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A Teacher’s Point of View

This topic might actually go beyond graphic design as it applies to anybody who has been a student. And/or a teacher. The intended question: is it acceptable for teachers — given their authority and position as role models — to express their own point of view (whether it’s political, religious, cultural, even design related) inside the classroom or at a lecture? This question arises given the fact that many students, at that stage, are very impressionable so would it somehow seem unfair to use this position of authority to impart one’s own agenda?

Most of us here have gone to school, we all had teachers we looked up to for one reason or another, now that you are able to form your own opinions with more confidence do you ever look back and say �That teacher was full of shit, he only told us what he wanted to hear himself’? Or maybe it’s completely the opposite and you wish you had somebody that went beyond the theme of the class and actually gave an opinion.

As a third and last part to this topic, this question is for you students, what do you expect from a teacher? Do you want to just learn about graphic design (which is what you are paying for) or do you want to hear your teacher’s opinion about politics?

Thanks to Steve Heller for the topic.

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ARCHIVE ID 1649 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Nov.06.2003 BY Armin
Brent’s comment is:

I think that it's importaint that a teacher be able to express his/her view on those stated topics, especially design related views. However, the more importaint thing is that they be able to back them up and be open to other views. I had much more respect for, and learned a lot more from, the instructors that I saw as more of a friend and had less of the adversary teacher/student relationship that some have.

For me, it's importaint that I see a teacher as a human being and not just a talking textbook. Some of the best things I learned in school were outside the scheduled time period, when my teachers took time to have a personal conversation with me. It's a shame when teachers are expected to censor themselves for constant fear of losing their job. Intelligent conversation and debate can only add to the learning process, no matter what the topic. Although I was lucky to have design teachers that didn't push that "my way or the highway" envelope. The times when I had an instructor who was on their soapbox 24/7 I didn't learn a damn thing except how to pass their tests and get out of the class. That's not learning.

On Nov.06.2003 at 09:22 AM
eric’s comment is:

how can you teach anything other than "bias" anyway? the more robust and opinionated that voice is the better the teacher. imho.

On Nov.06.2003 at 09:36 AM
Priya’s comment is:

i do love getting to know my professors in an out of the classroom type basis. getting to know their background is nice, often i identitfy with their beginnings which is sort of comforting. i like to hear their opinions about current events only if they are willing to hear my opinions.

i rather they limit this sharing to out of the classroom on a one on one basis though... i'm paying my university tuition to learn design not sit in a classroom for a 2.5 hour long studio to hear a professor's raving about the lack of control Dubya has in the Middle East (or other such topic) when the class is supposed to be about Typography.

i get irritated with assignments that must be about a topic that is political. while i understand that for some professors assigning topics that some might consider dull is an exercise in the 'real world' projects that we're likely to work on (i.e. not every designer gets to work with fabulous high profile clients... chances are you'll end up doing a non-profit work or something for a small tech business.) i hate it when something is assigned that *must* show our viewpoint on the current war or *must* be an opinion piece on the state of our government. more than not it turns into a fine art content heavy piece. for example, a friend of mine is doing a project in which they must deface a dollar bill to make a political statement... i know of another person on a messageboard who has the same project. i don't think i would personally feel comfortable completing this assignment as defacing currency is not what i'd do on a normal basis to express my view on anything.

i have been lucky and haven't really gotten professors with a mentality that shoves their beliefs onto thier students. honestly if i did, i don't think i'd be able to deal.

On Nov.06.2003 at 09:40 AM
kevin steele’s comment is:

Who wants to learn from someone who does not have a point of view? That does not mean I want student time wasted with off-topic rants, but an instructor's beliefs are important context. Responsible teachers are capable of supporting discussion and teaching ideas beyond their own specific beliefs.

Removing individual opinion from the classroom promotes a particular world view, and diminishes individual responsibility.

The narrow question of "Do you want to just learn about graphic design (which is what you are paying for) or do you want to hear your teacher’s opinion about politics?" brings with it the implication that politics might be irrelevant to the discussion of design. Students are paying for an education, and, I suppose, if they want an a la carte education, where they can learn exactly what they think is relevant and ignore everything else, they can have that. However, they won't be working in my studio without a political or historical perspective.

On Nov.06.2003 at 09:44 AM
Lea’s comment is:

This is an interesting topic because I recently graduated and this topic of discussion had been brought up between my friends. At any rate, one of my friends vehemently (and I mean no-budging on this one) believes that a teacher's role is only to teach -- she doesn't care about a teacher's day, or thoughts about life outside of the classroom (btw, she comes from a family of teachers). After September 11th happened, one of our teachers spoke to us at length about what he thought about it, it took an entire hour or so, and my friend believed by doing something like that, a teacher is patronizing a student and forcing their views upon them.

However, that being said, I believe there is a middle ground to things. If you are in design school, during classroom hours, I don't much care for a teacher re-iterating their political or religious or other types of beliefs to us. But, a little insight to an opinion here or there I don't mind -- but when it turns into a full-blown lecture when you're supposed to be learning how to work things out in Quark, I think it's a waste. Also, if a teacher is about to sprout an off-topic opinion or anecdote, I want some warning, and add a kind of "disclaimer" that the views expressed are his or her own only so as not to make it seem that if the students don't believe as he or she does, there would be no consequences.

However, any personal stories involving design or things like that scattered throughout class I really enjoy. Adds some humanity. And I don't mind the little stories about their children or their weekend when it's nothing too involved or taking too much time. Or when asked. For example, a friend of mine used her son in one of her AfterEffects-created movies and there were toys all over the movie.

In classroom, the best bet is not to sprout opinion unless a student explicitly asks. For example, we had a GDC representative come and try to get us to join. After he was gone, our teacher made some comments saying to consider what the GDC person said. A student later asked if our teacher was a GDC member. After pausing a few moments, he revealed he USED to be, and for various reasons, isn't one now-- but also mentioned when he was, he did receive some benefits. It didn't go farther than that. When the lecture ended, a few students went up and asked what exact reasons why he wasn't a member any more. I think that's the best course. People who want to know more will ask.

If the opinions expressed however, are design-related opinions -- by all means express them. Mention your favorite designers, your most hated designers and why: but challenge students to find out for themselves who and what they like.

Out of classroom, I think it's fair game to speak to students frankly about your own opinions.

On Nov.06.2003 at 10:06 AM
Lea’s comment is:

eeep... i forgot to finish the thought: "For example, a friend of mine used her son in one of her AfterEffects-created movies and there were toys all over the movie.... My teacher then revealed he had a son with the same tastes as her own... etc."

Ahem... Too bad there's no "edit" button... :P

On Nov.06.2003 at 10:08 AM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

I feel I benefited from my teachers going off topic and introducing other things into the classroom, and introducing new ways to look at things, from their perspective - esp. with design and art classes. By doing this, and most of them did, they did two things - for me.

One, they allowed us to let other parts of life, other disciplines influence our creative edge. We learned how to incorporate everything from the days newsworthy topics to how to tie your shoe. I went to a state school and I am glad I did. IW as required to take art history, printmaking, drawing, sociology, aesthetics... etc - each of these things allowed me to think in different ways and lent room for my mind to wander creatively. I think the same happens (ed) when a teacher gives his experience or point of view. As long as it does not carry to the extent of preaching - and I do not know how to define that.

Two, it made the workspace more enjoyable and comfortable - a better place for understanding and discourse. Who wants to be in a classroom with a stuffy professor whom does not let himself out for criticism? The more you understand someone - the more likely you feel comfortable with them, the more you want to be with them. I for one hated missing my design classes because our teachers gave of themselves - more as collegues sometimes - and we were more apt to allow changes and accept criticism. Which made us all, the ones who were open enough anyways, to become better designers.

On Nov.06.2003 at 10:54 AM
marian’s comment is:

Y'all said it for me.

On Nov.06.2003 at 10:59 AM
felix’s comment is:

I know SVA had a class on the polemics of design (Nicholas Blechman), I suppose youre not going to see that course at the Montana Junior College of Art- better yet DeVry. The best schools offer hard, honest options- and that includes everything but a hand job in the parking lot.

Parking is really expensive.

On Nov.06.2003 at 11:05 AM
ryin’s comment is:

great topic by the way.

ultimately design is about communicating knowledge, informing the uninformed in an engaging manner. design is about living - it's about the worldly morass of voices outside of the classroom that need to hear each other clearly.

i wish my professors would have introduced more of their views into the curricula to open up discussion pro or against - an exchange of opinions and ideas - isn't that what design is about? the professors who did do so were open to being wrong or educated themselves - that's the key. the most influential professors were the ones i considered friends inside and outside the classroom - they were real people living in the same world outside those art building doors.

design to me has always been about everything but design - design is the way to synthesize all you take in every minute of the day - what you see hear taste smell.

On Nov.06.2003 at 11:23 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Education without opinion is merely a list of information. What's the value in that? At the time when we are most impressionable, we should be getting all sorts of opinions and ideas put into our heads. Then we can sort through them and decide which lie within our value system and which ideas we embrace and which we cast off.

A teacher should not forget their primary role, and that is to inform and educate on the assigned topic, but they are human like the rest of us, and it would be a tall task to force them to shunt aside their personalities in favor of bland recitation of facts and figures.

On Nov.06.2003 at 11:57 AM
Patrick’s comment is:

>The intended question: is it acceptable for teachers — given their authority and position as role models — to express their own point of view (whether it’s political, religious, cultural, even design related) inside the classroom or at a lecture?

I see this as two very different things. Basically I think that off-topic personal opinions (political, religious, cultural) are what could be construed as propaganda and should be discouraged, while course-related thoughts should definitely be encouraged.

Assuming we are talking about design classes here, extended discussions about politics, etc have little place in a design class. The occasional anecdote/discussion can help get the class get to know the professor. But as a deep discussion of political views may bring some students closer to the professor and break down that wall between teacher and pupil, just as many will be put off and less likely to go up to their teacher later, even for course-related questions.

Secondly, however, expressing peronal opinions about design/the course at hand - and the thoughts behind them - should definitely included. It's a long-standing debate in the grade-school education community, but at the university level, teachers definitely need to add more value than the textbook offers. If a professor articulates a compelling agrument why Rand's logo for UPS is their favorite design achievement, it helps students form a context for analysis. As mentioned above, the key is challenging the students to formulate their own opinions.

Related to that, the challenge I have for professors is to find a way to get as much information about themselves and what they are teaching out to students before registration. Often a course description is quite generic, and may have little relevance to what will actually be found in the classroom. Different teachers teach different things for the same course, while the description remains the same. (I am of course basing this on my own school, which was a public university. Smaller private universities and design-specific post-grad programs might be better. I would at least hope so.)

Taken a step further, the more a student can learn about faculty before even agreeing to attend a school, the better. For example, when I was in school I was going for a double major in design and photography. As I got further along in my photo classes, it became clear that the primary professors were teaching a particular style of photography (the Nan Goldin type of personal documentary). Which is fine for those who want to learn that, I just was unaware of it before starting the program. Since this was not where my interests were, I decided not to take any more photo classes and to pursue it on my own.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:15 PM
Kirsten’s comment is:

the most influential professors were the ones i considered friends inside and outside the classroom - they were real people living in the same world outside those art building doors.

I teach some design courses and find the more I connect with the students outside of the classroom the more it seems they respect my teaching style. I try to keep in contact with students afterwards because I would hope they can use me as a resource in the future. They too can be a resource to me. I get a chance to really see how they work and what their strengths are. I think alot of teachers that are also professionals feel the same way.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:30 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

There is another wonderful aspect to be found when other topics are brought into the room. Going beyond the subject, if it's politics, or movies, or ants, there is much to be learned from such conversations. Not only are you hearing different points of view that can enrich your life, but you are also learning (maybe indirectly) how to express yourself, how to present you opinion, how to present your reasons, and on occasions how to change your opinion about something based on new information.

There is a limit as to how much you can sidetrack during a class; as a teacher and as a student I do believe the priority should be to cover the subjects agreed upon at the beginning. There is something delicious to be found on those occasions in which the class extends itself due to a great subject, and you don't realize you have been in the same room without a breath of fresh air in 3 or 4 hours.

That to me is a good class. No matter what you are talking about.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:35 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Yes, I wish they had detailed information about faculty as well. Also, for some reason, the teachers I had didn't pull out their portfolio (to put their money where their mouth is so to speak) until later in the course or until asked. I think it's should be a pre-requisite for students to peruse through faculty's portfolios before deciding to go to that school.

Sometimes a student can get frustrated over a teacher's crits and question their knowledge and expertise -- if people knew what teachers were capable of early on, this line of thinking would be in the backburner. You can have a LIST of credentials, awards, and everything -- but if no one SEES the actual WORK, students are cynical and quick to judge.

On an off-topic, I was watching the Sharon Osbourne Show the other day, and this one girl as a gift from Sharon got her first quarter semester paid off at The Art Institute in California (her dream is to be a graphic designer!). That made me burst out laughing because tuition for a whole year is way beyond even a tv show's means to give! Ha ha ha! Then again, they also gave her a nice portfolio of goodies to get started off. I wonder how she's going to pay the rest of it off.

Ahem... Now on to our regular scheduled programming.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:37 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

When I was in school I had the rare opportunity to actually interview for 2 new facult y positions. There was a faculty board and a student board that got together to ask questions fo candidates. There we had the chance to see everything they had done and ask them basically anything. It was kind of odd though, they were a bit shy with us - role reversal. And the best was that an adjunct who I had that semester was actually up for one of the positions, so I had the chance to drill into him after class.

And the response from the 3 of us actually weighed in as to whom they hired. Is that common at all universities?

What was even more wonderful was that they had presentations that were open to all faculty and design students as well - and everyone had a chance to be involved at some point.

Also, I used to seek out and research my profs. many are known in the design community and information is available about them online. Even my other professors as well. Some published, Some have/had gallery/museum shows - and the information was available online.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:50 PM
graham’s comment is:

assuming we're talking about degree level education, tutors (plural) can be many things-but, in terms of a (b.a.) course, then; initially, a cat among the pigeons, an instigator, a reassuring hand, an absolute devoted expert, a fool, aloof, awake. after that, after the first year, when students start to pursue their own course, their own path, then a tutor is (at worst) a necessity to be avoided and (at best) an inspiration and a friend. of course, the best tutors are your peers. if there's one thing i'd say a tutor need possess, it is the ability to light the blue touch paper and stand well back.

On Nov.06.2003 at 12:57 PM
Steve Heller’s comment is:

When I give lectures on polemical and political graphics I let the students know at the outset that I am going to not only talk about the history of propaganda but I am also going to practice propaganda. They can disagree if they choose. Nonetheless, permission aside, not all students feel comfortable going head to head with their teacher for fear of sounding dumb or ill-informed, or getting a bad grade. As a teacher I have the upper hand. Is this fair? Is this right?

It leads to an ancillary concern. What if my views were indeed anathema to anyone (or everyone) in the class. What if my truths are not their truths. Obviously Howard Dean ticked off a lot of people with his Confederate Flag remark (and he's a good guy). What if my position got in the way of students being able to learn?

How many times have we been to lectures where the speaker's viewpoint is untenable with our own. Sure, at an AIGA lecture we can get up an walk out, but in a classroom we are bound to stay or face consequences.

Years ago I had such a teacher. My politics and his were at odds. I don't think he graded me from a biased perspective, but I couldn't or wouldn't learn from him as well as I might. I was too busy being mad. So are there limits to the free expression of a teacher's ideas? Or should I have just dealt with it?

On Nov.06.2003 at 01:15 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

There is that fine line in which things become personal. As with the example Steve gave, it got to personal and he could not learn as much from a particular teacher at that point in his life. The thing with this, and correct me if I am wrong, is that your learned something from it. Had you not had such an encounter your position as a teacher and lecturer would probably different. You have made some decisions based on this experience. Was it worth it? was it a big influence on your professional and personal life?

It's important to remember we learn from the bad as well as the good in our lifes, our encounters and experiences.

On Nov.06.2003 at 01:30 PM
Sarah B’s comment is:

Nonetheless, permission aside, not all students feel comfortable going head to head with their teacher for fear of sounding dumb or ill-informed, or getting a bad grade. As a teacher I have the upper hand. Is this fair? Is this right?

I dont think it is a questions of fair or right. If the intent is to make the students think in other ways and produce from those thoughts - I think it should be viewed as a lesson.

I was one of those students whom, at first, was afraid to deviate or debate. The ideas and processes made me form opinions of my own - even if they weren't immediately voiced.

On Nov.06.2003 at 01:33 PM
marian’s comment is:

I couldn't or wouldn't learn from him as well as I might. I was too busy being mad

Are you sure? Maybe you learned more from him than you thought. You may not have accepted his viewpoint, but I bet you spent a lot of time counter-arguing, even if only in your head.

I'd be inclined to propose that you can learn as much or more from a teacher whose viewpoint you disagree with than one with whom you agree. It's like discussions: not as much happens in the brain when you're all agreeing and saying "yes, isn't that so." than when you really get down, drag out and say "you fucking bastard, that is so not true, and here's why."

(don't you love how i tied that into a previous thread, huh? huh? It all comes back to Speak Up in the end ... )

On Nov.06.2003 at 01:41 PM
Brent’s comment is:

>So are there limits to the free expression of a teacher's ideas?

As with any job I think just as long as it doesn't get in the way with the end objective then no. I think it comes down to whether or not he decides to hold his views over your head. If you don't play along and bow to his whim and are punished for it then yes, it's bad. But if debate is well received then I think it's a good thing. I think it holds true for bosses and other people in a position of power. It sucks when someone holds you over a barrel just to see you dangle.

On Nov.06.2003 at 02:07 PM
felix’s comment is:

I taught a class (not very well) at Parsons a year ago-"Typography for illustrators".

One of the things we would do is go outside so I could have a cigarette and talk on the phone while they draw on their skateboards. We would go here and skate there. Draw. Watch people. Look at type.

One of the kids didnt like where we were going. She said it be nice if we could go "to the most beautiful section of NY— the Upper East Side". I told her we could go to Conneticut instead. She told her parents I was sarcastic and I had to have a sit down with the Dean of Parsons so we could save this child's parent's money from changing schools.

Rebublicans get a D. They have no good ideas or talent, usually.

On Nov.06.2003 at 02:31 PM
eric’s comment is:

Steve, welcome...btw.

On Nov.06.2003 at 02:32 PM
Tom’s comment is:

Agree or disagree, the level of passion about a subject has always captivated me and created interest. Who doesn't love a passionate teacher? And you can't have passion without a heart and mind full of personal experiences and opinions.

I didn't appreciate this when I was a student, but learning is an opportunity, not a given, and a different point of view from a teacher or anyone for that matter should create a desire to dig deeper to understand the disagreement.

On Nov.06.2003 at 02:53 PM
Todd W.’s comment is:

1) The assumption that one can be "objective" is a fallacy, one that leads many, the press especially, into hypocrisy. (Claims of objectivity despite outright bias strike me as hypocritical.) The only areas I could see where this might be possible is in the lower grades of elementary school.

2) My favorite teachers and professors were often ones with views that were unabashedly diametrically opposed to my own.

On Nov.06.2003 at 02:53 PM
Lea’s comment is:

I think the most important thing teachers need to do is support their statements. Whether it's a statement about design, typography, life, politics, religion, etc. -- you need to make supportive statements. Not just declarations of opinion. That will gain respect from students.

Too many people have the "Because I told you so" attitude.

On Nov.06.2003 at 03:34 PM
Amanda’s comment is:

I'm no longer a student but this is issue is so vital (and timely).

I expect honest judgment from a teacher. I don't want an undeserved A. I want to be challenged. I want to walk away at the end of the semester thinking critically about a specific area of design and my abilities as a designer.

Sadly, very few teachers dare to be honest with their students. Why challenge them when they all assume that they are getting As for mediocre work?

Face it, colleges are now functioning as businesses and not places to encourage innovation and thoughtful design.

On Nov.06.2003 at 06:51 PM
Todd’s comment is:

Face it, colleges are now functioning as businesses and not places to encourage innovation and thoughtful design.

How are these incompatible ideas? Isn't that exactly what designers do all day - combine innovation/thoughtful design in the service of business?

On Nov.06.2003 at 10:00 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

The incompatibility comes up when "customer rentention" (making sure the school has lots of satisfied, tuition-paying students in the seats) supercedes tough teaching (telling them to take a hike, tuition and all, if they don't or can't do the work, for instance.)

On Nov.07.2003 at 05:55 AM
Todd W.’s comment is:

telling them to take a hike, tuition and all, if they don't or can't do the work, for instance.

At my school, and I think it's a rule, if they boot you out you don't get your tuition back.

On Nov.07.2003 at 08:48 AM
Amanda’s comment is:

Michael B, exactly! Thank you.

On a personal note, I'd pay thousands just to audit a class under Mr. Heller.

On Nov.07.2003 at 09:07 AM
brook’s comment is:

read the "I Have to Read This?" (i think) essay in the newer emigre. has at least a few thoughts on this.

you can expose your personal/political/etc viewpoints as long as it is in a tasteful way. if you go on a rant about anything, it will turn people off. if you make a passing comment about something and the student doesn't agree...it's doubtful they will become upset. they might think...hmm...well that's interesting. and then it's gone.

On Nov.07.2003 at 09:09 AM
Siegel’s comment is:

My school seemed to embrace a program of dispassionate criticism. This became clear to me within weeks of my arrival on “campus” (NYC), however it took me years to understand and appreciate the rationale for this methodology. The critiques of our professors focused almost exclusively on the form of our work; they seemed almost unaware of any content. Given the timeframe (late 1980’s) and the politically and socially charged nature of the student art at that time (AIDS, the NEA, etc.), this was frustrating as hell to a young and restless student—and it was confusing.

In retrospect though I believe I have come to appreciate this perspective. Would it have been beneficial to engage the students in a lively debate about issues of gender or the politics of art or design? It certainly would have sparked discussion (ie, shouting matches) but I doubt anyone would have learned anything.

This is perhaps the flip-side of the topic as presented, but the end is the same—I believe my school embraced an ideology where the teachers were encouraged to largely keep their moral, social and political opinions to themselves and to instead focus the discussions on the “making” of art and design.

To this day I don’t know if this was “right” or not, but its an interesting and I think valid strategy. I continue to weigh its merits and faults.

On Nov.07.2003 at 09:30 AM
Lea’s comment is:

I think one of my favorite (and best) assignments was when my teacher assigned us to pick a hot "social" topic -- from child abuse, to drugs, to illiteracy, etc. It forced people to choose a subject they felt strongly about and display it in front of people, without having to justify the message itself, only the design and the appropriateness of the imagery and layout to the message.

We had a Palestinian girl make a poster about "the other side" of war--how it's not just the Israelis getting hurt. We didn't have to agree with her -- but neither did she try to make people believe what she did; just justified her message with her poster. We had anti-child pornography posters. We had focus on literacy posters.

My greatest regret of my design education was not speaking up more often during crits -- especially when I saw a particularly offensive anti-child pornography poster (there were pictures of children in poses that could be construed as provocative--not necessarily pornography-- with a jarring headline. Though I understood the sentiment, I thought actually using a full picture of a child with their face in tact was only exploiting the issue, not aiding it). For the sake of being polite and political correctness, I didn't say anything.

I think that's the worst thing a person can do. To regret the things not said. So despite the fact I believe a teacher should always be careful over what he or she says, a teacher should never feel as if they could never be truthful about their views.

On Nov.07.2003 at 09:50 AM
marian’s comment is:

Michael, somehow you managed to say in one, tidy sentence, what I seem to be incapable of saying without going on some 8-paragraph tirade. Thanks.

On Nov.07.2003 at 11:06 AM
Sam’s comment is:

I wonder how impressionable students in the classroom/studio in fact are these days? I imagine that design teachers have lot of competition when it comes to making an impression on students (and we all seem to agree that the best teachers are the ones who makes an impression)--there's the web, the magazines and awards, the hot designer du jour that everyone wants to imitate. Part of the job seems like it would be widening the students' awareness view as much as actually directing their work--mabe that's even most of the job.

Also, word gets around about teachers. At Portfolio Center, we all definitely knew what we were getting into with each teacher and each class. I bet this is true everywhere, so teachers' biases (typographic, stylistic, political, etc) are already part of the students' filter going in. And then, there is a real value to that moment when a student realizes that the teacher, like their parents, are only human--it's a part of maturation and self-definition. Teachers probably shouldn't try to appear infallible--only the worst teachers I've ever had tried to pull that off (Mr. Dudley, European History, Brookline High School, you multiple-choice bastard!).

Armin, what were your experiences teaching at PC? Any other teachers giving out Ds to republicans?

On Nov.07.2003 at 02:11 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Armin, what were your experiences teaching at PC?

Sorry I haven't participated more in this discussion, it's been a crazy week on and off-line. This has been a truly exceptional thread.

OK, my experience at Portfolio Center. Like Sam said, word gets around; the first quarter I taught there I had 8 students (12 is the usual isn't it Sam?) and I was a very cool teacher so the second quarter I had 14 and they had to shut down the sign-up process for it because of all the people who wanted to take it — same thing the next quarter. I have to say that I was not your "usual" teacher, first of all I was the youngest one� in the classroom. My philosophy was to just do stuff, students expected to have a typeface finished by the time the quarter was over and that's what we did. On the first class I gave an intro to typeface design and I would throw little blurbs for the rest of the quarter, but most of the time was spent on critiques — rarely lecturing.

I don't think I ever talked about any politics, I did talk about, like, my life and stuff, I enjoyed it and they seemed to do so too. Bryony was going to PC at the same time I was teaching so many of my students I already knew on a social basis — one of them was (still is) her best friend. It was strange, in a good way. We were all more like buddies who did typefaces together. One thing that is amazing about PC is that the students are there to soak up ALL the information thrown their way so I would say that yes, they are kind of impressionable.

I guess my point is that if they listen very closely to a teacher with no experience and who could barely drink at a bar, imagine the impression somebody like Heller, FitzGerald or Mr. Keedy make.

On Nov.07.2003 at 02:44 PM
felix’s comment is:

teaching (telling them to take a hike

Hikes are easy. ---quick story:

for years I tried to get into Rob Lawton's type class at East TX State. He was, and is (last spotted at portfolio center) a legendary teacher. I believe he taught Woody Pirtle, Jeff Weithman among others.

I couldnt get in the class as it was too full, but I did happen to spot weaping students leaving the classroom- in droves!!!! legend has it he would jump up and down on the table and burn your work if it wasnt up to par. One class he made everyone wash their car out in the parking lot. If it wasnt clean as a whistle they would have to re-wash it entirely.

On Nov.07.2003 at 04:37 PM
John Kane’s comment is:

Teacher here: since my students have to work with my book (which is anything but opinion-free), I start every semester by showing them my own work. They can then form their own opinions, distnguish between what is useful, what not, or reject the whole enterpise (as some do) out of hand. As a student, I always preferred those instructors who believed enough in what they were doing that they would take others' work seriously. As a teacher, I try to give my students the same benefit.

On Nov.07.2003 at 10:40 PM
surts’s comment is:

I don't think you can teach anything in a vacuum and design education is no different. If you can put events into context with what the course goals are - great. Generally speaking, if a teacher can inspire the student to further pursue their passions/interests they've done their job.

On Nov.07.2003 at 10:58 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

Rob Lawton's type class at East TX State. He was, and is (last spotted at portfolio center)

Felix, that really brings back some memories of 1st quarter at PC (where he was des. dept. head at the time). I learned more about type and lettering in that class than I did the rest of my time in school. He was an ornery bastard, that's for sure, and it turned a lot of people off, but he really knew his stuff. I remember him showing off one day, hand-drawing a word with a 9H pencil at approx. 4 pt. size. And of course, he'd throw out Woody's name or John Norman and everyone's head would perk up. He must have mellowed because there were no car washes or type burning that I was aware of, but he did have a cult-following indeed.

Back to impressionability, though...Rob left a huge impression on me. Over time, I've come to discard some of what he espoused, yet I feel better for having known it. It's somewhat like learning how to do rubylith and overlays for mechanicals. You think it's hogwash, because it is all digital, but later on you realize that it helped foster your understanding of the print process (sorry web folk...).

I think, through experience, we find much knowledge in things we didn't understand at first. Half the fun of being in school (if you can call it fun) is learning things you didn't expect to learn. If you didn't want this, you'd just buy the textbooks and do it at home.

Oh, and Rob left me with my most lasting charge. Reacting to my work in final critique, he said, "This one is great. That one is shit. You better make them all great." I've never stopped trying.

On Nov.07.2003 at 11:24 PM
vos b.’s comment is:

Anyone interested in a Dutch opinion? First of all, good discussion indeed. Amongst my teachers are good friends and equalty was shown from the start when most of them brought their own work. If not, we asked them to do so. They've got beautiful stories about the early days when working with Dutch Giants such as Treumann, Ellfers or Piet Zwart. Or were involved in certain political movements as designer. Background information also shows their decision-making in design, as long as it's relevant though.

On Nov.08.2003 at 09:34 AM
Yanni’s comment is:

All teachers are constantly evolving and learning themselves and can't help but deviate from topics once in awhile.In this is the age of multi-diciplines and interest, teachers becomes students themselves in a unique way. Art and Design should be responsive to the 'times' and to whatever is happening around us. When a teacher talks about the Staten ferry disaster, it opens an endless dicussion about design flaws on the ferry itself, the layout and distribution of passenger chairs, the design of the pier and a whole lot of other things. Design touches our lives and teachers are just as human as everybody else. Life is an endless process of learning anyway! Going around in circles won't hurt a bit but getting lost all the way is a different story. In the end, nothing is really wasted, no lost cause; everything that happened, things we read about, the biases our teachers said yesterday adds colors to our lives and makes learning such fun! We have so much control over our lives- something earlier generations never had. That's why computers have a 'delete' tab!!!

On Nov.08.2003 at 10:49 AM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

Student for Life

Education in an academic environment is about point of view. I want to know what the teacher is thinking. I want to know what my peers are thinking. That’s the value of education---point of view and recognizing relationships amongst them---and it should be our take away once we receive the diploma.

“I am no longer a student” is like saying “I stopped thinking after college.” Being a student means thinking critically. Each and every day, we are presented with decisions, choices, and issues that require us to think critically. Being a student means that you are always learning, I’m comfortable being a lifetime student, but it doesn’t mean I’ll agree with your point of view.

On Nov.08.2003 at 08:04 PM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

Years ago I had such a teacher. My politics and his were at odds. I don't think he graded me from a biased perspective, but I couldn't or wouldn't learn from him as well as I might. I was too busy being mad. So are there limits to the free expression of a teacher's ideas? Or should I have just dealt with it?

After teaching for 4 years, I have this to say, outside of the particular subject matter of the class the teacher needs to bring a level of maturity and professionalism into the classroom. I would have to say you should have not been made to feel “deal with it” the teacher failed here. I always thought I was the one (as a teacher) who needed to adapt to each students “needs”, and I don’t mean hand holding. I mean you treat each person as a person if your teacher had done this his/her politics would not have even entered the situation. As a teacher when you back students into a corner be it trust, politics, or other crap you get nothing. Just my experience.

On Dec.05.2003 at 10:53 AM
tommy’s comment is:

(To Steve Heller-- what you need is an official complaint form for your students--I have included one in the following attached brief.)

I am a masters student who also teaches-- (I am sure many people will think as a teacher that this is highly unprofessional but i am posting this anyway).

I gave out a brief encouraging students to create a poster on social issues or politics based on a stack of readings on the subject including "The First Things First Manifesto" features from Emigre 49, Adbusters, articles on James Victori, the Guirella Girls and much much more.

I was shocked by students in my class who stood up and said-- I don't want to do anything about politics, or social issues and you have no right to make me-- I am here to learn how to be a graphic designer so i can work and pay off my student loans-- they also said things like-- I refuse to read all this-- this is a waist of my time... So, i took back my simple, open brief and gave them a new brief--

Here is the introduction to the new Brief...

I dedicate this brief to all my students who said to me —

“I don’t want to do a project on politics or social issues or environmentalism or feminism or consumerism or about how bad TV is —I’m sick of this lets save the planet Crap! And Don’t watch TV it ruins your mind crap! I Love TV!—I want to work in advertising and make ads for McDonalds and Nike—Besides that I hate feminists and wish they would just shut up!—And I like TV and This brief threatens my lively hood as a designer! I just want to work in Advertising and Make money!!!!!!!! So I Can drive a sports car and have cool clothes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“I Don’t want to save the world— I’m tired— it’s the end of the semester I just want to take a nap!”


You have the right to choose—

If you think you have the right to make as much trash as you want and not feel guilty about it then make a poster exclaiming I have the right to make as much trash as I want and not feel guilty about it!

If you love America, American Television, Coca-Cola, Rap music, Violence and McDonalds and the way its changing every culture in the world —then make a poster exclaiming —GOD BLESS AMERICA —I would rather be American—I Hope America takes over the Planet! (the students are New Zealanders)

If you hate feminists and wish they would just shut up then make a poster saying—

Men Deserve to make more money than woman because they’re smarter! So Just shut up—I don’t want to hear all your feminist bullshit anymore!

If your sick of hearing about people dying of Aids—

Then make a poster saying—Its Gods revenge! Hurry up and die already, You’re just wasting tax payers money, and it’s your own stupid fault for being careless, gay, permiscuous, hemophiliac—

Just die already!

If you feel sorry for Ronald Mcdonald because he looks freakish and adbusters makes fun of him all the time—then do a poster saying—

Ronald McDonald is Alright with me! I LOVE RONALD!

If you love television and advertising and feel that this project threatens your livelihood as a designer, and you can’t understand why there would be such a thing as “TV Turn Off Week” then go home and watch TV!

If you think this project is crap do a giant poster exclaiming—This Project is Crap, And I Won’t Do it! Students have the right to choose!

If you just want to complain about the project then fill out the official complaint form on the next page



I hate this project. The teacher didnt tell me what to do exactly and I had to think for myself!

I hate this project. The teacher made me do things that I didn’t particularly want to do!

I hate this brief, its condescending and its highly sarcastic tone isnt funny to me!

And I don’t like the font it’s typed in either!

And there’s misspelled words in the brief

and gramatical errors! It’s shocking!

I hate this brief, it made me think about things I never really thought of before!

I hate this brief, I love my Nike sports bra and tennis shoes!

I hate this brief, it is subversive and persuades people to stop consuming and ban Mcdonalds—these ideas threaten economic security of our country and the world!

I’m not doing this project!


I am highly agitated

I am sort of agitated

I didnt read the brief and you cant make me!

On Jan.30.2004 at 02:34 AM
mitch’s comment is:


i am going to hope thats a joke. because if it wasn't, then i would need to make a comment like "thats the most immature thing i have ever seen." or "you are responding to spoiled students by acting spoiled yourself."

Assuming it is a joke, please disregard what i say below:

As a student who also teaches (well, teaching assists anyway) I will say that either way, thats wildly innapropriate. it is not teaching anything about design, it is not teaching anything about client relationships, it is not teaching anything about manipulating design content to a visual goal, it is not teaching anything at all, actually - it is just showing that because you give the grades, you get to be more of a smartass than the students. I understand that you are trying to be in the vein of an "Adbusters" attitude, but you are not pulling it off. If students complain about an assignment you need to inform them that:

a) you are the teacher, they are the students

b) in the real world, you may get projects you are not enthused about, and thats too fucking bad.

c) you have every right to give them a politically based assigment.

d) they have every right to not do the assigment, and you have every right to fail them.

as far as a college level teacher politics goes, if the student cannot listen to someone and decide for him or herself what thier own viewpoint is, then they are not ready to even be in college yet.

On Jan.30.2004 at 03:23 AM
tommy’s comment is:

Yeah-- it was immature, childish, wildly inappropriate, and makes me wonder if I should teach at all. The bazar thing is that I do things like that all the time when I teach and the students still love me.

We hand out student evaluations of the classes that ask students to rate the teachers and point out what they learned in the class, what methods of teaching worked best for them etc... basically what the teacher is doing wrong and what they are doing right.

I was expecting, after handing out that brief -that on those student evaluations, on a scale of 1-5- I was going to get -0s.

But they gave me 5s and 4s and wrote Tommy's the best.....

One of the questions on the sheet asked "What do you like most about this class?" the majority of the students answered "Tommy"

I get standing ovations at Graduation.

Was the brief a joke?

What I posted here was just the introduction--- I didnt post the real brief--- but it also was written in the same style.

The students laughed and laughed. I think if you would have asked the students in the class they would have said they loved it.

Your comments below are all the mature appropriate things to say to students ...

a) you are the teacher, they are the students

b) in the real world, you may get projects you are not enthused about, and thats too fucking bad.

c) you have every right to give them a politically based assigment.

d) they have every right to not do the assigment, and you have every right to fail them.

My students hear your a) b) c) d) list from every teacher in every class they teach. I've said a) b) c) d) to students on numerous occations. I get bored hearing myself say a) b) c) d) and they get bored listening.

Everyone would agree that a) b)c)d) is the appropriate way to address the situation- but just because it is the appropriate professional pat answer doesnt mean it works or motivates students to do anything. (might keep you from being fired or sued though)

I am not interested in failing students or threatening to fail them to motivate them. I want them to want to do their assignments because they are interesting. (Where I teach students arent motivated by their grades anyway-- students have actually come up to me and said "i could care less if I fail this project" infact I am thinking that since I got an A on my last assignment I might just skip this assignment completely. So threatenig a class with an F never accomplishes anything.)

When I handed that brief out the students laughed-- Even though it mocked them, it was taken as a joke--

And- no it doesnt teach anything about design-- reading the articles i handed out, my slide show lecture and having them do the project and critique it- was the part that taught them about design.

I guess the reason i posted that brief here (even though it is embarassing)-- is because this thread was focusing so much on what is "appropriate" for a lecturer to do in classes-- is it ok to talk about politics etc...

When i first started teaching- i was always worried

about whether or not to bring up religion or politics-

what was appropriate or inappropriate to say-- Now

I just focus on what I think will motivate the class. And I don't really censor myself when I speak. And sometimes I can't believe what comes out of my mouth.

One time i called someones work "half-assed"

I know I could have said "your work seems incomplete, needs more polishing, more refining" but I had already said all those more "appropriate remarks" on the first 10 students-- I was getting bored saying them-- people were getting bored listening to them--- but when "half-assed" just flew out of my mouth students started taking interest in the critique again.

The illustrator Henrik Drescher (who is a legend to me)-- was teaching for a while in New Zealand and i had an opportunity talk to him about his teaching methods.

He said he actually rates his students on a suck-o-meter-- as to how much their work sucks-- does it suck a little..., or a lot----

He says his method works quite well-- and i am sure it is because it is inappropriate.

I guess the only measure of the success of my immature brief -- would be to ask did if it motivate the students? Would they have made the posters and read the readings if I had not passed it out.-- And thier posters were great.

And sometimes I think being "inappropriate" works.

Actually I think the worst thing you can do as a teacher

is be "boring"

And if you don't allow any humour, emotions, politics, personal opinions, subjectivity enter your classroom, your briefs, or your critiques, you will be boring.

On Jan.30.2004 at 02:47 PM