Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

There’s been a lot of discussion on the Twitter this week about an advertised vacancy for a fixed-term teaching position that expects the successful candidate to devise an MA module related to their own research. I’m going to out myself as an Old Person, and possibly bring a shower of condemnation on my head, by confessing that my feelings about this are more mixed than the prevalent judgement that this is obviously and unacceptably exploitative. In my day, when I was applying for such positions, I was far more attracted to positions that offered such freedom rather than defining the job in terms of which pre-existing courses should be taught – and, yes, it’s entirely revealing that I think of this in terms of ‘freedom’. (more…)

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Black Box

It’s widely recognised – at least among education professionals – that national debates around are unhelpfully shaped by anecdata, the extrapolation of personal experience into broader principles and the legitimation of such principles through lived experience. It’s the “I was beaten regularly and it made me the man I am today” approach to discipline, the “grammar school allowed me to escape my deprived upbringing so it must be best for everyone” policy, the “I learnt my times table and lots of dates so obviously it’s the lack of those that explains The Problem With Youth Today” school of curriculum reform. It’s a major source, if not the major source, of the nostalgia for the days when university was a minority privilege that pervades discussions such as this morning’s fuss about too many Undeserving People getting Inflated Grades, spoon-fed snowflakes and lax standards, nothing wrong with a Desmond ha ha in my day. (more…)

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Just in time for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spent most of Friday in a training course with departmental colleagues on Mental Health First Aid, aimed at improving our understanding of mental health and our ability to help support students and colleagues. Highly recommended for all teachers in higher education, if you get a chance (we did the one-day course specially for higher education, rather than the half-day taster or the two-day full qualification); plenty of things that I found moderately annoying, especially the ridiculously small amount of space left for discussion in order to fit everything essential into the day, but the ratio of useful stuff to moderately annoying stuff was far better than on the majority of training courses I’ve done over the years. (more…)

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In recent years, it’s become clear that the traditional model of work, in which one is paid a regular wage for specified hours and tasks, generally carried out at a designated workplace, applies to ever fewer people, at any rate in the West. The division between work and non-work is blurred, as increased connectivity and/or zero hours contracts both, in different ways, create and support the expectation of permanent availability, and – especially but not only in the creative industries, including academia – the mantra of “do what you love, love what you do” turns enthusiasm and dedication into a system of self-exploitation. One of the revelations of the recent (ongoing) industrial action in British universities has been the revelation – for me, as I suspect for many, not so much a hitherto unknown bit of information, but something previously not fully registered or felt – of how far the whole system depends on us all working way beyond contracted hours (insofar as those can be defined at all), so that working to contract is tantamount to failing to fulfill the terms of the contract. Goodwill, self-sacrifice and willingness to go the extra couple of miles are now treated as the norm, or even the minimum. (more…)

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Thucydides 5.84ff

…and sent envoys to enter into discussions. They spoke as follows:

Athenians: Since these negotiations are not to go on before the people, so that we may speak without inconvenient interruptions and continue trying to deceive the ears of the multitude without listening to any counter-arguments, please don’t bother with any set speeches, but let us discuss things in a civil manner without reopening the question of the valuation agreed in January.

Melians: How can we have a proper discussion when you’re not willing to discuss the central issue? We see you have come to be judges in your own cause, and all that we can reasonably expect from this negotiation is continuing conflict and disruption to students, if we prove to have right on our side and refuse to submit, and otherwise we just become your slaves. (more…)

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C5E35E6F-49BA-48C8-9154-53C7777EF683I’ve always been much more of a cat person than a dog person; no offence to the memory of dear old Bailey the neurotic greyhound, or to the various dogs of family members and neighbours, but it’s cats that I can’t imagine living without. (more…)

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When it comes to my own writing, at least, I’ve always been a follower of the “that’ll do” principle; not quite the slapdash approach the phrase might imply (though doubtless there are critics out there who think my books exemplify the slapdash approach), but the art of recognising the point of diminishing marginal returns, when – given that perfection will always remain out of reach – the expenditure of addition time and effort ceases to yield proportionate improvements in the quality of the manuscript, especially when it’s probably already months (if not years) overdue and double especially when there are loads of other things I want to write about as well. It’s all about the jazz idea of creating something in the moment, of the moment, and then moving onto what the next moment calls for, rather than endlessly honing the same thing in the hope of transcending intellectual entropy.

This approach has worked well enough – until now. (more…)

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