Academic exercises (was: Re: [lug] File modification)

Rob Judd rjudd at
Sat Mar 16 10:36:08 MST 2002

On Thu, 14 Mar 2002, Rob Peacock wrote:

> People who can, do;
> People who can't, teach.
> --My dad
> (There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, he was
> dead on.)

Sorry to keep on at this old thread, but I just can't let this go by.
First, I doubt your Dad came up with this quote on his own - on a quick
search you will find the most people refer to it as an "old adage".
Next, a more useful quote on the subject:

	A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught becomes
	one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them.
	He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion,
	worthless.  Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him.
	I take from him more than I give him.  In this way a true
	teacher regards himself as a student of his students.  If
	you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will
	benefit much form them.
		- M. K. Ghandi

Would you say Ghandi was someone who "couldn't"?

I am sorry that you had some bad experiences in college, but to simply
slam the whole profession with misguided adages is insulting and
embarrassing.  It is clear that you have never attempted to teach anyone
anything.  Perhaps if you tried, then you would begin to understand
exactly what is involved and how hard it is.  Maybe you would start to
appreciate those who have dedicated their lives to helping you learn.
Can you honestly say that you would be where you are now without all those
teachers in kindergarten, grade school, junior high, high school, college
who patiently helped you along?

I have spent ten years and math and computer science teaching and
research.  I enjoy both teaching and research, and spend a lot of time
ensuring that I "can do" both.  In less Linux-educated communities I have
also dedicated a large portion of my free time to educating people in the
uses of Linux.  To teach any subject involves a far greater depth of
knowledge than that which you are trying to convey.

Another example might help make my point.  Would you consider Donald Knuth
as someone who "can't"?  And yet what is his life's work?  It is writing a
book in five volumes to ___teach___ the world about computer programming.

Ghandi and Knuth are not "a few exceptions to this rule", rather they are
well known representatives of a large and dedicated body of teachers.

One thing that is particularly hard for any teacher to deal with is the
student who has no interest in learning the subject taught.  Or the
student who thinks he is smarter than his teacher because the teacher
hasn't had time to learn the latest and greatest new programming language.
Whenever I hear someone say that they learned nothing from a course, I
have to ask myself, "Why not?  What was this person wasting their time
doing when they should have been learning?"

The best students, those who learn the most from any course they take, are
those who understand that learning is their responsibility and that the
teacher is simply there to help.

Robert Judd
Department of Mathematics
University of Denver

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