I began reading PAW’s article “A Combustible Mix” and fully expected to read about another professor being fired due to nonconformity with today’s campus woke ideology. Instead, what I read was music to my ears and a total validation of one of my life’s turning points from almost 30 years ago. I’m an engineer married to a physician, who often asks why I didn’t become a doctor, to which I usually grumble something about not being able to afford med school costs, etc. The real truth, though, is it’s because I took “Orgo” with Dr. Maitland Jones.
I was an “underprivileged” (poor) student working several jobs and playing multiple sports at Princeton in 1994, when I found his Orgo class to be just ridiculously difficult. As an engineer with two master’s degrees, I’ve always welcomed hard work and challenging course work, but Dr. Jones began each lecture with an assumptive air that he was speaking down to third year med students. I’m not shy either, so I’d ask questions, but as one NYU student said, you’d just be opening yourself up for a rude response with him. Freshman physics was tough, but they provided weekly review classes at night so you could keep up. I believe teaching is a two-way street, and I’d contend that Dr. Jones was absolutely guilty of not making sure that he was being understood and probably still has no idea of what it is like to walk a mile in the footsteps of some of his students.
It wasn’t just the C he gave me, but the complete feeling of ineptitude I was left with that made me forget about a medical career altogether. Meanwhile, my undeniably highly intelligent roommate, who didn’t have to worry about money, worked zero jobs, and played zero sports, got an A and later became the esteemed doctor that he is today. So at the end of the day, social standing does matter, and ideally you’d like to see professors who can teach classes that inspire, as well as inform, to students from all walks of life without crushing their souls.