A.I. in the Classroom: What Should Teachers Do?

More from our inbox:

  • A Nobel Physicist, on the Nature of the Universe
  • Trump’s Jury and ‘12 Angry Men’
  • Public Funding for Birth Control

Credit…Víctor Arce

To the Editor:

Re “How Schools Can Cope and Grow When Their Students Are Using A.I.,” by Kevin Roose (The Shift column, Business, Aug. 29):

Mr. Roose’s suggestion that educators embrace generative A.I. and view it as an “opportunity” or “classroom collaborator,” not as an “enemy,” seems typical of a tech enthusiast.

Of course, he is right that university professors like me will have to adjust our assignments to involve more in-class exams, classroom work and scaffolded projects with multiple check-ins. As a history professor, I also consciously assign books that are not available on the internet to limit the ability of A.I. tools to respond to essay prompts. For A.I. is the enemy.

What I want, most of all, is for students to read books that help them appreciate the complexity of the past, to digest factual information and to think deeply about the subject. Struggling to find the words and structure to express one’s ideas is a catalyst for thought, as any writer knows.

What can make the college experience transformative is the learning that comes from reflection. Shortcuts, whether traditional plagiarism or this new form of plagiarism, contribute to an atmosphere of intellectual disengagement.

Julie Hessler
Eugene, Ore.

To the Editor:

Kevin Roose builds from a flawed premise: All kids are using A.I., so schools should accept that reality.

We attempted this strategy with cellphones, as teachers tried to use them “productively” for classroom polls and web searches and other such activities. It turns out that letting phones in was a disaster we are still trying to contain.

Let’s not make the same mistake. This doesn’t mean we should never let A.I. in, but we should at least start to do so carefully.

Jeremy Glazer
The writer is a former high school teacher and a professor at the College of Education at Rowan University.

To the Editor:

Reading Kevin Roose’s column inspired a simple thought experiment. What if a research biologist had developed a highly innovative breed of genetically engineered seeds and, instead of carefully testing them in a restricted area, went out and scattered them at random across the entire countryside? Such a reckless researcher would face a firestorm of condemnation.

Yet isn’t that exactly what the developers of generative A.I. products have done to the landscape of education? With little notice and zero safeguards, they’ve released a product that makes mass cheating easy and often difficult to detect.

The effects on our educational ecosystem are potentially devastating. Where is the outrage over such callous disregard for the consequences of their actions?

Conrad Berger
Hyattsville, Md.

A Nobel Physicist, on the Nature of the Universe

Credit…Virginia Gabrielli

To the Editor:

“The Crisis in Cosmology,” by Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 3), gives a good picture of exciting issues we are pursuing in cosmology, the study of the large-scale nature of our expanding universe.

But Dr. Frank and Dr. Gleiser do not mention that the standard theory passes a broad variety of demanding tests. You can read about them in my 2022 book, “The Whole Truth.”

These tests make a good case that our cosmology is a good approximation to what happened. But it is important to understand that the standard models of dark matter and dark energy seem too simple to be the full story. I should know: I introduced these ideas to cosmology a quarter of a century ago to make the theory we had then better fit the evidence.

I meant it to be at best a rough working picture. I am surprised at how well it has done, but I expect that it will be replaced by a better theory found with the guidance of problems such as the 10 percent difference between two measures of the rate of expansion of the universe, and our poor understanding of how the galaxies formed.

Adjust the theories of dark matter and dark energy and you adjust the picture of how galaxies formed and the method of measuring the rate of expansion of the universe. This can be done without seriously affecting the successful cosmological tests of what happened on larger scales.

The community hope is for more problems that might guide us to an even better theory. It is good to question authority, but I do not see evidence of a crisis in cosmology.

P. James E. Peebles
Princeton, N.J.
The writer, an emeritus professor at Princeton, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2019.

Trump’s Jury and ‘12 Angry Men’

“12 Angry Men,” the 1957 film classic, highlights the essential role a jury plays in American self-government.Credit…Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Trump’s Fate Belongs in the Hands of 12 Ordinary Citizens,” by Jesse Wegman (Opinion, nytimes.com, Aug. 27):

Mr. Wegman writes about the benefits of trial by jury and invokes the film “12 Angry Men.” Henry Fonda’s character went to great lengths to persuade other jurors to acquit because unless the verdict is unanimous, the result is a hung jury and a mistrial. That may lead to the case being retried or dropped, or for the defendant to accept a plea deal.

Donald Trump, for whom delay of any verdict until after the election is a core strategy, would declare anything short of a conviction a total vindication, even though an acquittal it is not.

Whether because of fear of being doxxed, attacked or fired, or a bribe or threat, or just pure partisan affiliation, there is nothing to stop one juror from simply voting not to convict based on dubious “reasonable doubt.” Such a juror need not attempt to persuade other jurors.

Viewed this way, the real purpose of Mr. Trump’s statements and actions is shown: to find one person in 12 in those four juries who will vote not to convict him. Through this lens every statement made by Mr. Trump is a premeditated action to taint the jury pool.

In “12 Angry Men,” justice is predicated on the impartiality of the jurors toward the defendant. That is impossible in this situation.

Michael Dee

Public Funding for Birth Control

To the Editor:

Re “G.O.P. Lawmakers Pivot to Birth Control” (news article, Aug. 31):

Last month, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a six-week abortion ban, following 21 other states that have moved to restrict abortion or ban it entirely. Amid these restrictions, Republicans, especially Republican women, have expressed their support for contraception.

As the leader of one of the largest contraception access initiatives in the U.S., I view their support as welcome. In the post-Roe era, we have seen demand for birth control surge; in just the first six months of 2023, my organization has served over 50,000 women seeking free or low-cost contraception in South Carolina.

We can’t do this alone. We need government at the state, city and local levels to increase funding for programs that make birth control for women not only more accessible, but also more affordable.

Evidence shows that public funding for birth control helps women gain equal access to birth control tailored to their specific needs, leading to better health outcomes and substantial cost savings.

It’s time for our leaders to step up. Words are nice; action is better.

Bonnie Kapp
Columbia, S.C.
The writer is the president and C.E.O. of New Morning.

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