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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a republic of learning « Previous | |Next »
December 4, 2010

In Lecture 2: A Lectern in a Dusty Room, the second lecture in his 2010 Boyer Lectures, Glynn Davis raises the question of the relevance of the traditional university. He does by quoting from William Clark in his Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University:

Anyone who has ever taught at a college or university must have had this experience. You're in the middle of something that you do every day: standing at a lectern in a dusty room ... lecturing to a roomful of teenagers above whom hang almost visible clouds of hormones; '... Suddenly, you find yourself wondering ... how you can possibly be doing this. Why, in the age of the World Wide Web, do professors still stand at podiums and blather for fifty minutes at unruly mobs of students, their lowered baseball caps imperfectly concealing the sleep buds that rim their eyes? Why do professors and students put on polyester gowns and funny hats and march, once a year ... These activities seem both bizarre and disconnected, from one another and from modern life...'.

Davis' response is that there are reasons to get together on a campus, even to wear funny gowns. He says that we need the firsthand experience of working with greater teachers, of seeing how they approach knowledge, how 'learning as doing' informs their own scholarship.

Could that not be done through the group discussion in a tutorial format that is based on selected readings opposed to the lecture? Surely the lecture is dead in a digital age.

Davis evades the issue raised by Clarke to defend the bricks and mortar university as opposed to the virtual one.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:13 PM | | Comments (2)


Most students I have known over the last 10 years - not all, but most - are interested in one thing only, and that is getting a credential. They think of themselves as customers paying money to an enterprise to get a piece of paper that will provide some practical benefits to them.

Often they will be sadly disappointed but that is beside the point. Contemporary Australian universities are descended from 18th century halls of learning in the same literal sense as the Electrical Trades Union is descended from medieval craft associations, but for practical purposes there is no resemblance at all in either case.

God forbid people ever be people.
This Malthusian grudge against meaningful living which strikes at the collegiate atmosphere of interaction between people, some quite remarkable as well as promising people. How long has this atmosphere been developing now?
At least two and a half thousand years of developing finally crafted ways of communicating quite complex ideas is made as oppositional to employ of technology, but the role of technology is surely not for surveillance and worse still yet another excuse for the end of the meaningful interpersonal contact that makes life enjoyable and fulfilling.
Why do want to Cyberise ourselves?