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AUTUMN

25th October


those recorded said that teaching gave them a sense of intellectual purpose. Sociology here is valued for its ability to question that which is assumed and normalised. Teaching offers a kind of intellectual sociability which, in the words of one contributor, "mitigates against the isolation... which is quite inherent to [the] academic work of research". The impetus so often is to encourage a search for research funds that enables being 'bought out of teaching' in order to dedicate time to research and writing. Like most interview data, Simbuerger's might be best interpreted as a moral tale, a reflection of the speaker's principles rather than a description of their daily choices and routines. Regardless, such a sentiment reveals the first paradox: the educational ethos may value teaching highly but academic success necessitates a quest to minimise the amount of time spent in the classroom.

Another set of voice recordings within the exhibition was entitled 'Teaching for Complexity'. This sequence of quotations concerned the issue of what university education is needed for in our time. The task, the interviewees suggested, is to engender an "enthusiasm for learning" but also to encourage students to lead what one respondent called "an examinant life".

Education, the voices suggested, is not simply an invitation to engage with life differently, but also an invitation to reside in books and dwell within the abstract landscape of theoretical ideas.

 


"I mean, 'How do you learn to live in a text?' is like saying 'How do you learn to live in a new city?' How do you learn to live there? Well, when you first live there your knowledge of it is very superficial, yeah. There are all sorts of things in it that you don't know and that you are therefore not receptive to or appreciative of."

This analogy was developed further. Like an unfamiliar city, theoretical ideas can be initially confusing and disorientating. Students need to get lost in order to find something of value and this takes time, effort and commitment. The relationship to theoretical reading is summed up beautifully by one contributor as "the difference between getting information out of a text and living in it". Yet, the pressure placed on students to do paid work throughout their university education undermines such a level of engagement with ideas. Students are not going to find paid employment living in the city of books. Many of our educational ideals were defined in an era before student fees and loans, when many of us who are now members of the sociological professoriate - myself included - benefited from free university education. This difference is communicated powerfully in the film Students at Work produced as part of the exhibition. In a time when education is a commodity little wonder that students are goal oriented and have an instrumental view of education. Therein lies another paradox: some of our most dearly held educational values are in direct conflict with the economic and practical conditions

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5 November