Laurie Taylor column

September 13, 2002

Intellectual evolution may stop unless universities make learning easier - THES , September 6.

Ah, Doctor Bridges, there you are. Please take a seat. My name is Dave Struthers and I'm chairperson of the University Simplification Committee. I'm joined today by two other members of that committee, Jim Phelps, who is deputy head of the university sports centre, and Jeff Croker, who is an ordinary person. You're familiar with the work of the committee?

Not exactly .

Well, let me briefly explain. Our job is to promote simplicity by persuading members of academic staff to use straightforward language and ideas in their lectures and seminars. In that way, students will be able to understand everything they're told without too much effort on their own part, and will, as a consequence, be able to go on and obtain even more first-class degrees than they do at the moment. Is that relatively clear?

Relatively .

Good. Now, Doctor Bridges, you've been called before us today because of some unfavourable student evaluations relating to the course you gave last term in the philosophy department on the foundations of knowledge. In these evaluations, over 40 per cent of those present at your lectures rated them "very difficult", and a further 20 per cent complained about your frequent use of "very long words". What do you say in your defence?

I can only say that the lectures were as coherent as I could make them without doing an intellectual disservice to the complexity of the material .

There we go again, Doctor Bridges: "coherent" and "intellectual disservice". More big words. Right?

If you say so .

Excellent. Well, we've thought carefully about your case and decided that on this occasion we will settle for a caution. Future offences will, however, attract heavier sanctions. You now have the right to the final word. One small tip.

Yes?

Do try to make it a monosyllable.

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