"Not only is it that I enjoy coming to class," says Unum Siddique, a junior from Howard County who has taken three of his classes. "It's that he makes it so much easier to understand the material. I can say, 'Oh, that story relates back to what that philosopher said in the reading.' "Among the questions raised by the story are: of what value to the State of Maryland are philosophy professors who do "research", if a guy like Jim Thomas, who does none, is so much better at explaining philosophy to undergraduates?
How hard should professors work to make ideas easy for students to understand? Thomas works a lot of popular culture into his lectures, and is most noted for being very funny. Is that the right approach, or should we challenge students to understand difficult material without the aid of humor and Road Runner references?
How seriously should we take the opinions of students as to which teachers are best? Should hugely popular professors be paid more?
What is the purpose of grading? Thomas is an easy grader, and this seems to be part of his appeal. Should that make us think less of him, or should we instead notice that his students think they are learning a lot? Is there any "objective" way to measure how much they do learn, and what part hard or easy grading plays in that?