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Showing posts from June, 2012

Re. Time the 'scum' rose to the top

Plashing Vole has once again posted one of those blogs which tends to make me leap up from my chair with rather inelegant enthusiasm.  With typical passion, he decries the attitude of 'The Hegemon' - that Old Etonian and Oxbridge Mafiosi that so dominate our political processes - towards Higher Education for the working classes.  Their definition of this as 'social engineering' he compares to descriptions of "grim young people" and "scum" made by affronted members of the cultural aristocracy in the first half of the twentieth century, and the answer to this cultural snobbery is to develop a passion and " a sense of belonging to an intellectual community".
As ever, it is difficult to find anything to disagree with here - and much to be passionately enthusiastic about.  However (as I am sure I have mentioned before) I do feel a concern for the way in which higher education for 'the masses' is being marginalised and shoe-horned into …

Shklovsky, Locke, Fatherhood and the problem of metaphors in the classroom

One of the things I like most about teaching is the fact that so often it seems to rely upon a spontaneous creativity.  Spontaneous creativity is my favourite kind because it is both fun to do / be and yet at the same time you are not likely to be held accountable for it.  A poet or a painter cannot be spontaneously creative because their act of creativity will exist in (if you'll excuse the metaphor) concrete form, and people will be able to examine it and criticise it's internal rhyme or it's use of colour.  Spontenous creativity can be pretty naff with nobody minding - and pretty naff creativity is my speciality.

While there are many ways a teacher can be creative, the most common kind of creativity which I experience in a classroom is that of forming similes and metaphors to explain ideas. The trouble is, the older I get (or is it the younger my students get? I'm sure I was never that young when I was at University) the less effective my similes and metaphors becom…

Study Tips: Let your browser make you study better

There are so many books and websites now all clamouring to offer advise on how to study more effectively.  The 'top dog' of study skills guides is Stella Cottrell's The Study Skills Handbook, which is a fantastically comprehensive compendium beautifully laid out and packed with resources, questionnaires and exercises which are genuinely helpful (and not just padding).

Of course one of the problems with any books on study skills is that print is a fairly static genre.  This does not make anything in a print text like Cottrell's irrelevant, but the reality is that most students (in fact, most of us anywhere) do most of their work now online: They read online, they research online, they write online, submit their work online and eventually check out their grades online before organising a post-submission party. Online.

I have already written about the potential value of using smartphones for study, but actually there is a piece of kit which we use far more intensively for…

Why I don't want my children to celebrate the Jubilee

So the Jubilee weekend has arrived, and I find myself suffering a little from self doubt.  While this is not remotely unusual even at the best of times, the source of this particular doubt is based on whether I should be allowing my children to be waving Union flags and celebrating the seemingly interminable length of this nations monarchy.  I have some dim and hazy memories of the last Jubilee celebrations.  I remember photos of street parties, and the little plastic Union flag that I had in my bedroom for so many years, and which seemed to me to be a symbol of innocent celebration, of communities coming together, of watery squash and sugary cakes.

What kind of heartless wretch would deny his own children such memories?

Well, let me explain.

As the years have gone by, I have become increasingly opposed to the British monarchy.  This is not because I have have something against any of the members of the monarchy - I have no reason to think that they are anything other than decent ordi…

The Problem of Literary Critical Theory

In September I will again be tackling a module on literary theory, and as usual I am beginning to experience the kind of pre-module jitters that only literary theory can produce.  I need to convince myself again that it is worth covering the topic.  There are many reasons why if should be worth covering:
It gives students a critical palate for reading texts in new and alternative forms; 
it encourages students to re-assess the social structures and values which underpin the idea of 'literature'; it encourages students to re-assess the very definition of 'literature' in the light of them. 
All these things are very good things, and I certainly have no trouble generating the right amount of enthusiasm for them.

The problem is when it comes to teaching the wretched stuff.  Like many English degrees, the one I teach reserves 15 credits for literary theory.  That means 12 weeks of teaching and 3000 words of assessment.  What can be done within these limits?

A Question of Cont…