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AUTUMN

10th September


lasting quality. Secondly, we need to take risks in order to expand not only what can be thought but also what counts as academic writing and communication. It means also means aspiring to be a communicator of ideas not just on campus or within the pages of academic journals but in a wide variety of public and educational arenas. Thirdly, we need to see what we do is not just a job but an intellectual vocation or craft. Specialisation and professionalisation institutionalises narrowness and results pardoxically in anti-intellectualism. Being a slave to specialism is self-confinement: "I can only talk about 'my own area of expertise.'" It promotes individualism in that we academics become conservative with our time and shut ourselves away in our offices or become campus absentees. Perhaps lessening the hold of the imperious specialist on the university might result in cutting academic vanity and self-importance down to size. The last and most important principle is to value teaching and to see the university primarily as a place of learning. It is absurd in a way that we have arrived at a point where such an argument is even necessary. A university without students is a contradiction in terms. One of the privileges of being an academic is that we have the power to frame what happens in the classroom and the intellectual values we communicate as we perform this role. The investments and care taken in the context of teaching - from the first year introductory lecture or a PhD supervision session - involve developing both an ethics of thinking and what Max Weber called "the tools and training for thought".

 


Teaching a course creates a community of thought and a space for dialogue and reflection. Here students struggle to understand not only the 'learning outcomes' but where they are in the mix of history and the world around them and how to form their own judgments in a society saturated with information.

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Just a few weeks after graduation the new intake of students arrives for induction or what used to be called 'Freshers' Week.' In London this coincides with cold but sunny mornings that mark the beginning of autumn, although its effect has yet to strip the leaves from the trees. These bright days are cherished because just a few weeks away is the dreary mid semester winter when it will be dark at 5pm. For now the 'first years' have the institution to themselves. The college is a maze. They are continually getting lost, finding their way with smiling nervousness through trial and error. Induction marks the beginning of something significant, even though it is impossible to know exactly what has begun. Eavesdropping on the awkward introductions and the chance meetings is enchanting because we know from our own experience that some of the friendships started here will prove to be life long through good times and dark moments. Others will be broken by by an imbalance of give and take or some future conflict that is unimaginable now.

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17 September