Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Don't be such a swot!

Oxford is planning to introduce contracts requiring students to attend lectures and tutorials. But is that any way to spend your university years?

Ah, university years. The common answers to how one has spent it are typically getting drunk, getting laid, and getting high - and maybe get a degree in the process. So how did I spend mine? Let's just say I was half stick-in-the-mud and half wild child. The wild child part being where I went to school in my shorts and sandals and running all over the football field getting wet. Look out world!

Oh, and I also got into "disagreements" with some of the academe due to the content of the The LaSallian, but come on. I was obviously bad-ass.

I was a fairly conscientious student. I attended lectures, but I also stealthily filtered out some of the more boring ones and would come crashing back to earth whenever a classmate nudged me. I've had vanilla (generic) professors, mind-boggling professors, and sardonic professors. I've had professors who gave religion a bad name and goaded us to say otherwise, and professors who were so obviously learned and academic that my eyes just glazed over whenever they lectured. I didn't understand a thing.

Germaine Greer has something to say about batty professors:

If I doubted that people who studied too much went mad, I had my lecturers to prove it. Notorious among them was a professor who lectured with a pipe between his teeth or waved aloft in his left hand, while his right hand wandered about deep in the front of his corduroy trousers. His lectures consisted in reciting gobs of Paradise Lost, a process that moved him so deeply that cascades of rheum fell from his eyes and nostrils, joined the saliva foaming at the corners of his mouth and dripped off his chin.
I have had classmates tallying how many times my professor would say "Oo" after a sentence. It reached up to 40 in about half an hour. I also remember the professor in my freshman year who uttered with complete sanguinity, "If you're bad, I'm badder!" Obviously quite lacking in comparison to Ms. Greer's, but you take what you can get.

On a more serious matter, Ms. Greer comments that
"Confusion is the most productive state of mind. Respect your confusions. Don't let me waft them away." She tells of a lecturer who was so misguided on Byron that she had to write a research paper on Byron's comic verse in order to have her accumulated bile purged. On that note, she believes that "a truly incompetent teacher can be of more value than a good one."

Ms. Greer says that students go to university to meet other students, and that they can learn more from arguing over cold coffee than from the academic staff. She also says that her most brilliant students were those who watched the hit TV show

John Sutherland, Ms. Greer's co-writer of the Guardian comment, is funny but hits home just the same:

Academic idleness, of course, is a complicity thing, and the hardest-hit victims of the new contractual regime will be the teachers. No more snoozing on the job. If those traditionally absentee slackers start going to lectures, it's then that the lawsuits will fly. As the lecturer mounts the podium and pulls out the yellowing sheaf of text that has served him (it's usually a him) for decades, there will be the awful realisation that he has in front of him that most alarming thing for any public performer: a hostile audience. As far as his bleary eye can reach, there will be rank upon rank of bolshy, overcharged consumers, all asking the same thing: "We're paying for this shit? Get me a lawyer."


Blogger jomama said...

Arthur Koestler comes to mind after reading your post:

"The academic backwoodsmen have been the curse of genius from Aristarchus to Darwin and Freud; they stretch, a solid and hostile phalanx of pedantic mediocrities, across the centuries."

9:02 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

hi jomama,

i had to reread that quote a couple of times before i could understand it. ;) i do hope i'm not one of those 'academic backwoodsmen' mr. koestler talks about, but then again i'm no genius either!

thanks for dropping by.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

bad-ass? really? :P

12:30 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

mama jo,


3:19 PM  
Blogger Mike. said...

the brilliant students are those who watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

--hmmm. i wonder who they are? =P

4:11 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

hi mike,

gee. you got me!;)

7:38 AM  
Blogger supercuracha said...

yup... wonder who they could be.

read the same article on Education Guardian online and Oxford IS causing a bit of a stir, especially now that enrolment rates are lower than last year....

on another note, what kind of teacher would you rather have? An idle and incompetent one, or one who's considered living proof that there is hell on earth?

I'm no genius as well, but i'd rather learn from someone who challenges my brain, than someone who I would rather teach things to.

then again, education is a two-way street; ergo both student and professor must be able to exchange valuable ideas for the sake of knowledge and building relationships.

i tip my hat off to Sutherland with what he said. because with the prices of fees in the academe these days, the faculty better be darn sure their students are getting what they paid for.

hopefully, neither Cardiff nor Westminster will give me unfair slack when I enrol this year. I'd rather slave away at my computer for my dissertation than leave my brain unchallenged for the whole year.

my PhP 0.02.

6:55 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

hi kristine,

those are interesting points you raise. i think that some professors intentionally incite their students in order to gain a more lively discussion in the classroom; on the other hand, there are professors who refuse to look outside their worldview and discuss new perspectives. perhaps a mix of both would do well to serve both the purpose of gaining new knowledge and of pursuing things on your own hand. i know that if a professor provoked me beyond all reason (and some have, actually), i would do my best to prove him or her wrong.

i'm a little leery of leaving everything to the student, though. not everyone is as conscientious as you when it comes to study and new knowledge, and would rather leave the work to the professor (i.e., spoon-feeding). yet i can't rely on everything a professor says either; what does that say about me and my going to college to pursue higher knowledge? that the professors hold all the wisdom and the students do not? ;)

theses and dissertations can be taxing on the mind, i admit. so long as i gain something from slaving over 100+ pages of work, i'm fine.

8:28 PM  

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