September 29, 2013
In Praise of Tough Teachers
Yesterday was a good day for the Dawgs! I spent the day at the game traveling between football suites talking to alumni, students, faculty and friends of UGA and SPIA. The excitement and enthusiasm were palpable.
Many of my conversations with alumni-some of whom are current state legislators-focused on the impact SPIA faculty have had on their lives, on their thinking, on their careers, and on their hearts. One conversation with a current state legislator dovetailed nicely with an article I read in the Wall Street Journal yesterday morning: “In Praise of Tough Teachers.” That article described current research on educational outcomes, focusing on how toughness and high standards—generously mixed with optimism—promote students learning far better than excessive praise and lenity. One prominent SPIA alumnus told me about how one professor at SPIA in particular (Loch Johnson) challenged him to think outside the box, and that Professor Johnson’s high standards motivated his students to delve deeper into the subject matter and learn for themselves.
Alumni consistently tell me that SPIA courses were often their most difficult but also their most rewarding. We pride ourselves on teaching excellence at SPIA and our high standards-our tough teachers-deserve great praise. Their efforts help our students and graduates approach real-world problems with grit, with analytical rigor, and with independence. It is no exaggeration to conclude that our faculty’s legacy is, quite simply, a better world.