, count? Yes, there are private researchers in some corners of the knowledge-creating enterprise, but their focus is on what’s necessary for their employer, such as drug companies, and will often not share what they learn. Professors are bound by incentives and by ethics to share what they’ve learned as broadly as possible, which ultimately is for the public good…
…It may very well be the case that our current set of incentives emphasize research more than teaching, but we need to be clear that research is a fundamental part of the university enterprise, serving the public good, and that research and teaching are inextricably linked. After all, if we’re not engaged in the study of what we teach, then all we can do is repeat what we learned a long time ago.
Well put. OCUFA has been actively arguing this point for many years – you simply can’t have a university without scholarship. Research and teaching, and the connection between the two, is the definitive characteristic of the modern university and is something worth preserving.