Service of Would I Want This Person to Be My Doctor?

October 6th, 2022

Categories: Education, Exams, Firing, Lectures, Tests, University


Image by Andew Tan from Pixabay

Are the inmates running the asylum? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A good grade in organic chemistry is an essential step to acceptance to medical school. The opposite is true: Do badly in the course and you dash your chances.

So what step did N.Y.U. take? It fired a well regarded professor, Maitland Jones, Jr., who previously taught at Princeton, because 80 of his 350 students claimed in a petition that his course was too hard. “The professor defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, university deans terminated Dr. Jones’s contract,” reported Stephanie Saul in The New York Times.

She wrote: “Students said the high-stakes course — notorious for ending many a dream of medical school — was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.”

And: “Dr. Jones, 84, is known for changing the way the subject is taught. In addition to writing the 1,300-page textbook ‘Organic Chemistry,’ now in its fifth edition, he pioneered a new method of instruction that relied less on rote memorization and more on problem solving.”

I welcome problem solvers in my future doctors or crucial employees at a company I rely on or invest in.

In response to his firing, Dr. Jones wrote that he’d made his exams easier but that students were “misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate” and that the pandemic exacerbated the loss of focus he’d observed starting 10 years ago. Some students “didn’t seem to know how to study.” Scores were as low as zero. Dr. Jones paid $5,000+ to tape 50+ lectures during the pandemic, with two other professors, “to ease pandemic stress.”

“’They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house,’ Dr. Jones said in an interview. ‘They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.’”

Tucked in the article: “Students could choose between two sections, one focused on problem solving, the other on traditional lectures.” A former student who transferred to Brown as a junior and appreciated the course said it was known as “a weed-out class.”

Saul posited: “The entire controversy seems to illustrate a sea change in teaching, from an era when professors set the bar and expected the class to meet it, to the current more supportive, student-centered approach.”

A former department chair wrote about Dr. Jones. “He hasn’t changed his style or methods in a good many years,” Dr. Canary said. “The students have changed, though, and they were asking for and expecting more support from the faculty when they’re struggling.”

Some 20 professors protested the firing in a letter to the science dean and others “worried about setting ‘a precedent, completely lacking in due process, that could undermine faculty freedoms and correspondingly enfeeble proven pedagogic practices.’”

“I don’t want my job back,” Dr. Jones told Saul. He was planning to retire soon, he said. “’I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Do you think students should determine who teaches them? Should professors lower their standards in light of the high cost of private college education–do they owe good grades to the students? Is it the professor’s or student’s responsibility for undergraduates to grasp the material in a class? Are you concerned about the proficiency of doctors and others who have skidded through their education because they are experts not in their professions but in drafting impactful protests, excuses and complaints?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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5 Responses to “Service of Would I Want This Person to Be My Doctor?”

  1. Kathleen Said:

    A young woman after receiving her Ph. D. in Spanish from Yale (after an undergraduate from Brown), she accepted a faculty job at a mid-western state university. When coming up to getting tenure, the language department thought she was too demanding and strict, so recommended not giving her tenure. The provost agreed that the university needed a Yale professor on the faculty and that it was worth keeping her and raising the students’ work and demands. About 25 years, she is still on the faculty.
    NYU had thought this decision a wrong one.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    What a story!

    I don’t understand why students aren’t supposed to be challenged. Isn’t that why they go to college? Goodness gracious.

  3. Anonymous Said:

    JEANNE, VERY DISCOURAGING TO READ ABOUT ORG. CHEM. PROF. AS YOU SAY, THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE MAD HOUSE.

    A LOT OF FUTURE HALF BAKED DOCS COMING UP FOR PRACTICE. I ONCE SAT ON A HOSPITAL COMMITTEE TO REVIEW A COLLEAGUE’S GROSSLY UNPROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOR. HE RESPONDED SHAMELESSLY “YES” TO MY QUERY “WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?” DESPITE THUMBS DOWN BY COMMITTEE AND RECOMMENDATION FOR DISMISSAL, HOSPITAL FRONT OFFICE KEPT HIM ON STAFF—WORRIED ABOUT A LAW SUIT ( WHICH HE THREATENED ). OUR COMMITTEE PROMPTLY DISSOLVED ITSELF. THE BADDIES ARE EVERYWHERE.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    While I’m not surprised in some ways I am in others. We so depend and respect our doctors. Your experience saddens me.

  5. lucrezia Said:

    NYU made a huge mistake, and NO, students are there to learn, not to criticize the prof. By lowering its standards, the school is cutting its own throat thus creating a wound that will be super hard to heal.

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