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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Oak Table Syndrome

We decide to "chill out" for two weeks after our move and just get used to the place. As usual, the rationale for this course of action is expressed in cat time, as it is generally recommended by experts that cats be kept indoors for two weeks after moving to a new place. Thereafter, the transition to the exterior should be painless. Even so, and despite lacking the gift of prescience, I have advanced booked a sturdy ladder from a reliable neighbour, so better to expedite Calli's inevitable rescue.

These two weeks, no longer spent dashing from apartment to house to University to apartment then back to house again, have, apart from simplifying our lives enormously, provided me with an opportunity to observe the cats' reaction to our new place and ascertain what type of learners they are. Toshack, I discover, in line with Kolb's learning circle , is an active learner. He has learnt that by actively diving under the duvet, at any noise at all, and actively staying very still, he remains safe. Calli is, (and I believe this is a new category I have invented that should be added to Kolb's list of learning types) a "nosy little pest" type learner and has appointed herself as site supervisor. She has also apparently developed the technology for matter transportation and appears out of cupboards, or on the top of things when least expected, a habit which, due to the shock it generates when she does this, has caused me to develop my own habit in turn, of creeping round the house like a SWAT team member and flattening myself against walls before swiftly opening doors to cupboards and rooms.

It has too, been a time of reflection, as we consider the next phase of our renovations. We have gently pottered around the house at night, painting and talking, and enjoyed actually being in the same place, at the same time for the first time since July. It is during one of these evenings that I realize the effect University is having on me, as I describe my day's events to RBH:

"So, as I told JJ, the ontological paradigms of social anthropology are just soooo post-Modern, and there have to be, a priori, causal attenuations of the Marxist perspective, in relative terms before I'll even consider what Dawkins ("3rd best academic in England") is saying. Oh look at Tosh, is'nt he acting completely Pavlovian? Anyway, as I was saying, Dawkins et all, they're just totally liminal.Per se."

RHB looks at me questioningly

"What's for tea?", she asks.

I feel justified in speaking complete nonsense because I have just recieved the marks back from the reflective learning/learning styles/Kolb assignment, and did better than pass. In fact, given that last term, my time was spent in 99.999% renovating and the rest split between lectures and revision, I have been pleasantly surprised by the results I have achieved. This has spurred me on, and this term I have managed to devote the correct amount of time to my studies. Renovation will happen when it happens, AFTER University has recieved it's proper attention.

This additional enthusiasm though, does not disguise the fact that myself and J are both thinking of switching courses, for similar reasons. My core course, an Educational Studies course, differs noticeably from both my free elective(anthropology) and my minor (psychology) in quality. Anthropology is challenging, engaging and difficult. In fact I love this subject so much that I find it unfathomable that anyone would NOT be interested in defecation patterns round Gypsy settlements. Psychology is very well presented, factual and detailed. JJ and I discuss this as we repair to the bar. We have just emerged from one of our core Educational Modules, and most of the lecture was a film. The module in question is "Learning in a Social and Cultural Context" and the film in question was "The Filth and the Fury", Julian Temple's authoratitive history of the Sex Pistols. THe film is full of expletives and both of us are in shock, as JJ's comment as we leave the lecture hall demonstrates:

"What the f**k did that have to do with Education?" he asks.

We discuss the case for the Prosecution - being taught to call verbs "do" words, reflective learning, the Sex Pistols and being encouraged not to say "big words". There is no defence.

In some ways, I had been prepared for the situation into which we have thoroughly plonked ourselves. RHB had studied German and Russian at Liverpool University many years ago and had come to the conclusion that it was more interesting being on the dole. Like JJ, she had preconcieved notions that she would spend huge portions of her time sat round massive oak tables, discussing politics, philosophy, art and love until late at night, before perhaps punting home down the Mersey past the book filled homes of her tweed jacketed professors. In fact, it is only Will, out of all the people we know, who has notionally achieved this aim, and he has to spend most of his time marking essays, and got better paid when he was working at Pizza Hut. I, on the other hand, have always regarded studying as a competitive sport. Admittedly, it may get really interesting as I get to know things, but the First Year of a degree is about passing exams.

I do however consider how useful this degree may be to me, and therefore whether to switch courses or not, based on the reasoning that if I can, at this early stage, identify "stronger" programmes that are valued more highly by employers, and I am capable of taking that programme, then I would be foolish not to consider the option. Expressed in terms of competitive sport, it's like moving from the Minor to the Major leagues.

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