Student’s future, teacher’s past

“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.” — Richard Hamming

I ran across the above quote from Hamming this morning. It made me wonder whether I tried to prepare students for my past when I used to teach college students.

How do you prepare a student for the future? Mostly by focusing on skills that will always be useful, even as times change: logic, clear communication, diligence, etc.

Negative forecasting is more reliable here than positive forecasting. It’s hard to predict what’s going to be in demand in the future (besides timeless skills), but it’s easier to predict what’s probably not going to be in demand. The latter aligns with Hamming’s exhortation not to prepare students for your past.

2 thoughts on “Student’s future, teacher’s past

  1. The day after you wrote that I showed a group of 12 years olds how to use a slide rule. And a slide rule isn’t in my past but even earlier.

  2. I think teaching slide rules is a great idea, not because they’re practical these days, but because they make you think about significant figures and because they give you a feel for logarithms.

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