Read on

November 4, 2005

What a guru Frank Furedi is turning out to be. One of the smallest contributions to The Times Higher on October 21, "Give them a little textual pleasure" (Working Knowledge), was, for me, one of the largest issues.

The "roboticisation" of students in the modern university is in essence an espousal of training principles rather than educational principles. While there are students who are exceptions to this, open entry has ensured that for every student that has a genuine "love of knowledge"

there is another that has no interest in "knowing" whatsoever.

Pragmatism is becoming the order of the day for the growing numbers of incapable students. Get the grades, get the certificate, get the job. Some universities say that they want lecturers to work more on problem solving and critical and creative thinking. Creative thinking is largely dependent on imagination, the ability to simulate a context in thought. In my view, reading is one of the few ways in which this process is rehearsed on a continual basis. Reading in addition to immediate experience (life) is the only real way to develop creative thought.

Reading handouts produces a student who is limited in their ability, not constrained by the ability of the lecturer, but by the breadcrumbs that lecturer hands out. What a frightening thought that students may never surpass their teachers.

Would Albert Einstein ever have got there under the conditions of modern universities? I fear that the only Einsteins we will see in the future will be those who read voluminously, in spite of their teachers.

Peter French Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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