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Vroomfondel & Majikthise

In Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Vroomfondel and Majikthise represent the philosopher’s union and object to Deep Thought, the organic computer created to calculate the answer to the ultimate question of life, the university, and everything. “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty,” they protested, standing their academic ground as the machine is about to be set upon the task which will ultimately eliminate their jobs.

Forty-eight and one-half years into my academic career, I find myself awash in an ocean of doubt and uncertainty, on several counts:

  • Why do I continue to do this, when each semester my grasp on the subject (architecture) seems less distinct and more tenuous?
  • Does my “teaching” help would-be architects understand the fundamentals of what will be their professional life?
  • Do I even know WTF architecture is anymore—even if I thought I might have at the outset of this gig?

You see where this is going, don’t you.

pawson chapel 04

How do you measure success as a teacher? “SROI” is an acronym that strikes fear into untenured faculty. It means “Student Rating of Instruction”, feedback collected from students at the end of each semester; careers can me made or broken by these numbers, which are imprecise because they depend on how many responses there were, which students were motivated to respond, and where the feedback came in the schedule of tests and quizzes. In forty-nine years, I’ve seen these methods come and go and depend on other anecdotal means for my own peace of mind.

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