Teaching at Prague’s Charles University

It’s a privilege to teach at Europe’s second oldest university (after Paris). Founded in 1348,named after a Bohemian king,  Albert Einstein taught theoretical physics here in 1911/12.

I taught a two-week elective course on technological innovation in the Silicon Valley. There were daily reading assignments for what would be discussed in each 80-minute class.

There were seven students, undergraduate and graduate, six Czechs, one Slovak, all fluent in English. Forty percent of their grade was an essay, presented orally, comparing a tech titan of the past with one from today. Two students chose Henry Ford and Elon Musk, another Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates. Class participation and debating performance was another 40%. Our debate topic was “should Facebook be broken up.” The “no” side won, seven votes to zero. 

What can I conclude about this brief immersion into tertiary education in Central Europe?  First, that the students are terrific, well-rounded, informed, polite, eager to learn and enthusiastic. How many American students of the same age could speak, write and comprehend in a second language?

My students had lofty ambitions for careers in diplomacy, science, the environment and the non-profit sector. Most had traveled extensively in Europe, two had been to the US. 

For me this was a peak experience, albeit an immense amount of work with modest pay. My greatest satisfaction came from two unsolicited student emails.  One said the class was of immense benefit, the other thanked me for an “amazing” experience.  **

One thought on “Teaching at Prague’s Charles University

  1. Barry –

    Thanks for the report on your teaching at Karlova Univerzita. For as long as I have known you, you have been a teacher. Your world-wide ventures have always been presented in a scholarly and instructive manner. Thank you for energy and ability to march on as a most capable and interesting friend and academic.


    On one of our visits to John he gave me a very nice t-shirt with Karlova Univerzita imprint. I really treasure it and will now have even more reason to treasure and wear it.



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