I had this idea while talking to Jordi last weekend. He said one of the misconception we have in the education right now is that we assume smart people are generally good teachers. Schools are hiring PhDs to be professors, as they are assuming that PhDs, with their acknowledge in certain field, can always guide the students well. However, clearly that is not true all the time. There are students falling asleep, killing time with laptops or phones during class. I think if the teacher is interesting enough, those things should never happen, and students should enjoy the class. Especially after seeing websites like ratemyprofessors.com, you will be amazed that how many professors are not that favored by students.
LACs, like Bucknell, hire professors who are more interested in teaching instead of researching. As we do not have graduate school, so all the teaching are done by professors, not the graduate students. However, is that always a good thing? According to Jordi, most PhD students, especially in science field, are not required to have teaching experience. But they are allowed to teach in colleges as long as they have their doctoral degrees. So basically, a PhD certainly have good understanding in his area, but not necessary a good teacher.
Is doctoral degree always required in college teaching? Not necessarily. Professors in language department are usually not a PhD degree holder. Usually, they are all good teachers, as they are dedicated to language teaching and with enough experience in it. They are definitely not Einsteins in those language, but they can still teach well. I had Japanese class in Bucknell, and Prof. Armstrong, who not Japanese, is one of the best teachers I had here. She is an experienced interpreter, and has been working in professional translating industry for years. Her class is interesting and students are always motivated. Sometimes, she needs a little bit help from the Japanese TAs, who are native speakers, but she is definitely knowledgeable enough to students.
I think other subjects could use the similar approach. Besides the most advanced courses, such 300 level or above courses in Bucknell, most introductory courses could actually be better taught by a professor with better teaching skill and less knowledge than a professor with generous amount of knowledge but worse teaching approach. So in my opinion, professors are not necessary to have a PhD degree. As long as people are dedicated in the subject and teaching, with enough knowledge, they should be able to teach in college. Classes could be more interesting, and students can definitely learn more in such classes. But why all professors have to be PhD? Maybe there are just too many PhDs in the world now?