PLATFORM : Learning to Think

<i> BARBARA S. UEHLING, chancellor of UC Santa Barbara, sees large universities being disparaged for their supposed focus on research at the expense of teaching. She finds that attitude wrongheaded, and told The Times:</i>

Debates over research “versus” teaching ignore the truth that the relationship between teaching and research is not one of balance or imbalance, but a continuum.

What do students learn from teachers who are also scholars that they may not learn from teachers who teach exclusively? They learn how to ask questions. The right questions. And they learn it isn’t easy, because you have to know something in order to ask good questions. In a place where people struggle not only with answering questions, but also with answering them fairly, repeatedly and objectively, undergraduates are likely to develop the habits of mind that lead to answers that last.

Once they graduate, many of our students will never set foot in a laboratory or library again. But in the future they will listen with a critical ear to questions asked by their employers, their political representatives, their financial advisers. And they will be better at evaluating answers because they have been taught by those who have objectively sought knowledge.