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Friday, August 09, 2002
On being a student

I had always thought that the purpose of pedagogy was to develop one’s students’ acuity. They need encouragement and constructive comments. Now, as it happens, I have a friend who used to teach the same course that I am now studying: [‘How to be a pedant and irritate people’- Ed.]. My friend has pre-‘marked’ some of my essays. She writes things like ‘exactly’ when I’ve got it right and things like ‘Perhaps you should consider... [another possibility],’ when I’ve got it wrong. My tutor’s comments have been uniformly negative. They are unrelieved by any notion of encouragement.

The class is a mixed bunch: many of them are young and they are more disconcerted than I am by such uninformative comments as ‘This is a clumsy misreading of this part of the question’. She further accuses me of having a ‘pseudo-scholarly style.’ Well, blow me down.

I am doing this course out of interest because I expect it to further my work on literary theory but it is not essential. The poor young people who are suffering the same sort of unhelpful comment are becoming demoralised. I have every sympathy because, for them, this course is important for their careers.

So, come on Ms Poppins, my lovely, remember the proper etymology of education. It’s from the polite meaning of ‘educo’ - I lead out, rear, or raise. In this online Latin dictionary, one can find several vulgar meanings of the word. One of them is ‘I drink off’. This is a clumsy misreading on your part – no drinks from us, my girl. Mend your ways or I shall publish your email address and make sure that it gets to my unfavourite spammers.

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