13
Jun

2010

A Tale of Two Planning Professors

Post by Steven Dale

These are both 100% true stories:

During my undergrad, I took a course called “The Changing Geography of China.”  Of the sixty or so students in the class, I was one of a dozen white people in the room (maybe).  Much to the obvious confusion of the class, one of those dozen was the professor; a white-as-snow 40-ish woman with a last name of Irish ancestry.

The first thing she said to the class was this:  Okay, listen, I know what you’re thinking:  What’s with the white girl?  So let’s get this out of the way here and now:  I’ve spent over 12 years of my life living in China and I speak, read and write Cantonese and Mandarin better than you or your parents ever could.  So let’s get on with today’s lesson.

Contrast that with the following similar (yet wholly different) experience:

During my first week of post-graduate planning school we were given a three day session on environmental planning.  The lectures were given by a 30-something sessional professor who informed us that not only did she commute alone, by car almost 90 minutes (each way!) per day but she also owned a house perched atop the Oak Ridges Moraine.

For those that don’t know, the Oak Ridges Moraine, notably, is a strip of prime agricultural and environmentally-sensitive land north of Toronto, Ontario.  The government had recently passed legislation barring development on the Moraine, receiving plaudits and awards from environmentalists and planners across the globe. Someone in the class asked how she felt she had any moral authority to lecture us on the value of environmental planning when she, herself, seemed to be the epitome of everything environmental planning is against.

She shrugged her shoulders, rolled her eyes and said: Yeah, well, what are you going do?

One of these two professors is admired and lauded by her students. So much so that  she was recently nominated by said students for a major education award and received tenure at a top Canadian university. Which one do you think it was?

Planners are great ones for telling people how to live their lives. In fact, the entire profession exists to do so: Live here, not there. Live this way, not that way. Build to this height, not that height. Follow this signal, not that signal. Commute this way, commute that way. Use this kind of toilet, not that kind of toilet. Et cetera this way, not et cetera that way.

So if you work in a profession whose entire existence is built to instruct others on how to live their lives, you yourself better live the life you’re telling others they should be living. Or at the very least, a close approximation. Otherwise, how can you possibly expect anyone to take your recommendations (or you) seriously?



Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Thoughts / Urban Planning & Design
Comments Off on A Tale of Two Planning Professors
Comments Off on A Tale of Two Planning Professors

Comments