Friday, November 02, 2007

Oxford is Mad or I hate tutorial essays.

I’m coming to some conclusions about the Oxford style of education. I think it’s utterly mad.

Typically, the student takes two tutorials. In each tutorial, the student writes an essay a week. That’s sixteen essays in an eight week term. That’s in addition to other academic commitments. At CMRS, a full load also includes a seminar with a major research paper.

I’m beginning to think that is utterly mad.

Right now, my tutorial is focusing on the relationship between church architecture and liturgy. That’s an area I find very interesting. Yet I am loathing the task of writing yet another tutorial essay.

And I’m only taking a half-load, if even that! The only thing I’m taking for credit for the term is my medieval church history tutorial. (I took a broad-base medieval studies course with the rest of the program before the Oxford term began.)

I swore to myself before I came here that I wouldn’t become an academic grind. I did that in high school and at Duke; I wasn't going there again. That’s why I’m taking a half load. Oh, I would study and explore in the libraries. I would certainly take in a glorious opportunity to learn. I certainly wouldn’t be lazy.

Yet these frigging weekly tutorial essays have turned me into an academic grind for the moment at least. And I so hate them, I’m even becoming lazy in a way. I have to force myself to write, and the writing doesn’t come easy. Already this morning, my brain feels like a brick.

I don’t have any easy solutions. I’m a very self-motivated student. But I suspect most are not. And back long ago when Oxford relied on oral exams and the like, it became a joke how students could skate through without any work. Without some measuring stick, be it essays or exams, how do you ensure students are learning?

But the Oxford system encourages grinding out essays at the expense of learning I think. Sixteen essays in eight weeks is too much. It’s madness. How one can do that and actually find time to live and learn is beyond me.

Part of the problem is me as well. I suspected I wasn’t well suited for academic life. I was right.

No comments: