Saturday, 13 October 2012

Blip: University standards epidemic



I had noticed, and was prepared to blog about (as any modern anti-confrontationalist would), the patronising tone of voice and delivery of message that I had detected in my lecturers but in the time between conceiving the post and now, I have come around to seeing what they’re doing.

I’ve spoken with most of my lecturers after lectures and seminars and noticed a significant difference with how they present themselves and the depth of their points of view. During seminars I am happy to put across an opinion and to criticise anything that I think the lecturer is wrong about, even if I come across as a know-it-all. I would struggle to care less about what my fellow students think of me; I’m here to study and I’m going to make the most of the resources afforded to me whether it breaks their comfortable silence or not. When I put myself forward in a way that is a large departure from the majority-validated norm, rather than a minor clarification, I am often looked at sceptically.

Allow me to furnish you with an example: I was asked, rather directly, by way of helping fully explain an essay question, to name a symbol. Any symbol/sign. For anything. A sign, with regards to semiotics, is anything that signifies anything else. This would mean that anything is a sign and due to the subjectivity of interpretation and it can stand for anything. I didn’t want to push my own comprehension and I didn’t want to confuse anyone else in the seminar so I went with an easy, expandable example to help out: A stop sign. It is a sign with an interpretable meaning that can vary, depending on who is looking at it. My response from the lecturer was a long ‘hmm’ noise and then being told that I was wrong.

Him: “No, that’s no right.”
Me: “Not right? A stop sign isn’t a symbol of anything?”
Him: “Well, it doesn’t represent anything, it has words on it, it tells you what it means on it.”
Me: “But the words are symbols made from symbolic letters, they could mean anything.”
Him: “No, that’s not right.”

Then he gave his own example to improve on mine and said a birdcage is a symbol of imprisonment and a bird is a symbol of freedom. I was taken aback at how simplistic an interpretation that was. Surely a birdcage could also be a symbol of protection, depending on how it’s used. In its given context, any symbol at all can be used to represent anything. There have been other examples of this minor suppression but as I said earlier, my annoyance at this has since subsided following some further conversations away from the classroom environment and I’ve discovered something: University classes are dimmed down for undergraduate idiots. Whenever I speak to a lecturer out of the syllabus run class, they are supportive of the most ‘free-thinking’ ideas I can come up with, they provide their own analyses of the material and express a degree of their passion for the subject.

Clearly, they have to follow procedure and try to be nice to the idiots that giggle when a dirty word is uttered during a reading of a poem and although I understand that they need their hands held for the first few weeks, I am anticipating, and hoping for, a rise in difficulty so we can leave the ‘being nice to the dimmies’ attitude and instead act like university students should.

Already, the amount of secondary reading that has been suggested has increased as well as the amount of primary reading that is required and this seems indicative of a decent work curve. You can probably tell by the confused nature of this post that I am torn on this. As to whether I’m happy that it’s getting harder or annoyed that it started easy, I don’t know. But that might be partly down to the fact that I have fallen victim to what is apparently quite a common occurrence among newly joined undergraduates, which is that cold-like infections spread like hot butter over a cat’s face through the student body and as a result, my head has become the world’s largest storage device for cotton wool and has produced enough funny-coloured goop to lubricate the entire American war machine for a month. 

Blip (signature delated by severe nasal swelling)

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