Saturday, 30 September 2017

Was Walter Scott Bowdlerized?

Sir Walter Scott - painted by Sir William Allan



On March 24, 1826, Sir Walter Scott wrote in his Journal:

JB clamorous for a motto.
Go to. D—n
the mot-toe.
It is foolish to encourage people to expect mottoes and such-like Decoraments. You have no credit for success in finding them, and there is a disgrace in wanting them’

This is the text that appears in The Journal of Sir Walter Scott. From the Original Manuscript of Abbotsford, ed. W. E. K. Anderson (Oxford, 1972), 119, and in the Canongate 1999 edition, which has a footnote but does not comment on the textual variants.

However, the words:

'Go to.
D—n the mot-toe.'


did not appear in John Gibson Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Volume 4, , p. 36, 1838; nor in 1845: 618;  or 1852: 618. [Possibly in 1851: 618, but I've not been able to check that one]

Is it to be surmised that D--n was deleted by Lockhart's wife, Sophia, Scott's daughter? Are there any other similar instances during this period?


John Gibson Lockhart (1794 - 1854) and Charlotte Sophia Scott

Thursday, 28 September 2017

How to ensure that First Year @ University is a success


Logic of Failure - Metaphysics of Success

Many universities are concerned about failure rates. It is not uncommon for 25% of students to fail to complete their first year successfully. 

Academics are mildy irritated that they are constantly under pressure from the management to improve success rates. Rather cruel responses might run like this:

" I'm sorry, it is really beyond my control if you break up with your girlfriend in week 3 and stop attending classes."

[But depression is a REAL problem for some students. Check out this article: Yes, you can crawl out of your first-year depression at university  | Nell Frizzell ]

"Am I responsible if you lose the power of motion because you've been living on nothing but porridge oats for the last term before the exams, having spent your parents' money on beer."

"I can recommend counselling services. Remember ... you are now deemed to be an adult; you will be expected to take responsibility for your life. Time for a reality check?"

"Is it my problem if your only relationship effort went into your Xbox/ Nintendo / ipad/ SKY-tv ?"

On a more serious note, the most common reasons for dropping out or failing your first year are

- inability to adjust to life away from the safety, ease and security of homelife

- lack of independent revision skills

- acquisition of a drink or drug habit
- homesickness

- a disastrous and traumatic first year relationship

- pregnancy or serious illness

- lack of motivated study, planning and work skills

- failure to adapt to the new level of work expected in academia

- lethargy, indolence, incompetence

- doing a job full time rather than working on your degree

- having made the wrong choice of location, or university

- loneliness, depression, mental breakdown

- starvation or malnutrition; inability to cook

- failure to attend classes and exams

- poverty, poor financial planning and bankruptcy

- family bereavement or other crisis

- not understanding the requirements of the degree syllabus

- over-indulgence in leisure activities, especially solo

Play is a reward - not a replacement - for academic work achieved


Clearly there are both academic and socio-psychological-personal reasons for failure.

Students seldom drop out or fail because they are judged not to be brainy enough! Most hard-working students will have a very successful and enjoyable first year. So keep a sense of balance and maintain a sense of proportion. If you start to feel excessively pressured or anxious seek help early from tutors or from student services.

Generally the bar is set quite low in all but the most elite universities and in all but the most competitive subjects. In fact, you would be surprised how poor some of the academic work is that gains a pass. In my opinion some of it is GCSE standard. Having said that, will you be employable with a third class degree (=40%) ? By taking your first year seriously you establish strong skills that will be a firm foundation for your future progress.


The answer is probably yes if you have excelled in your extra-curricular activities and in your networking. I'm told that sport, volunteering and drama are recommended for character-building, confidence and leadership.

The good news, however, is that the pass rates for second and third year are typically 95%.

But there are also some other issues that require further explanation. 

For instance, across the US, the drop-out rate averages 25%, but you are twice as like to drop out if you are Hispanic, Black, or American Indian, compared to being a White student, research suggests. Why does this happen? 

 

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) and 
11+ English  (2015). Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Case for India

Although Will Durant's The Case for India was composed in 1930 it is still a highly readable and provocative account. Ultimately, its reading of history is political and partisan and polemical. As a result, this classic book will stimulate debate in your classroom seminar.

William James Durant (5 November 1885 – 7 November 1981) was an American historian, philosopher and writer, most famous for his works The Story of Philosophy (1926), and The Story of Civilization (1935-1975).

Crucially, Durant argued for a recognition of the India's contribution to world civilization:

"It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to the west, such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all numerals and the decimal system."


An Indian edition from 2006 is also available online. A quotation  from the first page indicates the historical point of view in glaring colours:
"But I saw such things in India as made me feel that study and writing were frivolous things in the presence of a people-one-fifth of the human race-suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth. I was horrified. I had not thought it possible that any government could allow its subjects to sink to such misery. […]

I was filled with astonishment and indignation at the apparently conscious and deliberate bleeding of India by England throughout a hundred and fifty years. I began to feel that I had come upon the greatest crime in all history."



This is a book that looks forward to the future in a visionary manner:

“India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of mature mind, understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all human beings.”



TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
A Note to the Reader

CHAPTER I : FOR INDIA
I. Personal
II. A Perspective of India
III. The Rape of a Continent
IV. The Caste System in India
V. Economic Destruction
VI. Social Destruction
VII. The Triumph of Death

CHAPTER II : GANDHI
I. Portrait
II. Preparation
III. Revolution by Peace
IV. Christ Meets John Bull
V. The Religion of Gandhi
VI. Gandhi's Social Philosophy
VII. Criticism
VIII. An Estimate

INTRODUCTION
IX
THE CASE FOR INDIA

CHAPTER III : THE REVOLUTION
I. Origin
II. A Stroke of Politics 
III. A Whiff of Grapeshot 
IV. The Revolt of 1921 
V. Between Revolutions 
VI. The Simon Commission
VII. 1930

CHAPTER IV: THE CASE FOR ENGLAND

I. England Speaks
1. The Nietzschean Defense 
2. British Contributions to India
3. The Key to the White Man's Power
II. India Answers  
1. Morals in India
2. The Decay of Caste
3. Greek Gifts
CONCLUSION
WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE

Monday, 11 September 2017

Creative design and creative play as an aid to revision



LEARNING KEY TERMS: 

Students often experience difficulty understanding, learning, and applying the key terms that are essential for the study of English Language and Literature. Even some undergraduates have poor mastery of the most basic terms. Across a range of subjects the need to acquire the technical vocabulary presents a major challenge. Many disciplines are turning to creative play exercises in order to improve motivation, engagement, and ultimately to improve exam results (See Further Reading, below).

Most teachers understand that it is worth testing students’ knowledge base by asking them to compile their own glossary (A-Z), with key words, definitions and examples. This is a practical research exercise. It is ideal for small group work, or as a whole-class exercise.
In a multi-media environment students might also select their own images to illustrate the key terms. As teachers we spend far too much time creating resources for students, rather than asking learners to create their own. In fact, students are more likely to respect, to own and to use what they have created themselves.

There has been some research in recent years (see below) that suggests word-games might improve retention and increase the use of key subject terminology. However, the best results are obtained if these playful exercises supplement rather than supplant other forms of revision. It has also been shown that students are more likely employ key terms if they have created their own exercises.
Regarding this specific approach to learning, Jaramillo et al. (2012: 217) concluded:
‘This exercise is useful when teaching a significant number of new terms, phrases or theories to the students in a specific course. The crossword puzzle activity may prove to be a meaningful learning experience for building, understanding, and improving the retention of terms associated with a particular knowledge area. It also benefits students who are in the process of learning theory and makes the classroom experience more enjoyable. Instructors can rely upon the use of crossword puzzles in order to enhance student learning at the undergraduate level.’
One of the easiest ways for students to create crosswords is to use software that generates the crossword from the clues and the answers, which can then be either saved or printed out.


Example of a crossword designed to support study of English Language and Literature keywords (Age 11+):


It would be helpful to have more academic evidence for the use of warm-up exercises, revision games and games designed by students to support their learning. Does this kind of work promote motivation, collaboration, creativity, leading to improved results?


Further Reading

Barbarick, K. A. (2010). “Crossword puzzles as learning tools in introductory soil science.” Journal of Natural Resources & Life Sciences Education, 39 (1), 145-149.

Berry, D.C and Miller, M.G. (2008). “Crossword Puzzles as a Tool to Enhance Athletic Training Student Learning: Part 2.” Athletic Therapy Today, 13 (1), pp.32-34.

Childers, C. D. (1996). “Using crossword puzzles as an aid to studying sociological concepts.” Teaching Sociology, 24 (2), 231-235.

Coticone, S. R. (2013). “Utility of self-made crossword puzzles as an active learning method to study biochemistry in undergraduate education.” Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(4), 33-37.

Crossman, E. K., & Crossman, S. M. (1983). “The crossword puzzle as a teaching tool.” Teaching of Psychology, 10 (2), 98-99.

Dunphy, S.M. and Whisenand, T.G. (2006). “Building Camaraderie Through Information Processing: The Wuzzle Picture Puzzle Exercise.” Journal of Information Systems Education, 17(1), 11-16.

Franklin, S., Peat, M., & Lewis, A. (2003). “Non-traditional interventions to stimulate discussion: The use of games and puzzles.” Journal of Biological Education, 37 (2), pp. 79 - 84.

Goh, T. & Hooper, V. (2007). “To TxT or Not to TxT: That’s the Puzzle.”  Journal of Information Technology Education, Vol. 6, pp. 441 – 453.

Jaramillo, C. M. Z., Losada, B. M., & Fekula, M. J. (2012). “Designing and solving crossword puzzles: Examining efficacy in a classroom exercise.” Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 39.

Lin, T. C., & Dunphy, S. M. (2013). “Using the crossword puzzle exercise in introductory microeconomics to accelerate business student learning.” Journal of Education for Business, 88 (2), 88-93.

Morris, C. (1990). “The relationship between vocabulary-oriented activities and mathematics achievement scores of community college students on the MBPA.” Dissertation, Tampa, Florida: University of South Florida.

Orawiwatnakul, Wiwat. "Crossword puzzles as a learning tool for vocabulary development." Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology 11.30 (2013).

Shah, S., Lynch, L. M., & Macias-Moriarity, L. Z. (2010). “Crossword puzzles as a tool to enhance learning about anti-ulcer agents.” American journal of pharmaceutical education, 74 (7), 117.

Weisskireh, R.S. (2006). “An analysis of instructor-created crossword puzzles for student review.” College Teaching, 54 (1), pp. 198-201.