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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Popularity Contests

Among the rafts of knowledge that have come sailing to my shore since beginning the process of gittin edercated, are a few gems of insider knowledge. For instance, anthropologists walk incredibly quickly. They also have a lot of urgent text messages to answer, and, due to an apparently impossible workload (as I discovered when I managed to track down Richard outside the Wilberforce Building having a quiet cigarette), do'nt even have enough time to discuss anthropology because they're too busy doing urgent Administration. Anthropologists also, as I have discovered, are NOT creatures of habit. For example, if you happened to stumble on one having a quiet coffee at 10.15 in Zucchini's on a Thursday morning, it is possible that they may be there the next day. BUT, if you then assume that they will be there every day at that time, you will be wrong. Apparently, most anthropologists have to randomly shift the location (at least), of their preffered coffee break location due to their wrokload, and, poor dears, spend most of the time during these coffee breaks on their phone.

Needless to say, this almost random pattern of behaviour has made it more difficuly for Richard and I to continue our discourse on "Civilization - Why?". The problem has been made doubly difficult because Richard's phone suddenly erased his phone number AND his e-mail address from his contacts list. Unfortunately, the same error caused my number , which I had given him, to be erased at the same time.

Still, Rich (as I have come to call him), is definitely interested in my meisterverk and his enthusiasm for me to undertake genuine field work has, if anything, increased. On my part, my mind has been blown wide apart by my anthropology course, which is, quite genuinely, miles ahead of the other courses I take in terms of quality of delivery, hardness (it is very, satisfyingly difficult), and the enthusiasm of the lecturers for the material.

Anthropology contrasts sharply with two fo my other First Year courses. Possibly the worst course I take is called Manage One's Own Learning. Actually it is not called that, and I may in future describe it by the title that my Irish friend JJ and I have given it, namely 'Bring YOur Own Beer'. Essentially, this course teaches us how to write essays, a skill (undoubtedly) that I thought was a 'given' as an Undergraduate. My 'given', though, is not the Universitys's 'given. As an example, I should point in the direction of Lecture 3, which was on the topic of "do" words and how they relate to the writing of essays. Some of you may know a "do" word as a verb, and may be as equally puzzled as I am, on why I was sitting in a lecture, at a University, the principal point of which was to describe the various "DO" words one might expect in essay titles, and then to define what we should do if our essay title included the word "Describe". This module, which I should note, is very well taught, is not why I came to University. To use the modern vernacular, IMHO, University's should be a place where people who can already write essays attend, and teaching people basic writing skills, if present at all at Uni, should be for people who are in every other respect suitable to undertake a degree, but perhaps lack, through no fault of their own, a few basic tools. Instead, this BYOB course occupies over a quarter of the required modules in my First Year.

One may ask, "Why?", and the answer, it seems, rests with anatomical posteriors, AKA 'bums on seats'. Far from the "Good Will Hunting" notion that I approached my Higher Education - namely that I would spend much time sitting round earnestly discussing deep philosophical issues with similarly cravated c-students - the reality is that Universities these days have to effectively 'earn' money, and they do this by attracting students in large numbers. I am more likely therefore, to have a protracted conversation with my fellow students about the difference between 'Far Away' and 'Small' as I am to discuss Kierkegard in any detail. The practical rollout of this is that unlike my anthropology course where my 'head' is getting daily blown apart by concepts, facts, and readings that are completely new to me, other courses I am required to do make me feel like I am going to night school.

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