Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Some academics do, no doubt, spend most or all their vacation in the library (and we are indeed lucky in my Faculty to have access to the library at all hours) but I wonder whether it's really a good idea. When I was a student, the usual stance to take was that you hadn't done much work, were unprepared for the exams and would just have to wing it. Professional academics often take a different stance, explaining at length just how much they have done, at what long or unsociable hours and so on. Now, this might in fact be true. What is interesting is the extent to which some people -- in any profession, I imagine -- find it necessary to tell others and others keep quiet about how much they do or don't do. What should I do? I haven't spent the week working so should I feel like I am slacking off in comparison with my peers? (I certainly do sometimes feel that I should be working more and working harder since others seem to be doing more than me.) On the other hand, it would seem odd in various ways if I were to make an equally public declaration of the time I haven't spent working. Perhaps it would make me seem less in the eyes of my colleagues and superiors. Perhaps people would think of me as I used to think of the annoying fellow students who explained at such length how little they had done. The pressures of comparison with fellow-workers are not insignificant. They are presumably useful for employers and also for pushing ourselves to do more. But they can also be damaging, stressful and impede efficiency.
In any case, beyond all this navel-gazing, I'm happy to say that I'm enjoying my Christmas immensely. I have rediscovered how much fun Lego is, I've watched some excellent kids Christmas TV (top marks for the Charlie and Lola Xmas special...) and it has been great to have a week without the grumbles of college and Faculty. Just the odd reminder for a reference or two, but I had those sorted and ready to print before the vacation. And I had checked my references for a new book typescript early in December...
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Anyway, I wonder how far this principle ought to be applied? Are all myths and stories, of any sort, out of bounds in this way? Should a school never expressly attempt to enlighten children and stop them believing in unfounded stories? (You can see where this is going...) I would have thought that it was in fact part of a school's job to do precisely that, whether or not the parents concerned have given their consent. You do, after all, send children to school for them to be taught things... There are, no doubt, more and less sensitive ways of disabusing a 10 year old of a false belief, so perhaps the problem here is less that fact of enlightenment than the means. But that the children in Exeter were being educated is surely not in doubt. Teaching children that there is no Father Christmas leaves room for positive discussion about the value of Father Christmas as a story, of course, so this need not be a wholly negative affair. But I don't think schools should collude in lying to children, even if those lies are thought by many to be harmless.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
1. "I have been going to receptions for 20 years," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme in his first broadcast interview. "Normally, at a reception, I will have a glass or two of wine. I'm very careful. I don't get drunk frequently. I would not be able to do my job if I got drunk. I certainly don't think it's a resigning matter."Of course, past attendance at receptions is no guide to his recent performance but it is not clear that it would be impossible to be a bishop if one were ever to get drunk. In any case, in saying he does not get drunk 'frequently', the bishop certain implies he does so 'sometimes'. Good for him, too.
2. The bishop said he had used public transport to make his way home in Streatham, south London, on the evening of 5 December. "I defy anyone who had too much to drink to make that journey," he said.Again, although not an expert, I can certainly point to occasions when an innate 'homing ability' has got me, a little worse for wear, to my home and even seen to it that I get into bed having folded my clothes neatly and piled them carefully on the floor. (Indeed, probably showing more care than I would normally...)
In short, then, this is all a bit of a mystery. But if you want to send the bishop messages of support, then you can do so here. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I've been listening to Tanya Donelly's new album, This Hungry Life, as I crawl round Cambridge from school to work to shops to wherever. It's really good, perhaps better than Whiskey Tango Ghosts and reminiscent of the stuff she did with Belly -- which was my initiation into things Donelly, then Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh etc. Anyway, favourite at the moment is track 3: Kundalini slide, which you can hear on TD's MySpace page. Please go and listen. I think it's very like Seal my fate, from Belly's album King, but pared down and somehow more fragile but also powerful.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
5.1 The Virtues Approach (Ethics)
This approach should always be the first line of defence against dishonest
5.1.1 Codes of practice:
It includes making explicit the definitions of and code of practices in operation in relation to plagiarism and other forms of cheating to students and to staff. This has been the first line of defence of both the JCQ and QCA in their dealing with institutions and individual students and staff. Statements of code of practice, while meeting legal requirements, have proved insufficient deterrent to much of the
malpractice within the student body however. The next step is developing and
cultivating an environment where cheating does not prosper and it is easier for
students to say no to peer and other pressures. Brown and Howell (2001) have
shown that institutional policy statements on cheating and plagiarism can
influence student perceptions.
5.1.2 Honour Codes:
Hinman (2000) reports that in the US academic honour codes (e.g. the Academic Integrity and Kansas State University Websites) have been shown to reduce cheating, for example serious test cheating on campuses with such a code in operation have been shown to be 25% to 50% lower than in institutions that do not have such honour codes both within the secondary and tertiary sectors. Overt codes of practice are a mark of an institution's commitment to good academic behaviour and Digital Technologies and Dishonesty in Examinations and Tests when students perceive their tutors or teachers to be so committed, levels of malpractice decrease
(Underwood & Szabo, 2004)
No surprises, then: make clear that cheating is a bad thing and that it is dealt with seriously. If that doesn't work (and it probably won't) then try to get people not to want to cheat. My main question is: why label this a 'virtues' approach? I know that virtue ethics is one of the most popular ethical frameworks right now, but I was interested to see it crop up even here where you might expect the more 'trad' appeals to rules and obligations or consequences. There is, I suppose, something here about inculcating a certain kind of disposition which rejects cheating, and something also about students moulding themselves on their teachers' attitudes, but elsewhere this seems hardly like any virtue ethics worth the name. There is even some old-fashioned consequentialism mixed in for good measure: 'developing and cultivating an environment where cheating does not prosper and it is easier for students to say no to peer and other pressures'. In other words: try to make sure cheats lose out in the end and also, importantly, make sure that it is known that they do not. (Perhaps just the latter is necessary: make people believe cheating will not be successful and they won't cheat, whether or not cheating is in fact a bad tactic...) But all in all this is thin stuff. Sensible, probably, but did we really need to commission a report to tell us this and dress it up in impressive, near-philosophical, terms?
Friday, December 01, 2006
Great drama yesterday. Coming in from work, having missed putting the kids to bed, I discovered that the washing machine had done its party trick of getting stuck mid-cycle because of a blockage in the outflow. Already grumpy and tired, with an essay to mark and having had no dinner, S and I then spent an hour up to our ankles in old soapy water trying to remove whatever it was that had bunged the thing up. It was, as usual, some bits of paper and stones which the kids stuff into their pockets. All the same, I was not in a good mood and the kitchen now smells strongly of Fairy non-bio.
Perhaps I should not have been so grumpy, though, because to my surprise it turns out that we can learn an awful lot from washing machines. For one, the internet has this excellent site: 'How stuff works', explaining how the damn things function... (And what to do if they don't -- although I imagine doing anything particularly invasive will void the warranty...) But you would be astonished by what other things washing machines can demonstrate. Here, for example, is an argument that shows that optimally designed machines, like modern washing machines, often function less efficiently or reliably than earlier, less sophisticated versions. In that case, the argument continues, the fact that some biological systems appear sub-optimally designed is a point for, not against, the notion that they are intelligently designed by a creator. I hope it's a joke, but I suspect it's not.