Surprises in creative thinking 1

May 10, 2002

Must we be so coy about the connection between bums on seats and dumbing down ("They sign on, turn up but fail to tune in", THES , May 3)? Of course these are facts of modern academic life: that many students cannot think and do not want to (but a few do); that technology and modularisation can render material simplistic (but do not have to); that standards fall under the eyes of the Quality Assurance Agency; and so on.

What we should be more incredulous about is that the government funds any critical and creative thinking at all. What is really wanted is cheap, low-salaried teaching by numbers, conveyor-belt training and accreditation, and quiescent job-market fodder. The Department for Education and Skills and university administrations may claim otherwise, but academics who apply analytical thinking (or even common sense) to topics such as the absurdities of the research assessment exercise and the QAA, the relationship between increasing student numbers, higher teaching loads, poorer administrative support, the demise of sabbaticals and all-round dumbing down, had better save their breath.

Colin Feltham
Reader in counselling
Sheffield Hallam University

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