Book Review: Saints and Scamps: Ethics in Academia
Steven M. Cahn. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1994.
Reviewed by Catherine Gardner, Graduate Student Associate, TRC and Department of Philosophy
In this short but thought-provoking book, Cahn examines the moral responsibilities inherent in the professorial life. Cahn's central tenet is that as teachers we also have the capacity either to help or to harm others, therefore productive teaching and responsible teaching cannot be divorced. Cahn supports his claim through an examination of what makes a good teacher and what makes a great teacher (a saint) as well as through a comprehensive analysis of the day-to-day details of teaching practice such as grading and lecturing. What makes this examination eminently readable is the real-life examples Cahn uses to illustrate his points; often amusing, sometimes horrifying, these examples depict the many varieties of saints and scamps that populate academia.
main focus is on responsibilities to students, he also examines professorial
responsibility to colleagues, departments, and academia itself. This is
perhaps the weakest part of Saints and Scamps. The analysis of responsibilities
to graduate students is woefully brief. This is unfortunate as Cahn admits
that the ethical education of future faculty members begins in graduate
school; furthermore, Cahn omits a discussion of the responsibilities of
the dual role of teacher and student played by many graduate students.