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What Makes a Good Scholar? Report Offers Some Ideas

September 08, 1997

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has released a report, "Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate," that seeks to identify, among other things, the personal qualities that are essential in college and university professors. Below is an excerpt from the recommendations.

"We propose that three characteristics merit especial consideration: integrity, perseverance and courage. . . . The foundation of academic life is integrity. . . . Scholarship cannot thrive without an atmosphere of trust. . . . Institutions of higher education need scholars who persevere in their efforts. . . . Good scholars, like good workmen, seek to perfect their craft over a lengthy period. . . . As a third attribute, a scholar must have the courage to risk disapproval in the name of candor. A scholar must possess the will to take on difficult or unpopular work that others avoid, transcending ideas, rules and patterns, and imagining new questions and problems.

"Courage, it can be seen, may serve as the partner of originality. . . . Galileo, for all his courage, won only the censure of the powerful in the early 17th century when he turned his telescope on the heavens to confirm the theory of Copernicus that the Earth is not the center of the universe but that it revolves around the sun. What we see in the fruits of such courage are the seeds from which constructive public discourse sprouts.

"A scholar must not confine his or her creative products to folders or computer files, however risky it may appear to enter the larger arena where ideas are critiqued and evaluated. . . . These qualities of character should serve as reminders that good scholarship involves more than doing one's job well, as important as that is. Scholarship has a moral aspect that should figure in all of its dimensions: discovery, teaching, integration and application. . . . [W]e have no intention of putting forth romantic notions that have no basis in reality. But if higher education is to continue to help lead the nation, then surely its scholarly accomplishments, as laudable as they are, must be grounded in principles that speak to humankind's noblest aspects."

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