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Thoughts on “The Best Teacher I Never Had”

February 7, 2017

For readers interested in the craft of teaching, I invite you to check out Bill Gates’ The Best Teacher I Never Had.  Bill reminds us of the greatness of the late Richard Feynman: Nobel Prize winner, remarkable character, and excellent teacher.

(One of Richard Feynman’s contributions isn’t noted in the column: As a member of the Rogers Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, he memorably demonstrated with a simple glass of ice water how the solid-rocket booster O-rings became inflexible in cold temperatures.)

Feynman had a remarkable ability to “know his audience” and explain complex concepts in language the listener could relate to. Although Feynman’s lectures have been recorded for future use, there is something these recordings can never duplicate. I’m reminded of what is ultimately behind great teaching that engages students: great people.

Academic Freedom is Key

Not just that he had talent, but Feynman was in an environment where the administration could say “let Feynman be Feynman.”  That’s a key component of academic freedom. It will be no surprise to you that in OPSEU we feel academic freedom for Ontario college faculty is long overdue.

I worry about the interest Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has in high school teaching; some have perceived their actions as meddling.  I worry that that outside forces, such as the Gates Foundation, will meddle with academic freedom.  On that concern, I hope Bill Gates will prove me wrong.


Darryl Bedford

President, OPSEU Local 110 (Fanshawe College Faculty Union)