The basics of balls

July 26, 2018

Reading your article on the relative merits of the traditional lecture versus the new rival “active learning spaces” (“ Has the death of the lecture been greatly exaggerated? ”, News, 19 July), I was reminded of the passage in Pride and Prejudice where Mr Bingley is talking to his sister Caroline about his intention to have a ball at Netherfield Park. Caroline Bingley, who is trying to impress Mr Darcy, says: “I should like balls infinitely better…if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day.” To which Mr Bingley replies: “Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so like a ball.”

“Active learning spaces” – which, incidentally, I have always been used to calling “classrooms” – might well be much better from the point of view of teaching and learning, but a university without any lectures or lecture theatres would be much less like a university.

Kenneth Smith
Reader in criminology and sociology
Bucks New University

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