On House

But Can He Teach?

By Susan Engel, Ph.D.

While people love the hackneyed aphorism, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” it would be more accurate to say, “Anyone can teach. Few teach well.” Luckily, in the medical profession those who are unusually good at their work are also the ones who teach.

Though knowing a great deal about your topic is necessary to good teaching, it is nowhere near sufficient. What else do you need to be a great, rather than adequate, teacher? And does Gregory House have what it takes?

House Knows a Lot about His Topic

Good teachers must have thorough knowledge of their discipline; though this concept is essential, it is often overlooked in school settings. Not only is expertise a prerequisite for great teaching in and of itself–how can you teach what you don’t know?–it also does something equally important: it frees teachers from using a script.

House knows more than most about his discipline. Some might say that he is just very smart. Judging by his encyclopedic memory, razor-sharp analytic skill, expansive and precise vocabulary, and enormous processing speed, it’s a fair guess that House’s IQ is 150 or above (Neisser). However, a person can be smart without acquiring substantive knowledge within a particular domain. His character is premised not only on his impressive intellect but on his vast knowledge of medicine. House often acts as if he doesn’t take medical convention very seriously. But equally often he demonstrates comprehensive knowledge of past cases, obscure medical techniques, and unusual but important diagnostic procedures. His knowledge  …

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