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'If you are so smart, why aren't you rich?' and Other Brash Questions to the Teacher

Robert F. Bruner

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

August 25, 2000


SUBJECT AREA: classroom teaching.

The new term begins. You introduce yourself, describe the course, and pause to invite questions before starting to teach. It's a moment of buoyancy; you're ready to begin work. Then a student asks a brash question. "What qualifies you to teach this course?" Or "Have you personally done any of the deals (financings, investments, etc.) this course covers?" Or "Have you worked in this industry?" Or, "Do you consult in this area?" Or, "What practical work experience do you have?" Or the showstopper, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" A stillness falls over the room as everyone recognizes that a not-so-subtle challenge has been issued. If you are a newly minted Ph.D., there may not be much work experience to discuss. Or as a senior professor, your work experience may not be quite that relevant or recent. You are on the spot to justify your presence. You briefly contemplate a response that is comparable in rudeness to the query. But instead you search for the right words. What should you say?

This column discusses the various origins of the brash question, reflects on some larger lessons for the classroom teacher, and suggests a path for responding.

[Past columns by Robert Bruner may be found by search at the
SSRN website at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/search.taf

or by going to his Author Page at SSRN at:

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Date posted: September 4, 2000  

Suggested Citation

Bruner, Robert F., 'If you are so smart, why aren't you rich?' and Other Brash Questions to the Teacher (August 25, 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=239490

Contact Information

Robert F. Bruner (Contact Author)
University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )
P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-3823 (Phone)
434-924-0714 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://faculty.darden.edu/brunerb/

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