Now that I am about to finish my first year in Educational Anthropology, I begin to see, if not the light, so at least an end to a very busy time, and the beginning of a nice and quiet summer.
My original idea was to write on this blog about what I learned while I went to class and worked on my assignments. However, as I begin to see what occupies my thoughts, what I want to share with you is not about the content of my studies, but the very framework that is built around them, ‘here’ in Academia.
Three things have particularly struck me:
First, when I hear my fellow students say that they tend not to take any chances when choosing content and form of their examination papers; they consider who the internal and external examiners are, and commit a significant part of their attention to guess what these two people would prefer. It is important for my fellow students because, if they get a bad grade, they expect this to endanger their opportunities for a career in academia.
Second, when I hear my fellow students (and myself) exit a tutoring session saying “I had a really good idea, but she advised against it, so now I have to find something else to do.”
Thirdly, when I go through a thesis written by former fellow students and I see virtually identical bibliographies and academic questions that are asked and answered in much the same way.
Of course, things are not going on this way every time, I am talking about a tendency.
However, when these situations do occur, I am flabbergasted. Whatever the reason (I suspect a lack of resources and thus lack of time to be a key explanation), it is an expression of the tendency of students not following their academic curiosity. This is because they are either confused, scared, ambitious or because it is unclear what is expected of them or because there are no fixed standards and therefore there are as many ways to write an essay as there are teachers. At the same time, students are told to be independent and to think critically.
Therefore, it was a joy to see that a group of fellow students has initiated what we provisionally called the ‘Summer University’.
The organizers write:
“At the university, students are subject to exams, scoring systems and curricula, which are sometimes simply setting up limits and making people dumber, instead of inviting to contemplation, independent thinking and critical discussion. We would like to create the university we want – and we want to spend our summer on it. Hence the name ‘summer university’. “
My own role in the Summer University is the coordinator of a group that we have so far called the Emergency Management Group. The purpose of this group is to present its ideas to the larger group about the issues that I listed up above, about the frustrations that the students experience in connection with guidance and what I perceive as the limitations on academic freedom.
So far, we don’t have a website, only a closed facebook group.
Please pitch in with your comments below. Do you know of any similar initiatives, that we can learn from? Please share!