Maverick professor has some interesting lessons

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Nick Smith highlighted this article in a recent tweet: Professor makes his mark but it costs him his job.

Prof Denis Rancourt implemented Ben Zander’s idea of giving all his students an A grade at the start of term. The consquences were kinda interesting.

by abandoning traditional marks Prof. Rancourt apparently sealed his own failing grade: In December the senior physicist was suspended from teaching, locked out of his laboratory and told that the university administration was recommending his dismissal and banning him from campus.

Firing a tenured professor is rare in itself, but two weeks ago the university took an even more extreme step: When Prof. Rancourt went on campus to host a regular meeting of his documentary film society, he was led away in handcuffs by police and charged with trespassing.

It’s a fascinating article and I’m sure there are lots of other perspectives on what actually happened. But it does resonate with a long standing feeling I’ve had that our universities may be heading for the kind of shakeup the music industry has been going through. Rancourt seems to have a telling critique of a system that hitherto seems to have gone unquestioned. But in tough economic times, network-savvy young people are surely going to start wondering more and more what value they really get from these expensive institutions.

Whatever you think about exams and certification, is it healthy for those giving the award to be the exact same people charging large amounts of money for training you to pass it?

Given the ease with which the actual factual content of courses is now available, and the how easy it is to create our own social networks… what exactly do universities do that’s worth all that money they charge students?

Time for that dalek, I suspect.

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