Mark Schroeder

Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography
Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

As teachers, it is easy for us to fall into the fallacy of attributing differences in student performance to differences in talent, and to project that attribution of talent out to the horizon as a predictor of future merit and performance. When I was a graduate student, I actually discovered that one of my particularly senior professors took this so far as to actually still think of some of the most successful contributors to my field as sub-par, on the basis of remembered judgments formed about them as graduate students decades before.

Some fields— including not only my field, philosophy, but some of the other fields I was most attracted to as an undergraduate—have cultures that are particularly supportive of this kind of fallacy. As a mentor of graduate students, I see my role as trying to step back from this fallacy and see each individual in terms of where they are in their own personal path of development, and to try to help them grow in the skills—professional as well as strictly academic—that are their greatest areas of weakness, so that each can realize their own potential.