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Talent can be found everywhere

September 1, 2021 Articles, Letters
A letter to the Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW). IN RESPONSE TO:  PRISON TEACHING INITIATIVE HELPS INCARCERATED STUDENTS EARN DEGREES   I went through the criminal justice system in Toronto when I was a teenager. Luckily I have no criminal record by grace of laws pertaining to young offenders in Canada. I was supposed to have spent six months in juvenile jail but was fortunate enough to have been sentenced to community service in lieu of prison time. Nevertheless, I did spend a brief period behind bars as part of that process. Most of the people in my prison block were childhood friends and friends of friends. (I grew up at a time when youth gangs were prevalent.) All were definitely street savvy, if not book smart. Indeed, many of the people in detention with me seemed just as sharp minded as people I would go on to meet a decade later as a graduate student at Princeton. Professor Jeff Dolven noted in the article (“Prison Teaching Initiative Helps Incarcerated Students Earn Degrees,” June 2021) that “much intelligence and talent and imagination is locked up in prisons.” I would add also that for the most part the talent is also wasted…

Can’t understand the preceptor, eh?

Ask anyone about his thoughts on the precept system and you will be sure to get an earful. For my part, I have precepted three undergraduate courses over the years. Although it can be rewarding, precepting does have its downsides. One annoying aspect is that every year I will read an opinion in the 'Prince' by someone who is unhappy with her preceptor. Invariably she will rail about her preceptor's dearth of talent in teaching and poor command of English. Some of the beefs that students have are legitimate, but sometimes they are just inane. I recall an incident several years back that amused and angered me. A former colleague of mine, John Woo (not his real name), related an interesting story to me. Born and raised in upstate New York, Woo is as American as apple pie. When Woo was "serving his time" he was a very popular teacher. Indeed, in the year prior to us meeting, he had won a distinguished award in teaching. Students would pack the classrooms where he taught, and there were always more students who wished to be enrolled in his section than the registrar's office would permit. One day, early in September several…




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