It's that time of year again. TV Ontario (TVO) has chosen its ten finalists for best university lecturer. you can see the list on the Best Lecturer website.
Some of you might recall that Michael Persinger of the magic motorcycle helmet was one of the finalists last year and he went on to win the $10,000 prize [TV Ontario's Best Lecturers]. I was a bit peeved at this. I wrote,
This is a popularity contest. The last one was very disappointing because some of the most important aspects of being a good university lecturer were ignored.Are you wondering how they did? They chose Michael Persinger, a "fringe" scientist, to put it politely.
I'm talking about accuracy and rigour. It's not good enough to just please the students. What you are saying has to be pitched at the right level and it has to be correct. Too many of the lectures were superficial, first-year introductions that offered no challenge to the students. (One, for example, was an overview of Greek and Roman architecture by an engineering Professor.) The students loved it, of course, and so did the TV producers because they could understand the material. Lecturer's in upper level courses need not apply.
Some of last year's lectures were inaccurate. The material was either misleading or false, and the concepts being taught were flawed. Neither students nor TV audiences were in any position to evaluate the material so accuracy was not a criterion in selecting the best lecturer of 2006.
I wrote to the producers about this, suggesting that the lecturers be pre-screened by experts in the discipline. TV Ontario promised to do a better job this year. I'm looking forward to seeing if they keep their promise.
How are they doing this year? Here's the list of judges.
Zanana L. Akande (born 1937 in Toronto, Ontario) is a former Canadian politician. She was the first black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the first black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada.Isn't that interesting. The best people to judge whether a university Professor is delivering a good lecture are a politician, a writer, and an actor.
Barry Callaghan has done work in journalism, television, and filmmaking in addition to his own writing. He began his career as a part-time reporter for Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) television news and gave weekly book reviews on the CBC radio program Audio.
Tony Nardi is an actor/ writer/producer. His acting experience has been diverse and prolific, in live theater, television and film. As an actor he received his training in Montreal at the Actor's Studio, The Banff School of Fine Arts, The Stratford Festival, and Italy.
Silly me. I thought that Professors might be on the panel of judges. I guess they're all too busy serving on juries that evaluate politicians, writers, and actors.
The top three criteria for evaluating university lectures are: (1) accuracy, (2) accuracy, and (3) accuracy. The only people who can judge whether those criteria are being met are other academics in the same discipline. If the lectures aren't accurate then nothing else matters. If the lecture material is accurate then you can start looking at other things, such as style.