Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tips for new students

I'm in the middle of meeting the new intake - largely indistinguishable from The Inbetweeners, which is cool. One of the things we're trying to instil in them is enthusiasm: for reading, for study, for deepening and widening their intellects. You might say that enthusiasm is what brought them here, but in this age, that's only partially true.

Maria Edgeworth has something to say about this in Patronage. Alfred is a young lawyer - but he's capable of improvement:
Alfred had reason to be more and more convinced of the truth of his father's favourite doctrine, that the general cultivation of the understanding, and the acquirement of general knowledge, are essential to the attainment of excellence in any profession, useful to a young man particularly in introducing him to the notice of valuable friends and acquaintance.

She's right. When people (hello, my parents) can't understand why someone would want to take and English degree rather than something more job-specific, there's your answer. Intellectual curiosity, and awareness of the world and the human condition, combined with the critical skills which help you look beneath the surface of particular, local objects, will take you a long way.

This is what I want my students to acquire. It's more than turning up to lectures and writing down the bits you can't remember: it's following the byways, checking up on things classmates mention, chasing ideas and arguing about them passionately. It doesn't matter if you hate the texts I love and love the texts I hate: what matters is that you develop a sense of discrimination grounded in wide reading and close attention. To the books!


litlove said...

You are pressing all my buttons today, Vole. I could not agree more with you!

The Plashing Vole said...

Glad to be of service!