American Professor on the Interaction of
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2008-07-11 10:56:02  【打印
American Professor on the Interaction

of Knowledge and Interest

Zhao Wei: September 10th is Chinese National Teachers’ Day, and October 5th is World Teachers’Day. We can understand the importance of the occupation of teacher. So what kind of role do you think a teacher should play?

Michael Pettis: Anyone can and should be a teacher, whether or not he works in a school. Teaching others the things we have learned is one of the most important services we can provide to society.

Zhao: Some parents believe that “quality education”means to be versatile.So they make their children take various extracurricular classes,learn such as piano,computer science, and foreign languages. Do you think this way of educating could attain the end of“quality education”?

Michael Pettis: I think it is great for kids to learn many things but sometimes I think we confuse learning and studying. Learning is a pleasure, whereas studying is something you do because you don’t want your parents to yell at you. If studying a topic leads you to love it, then it is worthwhile, but if it becomes just a chore, then I’m not sure it can serve much good. Obviously, we need to combine the creativity that comes from playing with the discipline that comes from studying, but a kid who spends all his time taking lessons may end up with few interests or passions. Kids need free time to think about what they have learned and to develop on their own.

Zhao: You have taught at the best universities in US and China. As an experienced professor, what do you think are the features of the students in these two countries that are worth learning from each other?

Michael Pettis: My students at Tsinghua remind me in many ways of my students at Columbia. They are very engaging, intellectually driven and have many of the same crazy dreams. Of course the Tsinghua students work much harder at their studies. And the Columbia students spend much more time on their outside projects--editing newspapers, writing novels, creating amusing software--but that is because they are given the time and are expected to do so.

My Tsinghua students believe that professors know everything about their subjects, and that education consists of our passing knowledge down to them. They are extremely respectful and eager to accept whatever I say. My Columbia students are much more critical and much more likely to question their professors. They are also eager to explore alternative viewpoints and love to prove their professors wrong. I, of course, am delighted to see that, and will always raise the grade of a student who can put up a good fight, even if he is wrong. But these differences reflect the differences in the educational systems, not in the students themselves. The students in these two schools are among the smartest in the world--much smarter than their professors, by the way--and smart people everywhere have a lot in common.

Zhao: You have said the most efficient learning comes from “playing.” Could you explain what you said?

Michael Pettis: I think this is a common sense. When you really like what you’re doing, you work very hard at it. So for example, students love computer games. Many people say that computer games are waste of time. But actually, people who play a lot of computer games tend to have much more advanced abilities to understand the information quickly. While the students love the games, they enjoy them. So they are pushing themselves as far as they can go.

Zhao: That’s true if the students love what they are learning. But to some aspect of knowledge that they don’t like, or even are bored with, how can you make them learn?

Michael Pettis: I believe that any student who doesn’t like an aspect of knowledge must have a very bad teacher, because all knowledge is interesting. I don’t believe there are people who naturally dislike any area of studies. And you learn to dislike knowledge because your mother and father make you study 12 hours a day. Your teachers yell at you. So we need a combination. We need enough discipline so that the students go forward. We also need enough openness and enough freedom so that the students can discover for themselves how interesting it is a type of knowledge. If you look at a kid who loves football, he knows every team in the world, he knows the top player of every team in the world, he knows how well they play. He has so much information, and this information is very similar to what you would learn if you study history. But students don’t know that much of history as they know about football. Why? Because they really love football. Now, if every student in China was forced to study football in school, the knowledge of football would go down and down tremendously1. So the job of teacher is really to help the students to love what they are doing.

美国教授谈知识与兴趣的互动



赵巍:9月10日是中国的教师节,10月5日是国际教师节,可见教师这一职业的重要地位。您认为一个教师应该起什么样的作用?

迈克尔·佩蒂斯:任何人都可以而且应该成为老师,不管他是不是在学校工作。把我们所学到的东西教授给别人,是我们可以对社会提供的最重要的服务之一。

赵:有些家长认为素质教育就是让孩子多才多艺。于是他们让孩子参加各种课外辅导班,学习钢琴、计算机、外语等等。您认为这样能达到素质教育的目的吗?

迈克尔·佩蒂斯:我想让小孩子多学点东西是很好的,但我想有时我们把学习和攻读的概念混淆了。学习是一种快乐,而攻读则是你为了不让父母冲你嚷嚷而要做的事情。如果攻读某个科目让你喜欢上它,那就是值得的。但是如果它变成了需应付的差事,那我可不认为它会有什么好处。显然,我们要把从玩儿中获得的创造力与从攻读中得到的学科知识结合起来。但如果孩子的时间都用来上课的话,那他到头来可能就没有什么兴趣和热情了。孩子需要自由的时间去思考他们所学到的东西,去自我发展。

赵:作为一个在中美两国优秀大学有丰富任教经验的教授,您认为中美两国学生各有哪些特点值得互相学习呢?

迈克尔·佩蒂斯:我在清华的学生在很多方面都使我想起了我在哥伦比亚大学的学生。他们非常勤学,求知欲很强,而且还有很多相同的美好梦想。当然,清华的学生学习要用功得多。而哥伦比亚大学的学生则把更多的时间花在课外活动上——编写报纸、创作小说、制作有趣的软件——但这是因为他们有时间而且受到鼓励去做这些。

我的清华学生认为,教授知道他们学科的一切知识,并认为教育的一部分就是我们把知识传授给他们。他们对教授极为尊敬,而且急于接受我说的一切。我的哥伦比亚大学学生更有批判性,更倾向于怀疑教授。他们还渴望探求不同的观点,喜欢证明他们的教授是错的。当然,我很高兴看到这些,而且经常会给那些挑起激烈争论的学生加分,即使他是错的。但是这些不同点反映了教育体系的不同,不是学生本身。这两所学校的学生属于世界上最聪明的学生之列——而且比他们的教授要聪明得多——天下聪明人都有很多共同点。

赵:您曾说过最有效的学习来自“玩”,能解释一下吗?

迈克尔·佩蒂斯:我想这是一个常识。当你确实喜欢你所做的事情时,你就会很卖力地去做。比如,学生们喜欢电脑游戏。很多人认为玩电脑游戏是浪费时间。但实际上,那些经常玩电脑游戏的人,往往有更强的迅速理解信息的能力。当学生喜欢游戏时,他们就会乐在其中。因此他们就会促使自己做出最大的努力。

赵:如果学生喜欢他们所学的东西,那确实是这样。但是对于那些他们不喜欢,甚至是厌烦的知识,您怎样让他们学呢?

迈克尔·佩蒂斯:我认为,任何不喜欢某方面知识的学生,一定是有一个很糟糕的老师,因为所有的知识都是有趣的。我不相信有谁是天生不喜欢某一方面的学习的。你变得不喜欢这些知识,是因为你的父母让你每天学习12小时,你的老师训斥你。因此我们需要一种结合。我们需要足够的纪律让学生上进,我们同样需要足够的开放和足够的自由,让学生可以自己去发现这是一种多么有趣的知识。如果你观察一下一个喜欢足球的孩子,他知道世界上所有的足球队,他知道世界上每个足球队的顶尖球员,他知道他们踢得怎样。他拥有很多的信息,而这些信息与你学习历史时可能学到的非常相似。但学生们却不像了解足球那样知道这么多的历史知识。为什么?因为他们确实喜欢足球。现在,如果中国所有的学生都被强迫在学校学习足球,那么学习足球知识的兴趣将会极大降低。所以教师的工作其实就是帮助学生喜欢上他们在做的事。

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