Thursday 8 April 2021

Make the most of studenting

Dau.I is on vacation! She's been one of the few people actually working in her library service; because all the libraries are closed and the library staff are kicking their heels working from home. I suggested that The Parable of the Talents might be an appropriate metaphor. In this tale, some "servants" are given an opportunity to make the most of things without supervision. Then "The Lord" returns and calls everyone into account [it's The Bible, you may think Pearly Gates if that's your thing]. 

Everyone is getting a "Well done, good and faithful servant" until the last servant confesses "I went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine".  His lord answered and said unto him, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed . . . Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money  yada yada". Eeee, quite cross, The Lord was. If we're told that we can stay at home on full pay, most of us will say whoopee, lie in, get up for brunch, spend the afternoon watching Netflix, or pottering in the garden if it's fine . . . until a snifter before dinner and more TV until bedtime time. For about two weeks; it gets boring after that. Effectives will then start using the time productively doing some form CPD (continuing personal development) or, in Dau.I's case, thinking about re-purposing libraries in a digital age.

When The Lord of Libraries gets vaccinated and calls her into the headmaster's study, Dau.I will be able to say "Studenting, Lord, I've been working really hard on my degree course and learning a helluva lot; only some of which was on the curriculum". Because that's what college is about; only about 20% is about the Learning Outcomes and the specifics of the syllabus; the rest is 

  • learning to hold your drink; 
  • holding your pal's drink while they do something that requires two hands; 
  • learning which deadlines are soft; 
  • meeting the love of your life; 
  • polishing your crap-detector
  • finding out whether you are an owl or a lark
  • discovering that dishes are easier to wash when fresh
  • learning whom to trust
And that 20%? most of it you will definitely and forever forget within a week of the relevant exam. And most of it is padding out the course so it looks like it is worth 5 or 10 Bologna credits. Like when my colleague Tony was allowed to teach viral genetics to 1st Year students because that's all he knew about and they may as well have that as anything else. Dau.I and her peers got into a bit of a barney with one of their on-line tutors who had chid them for obsessing about the marks. One of the students called this hypocrisy out with a rhetorical flourish: "if you predicate the entire course, and success in it, on the goddamn marks, then what else do you expect our attitude to be?"  Only the best students weather this demoralizing, dis-enfranchising and frankly boring process to come out the other end a powerful force for good and capable of thinking for themselves. But it's okay: the rest of us have learned from the extra-curricular stuff which is available in college: how to row; how to argue; how to love . . . how to live.

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