Thursday, August 28, 2008

Father knows best?

Yesterday culminated in a strange audio conference which left me feeling completely brain-dead - though rather by the means than the content. Picture it: a Skype conference which had to be abandoned because of background noise on one mic which interfered with the speech on all the others - because only one Skyper can speak at a time. I ended up with the phone to one ear, the lone Skyper in the Mitchell Library in the other, typing notes to the skyper with one hand while trying to contribute sensibly to the discussion.

But the content too was strangely wearing. In a church which is relying more and more on the education of lay people to maintain standards and even a presence in rural areas, it seems to me vital that the education provided is efficient, relevant and cotemporaneous with the activity which requires it. And when much of the training is being given to people who have already coped with a working life, a family - and simply life, Jim - it seems unrealistic to insist that there is only one road to follow: that of academic accreditation through seminars and essay-writing.

I had a late-night listen to a conversation between Ewan and some Canadian educators (I'm a glutton for punishment) and was struck by his insistence that over-control of teaching and the perceived need to be seen to be producing something were in fact stultifying and got in the way of real learning. As a classroom practitioner, I have known this for many years, and realised that my increasing seniority (years, not position!) let me away with doing my own thing - because in the end my pupils shone.

I'm afraid that this controlling of the process is going to put people like me off, if it's allowed to prevail. I am not ever going to demand ordination, so the system is actually quite safe, but I'm enjoying the informal group learning that we're doing here in Dunoon and don't want to lose what we have. But if many clergy are still stuck with the "teacher/father knows best" format of teaching/training, we'll remain a wee pocket of forward-looking learning in a haze of important-sounding acronyms and accreditation by universities we never knew existed.

And maybe that will be just fine.


  1. As usual, I'm not going to say anything ad rem. I simply plead with you not to use mic for mike which has, until fairly recently been the recognised abbreviation for microphone. Mic is pronounced mick, which is a derogatory term for an Irishman, or meek, which is not; mike retains the sound of the initial diphthong and has the added advantage of not bringing my reading to a juddering halt every time I encounter it. Do not, I beg of you, proceed any further down this techno-write road: what profiteth it a person if she gain the worldwide world (sic - not sike) and lose her soul? The mic shall not inherit the earth.

  2. Oh dear. I should have known I'd get into trouble. In fact, I knew it even as I typed. I shall take the derision like a woman. (Why do we never say that? I smell patriarchy)

  3. To the woman taken in adulteration of the English language: go and sin no more!

  4. Chris, I gave a listen to the conversation between Ewan and the "Canadians". Not having read Ewan's blog previously, I must say that as I listened, I heard a great deal of *you* in him! I so enjoyed listening to the Scottish brogue, (I had to don a pair of headphones in order to listen intently enough to understand...cannot believe the rowdy noise level that sometimes booms through my home!!!) and as I listened, I enjoyed his simple but "radical" teaching thoughts. I do know that here in the US, teachers are evaluated, (perhaps ad nauseum) by achievement of students in testing. Because this seems so useless (in my book) I think that many teachers feel a sense of desparation and begin "poking" their charges to perform. The net result is frustration on both ends...teachers and students. We, as human beings, are all inquisitive by nature. We do long to learn. Just not all at the same rate, nor in the same way. Shame that after all these years, the educational system still is trying to fit those square pegs into the round holes...