TEXT Journal prose piece: The (in)exactitude of knowledge

conqueredThe lecturer (1)
He sticks his head into the hall and asks ‘Is this Biology 101?’ before ambling into the lecturing space. The students (off screen) titter. Who is this crazy guy, they think? The man casually places his folder file on the desk, then launches into a story about a ‘male, 45, married, career as a criminal lawyer’ whose behaviour was bizarrely effected by a brain tumour.

After the anecdote, the Professor throws a series of questions to the audience: ‘Who believes in nurture?’, ‘Who believes in nature?’, ‘Who believes in God?’ The questions are flung, fast and furious, and we do not get to see who is raising their hands. We hear laughter again. This man is crazy, yes, but he is also good fun.

‘They’ are showing us this YouTube clip as an example of a certain lectureship style. ‘We’ are staff at a university, jumping through the hoops to gain a teaching certificate.

We debate the man’s style. Does he talk too fast? Is he too challenging? Does it look like the beginning of a Hollywood movie; Robin Williams at the front of the class shouting ‘Carpe diem’? What will the students learn from this encounter? Will they remember anything he said or just the fact he is slightly off-beat, not the usual sedentary lecturer? Will the man become the lesson?

I consider the possibility of walking into a tutorial and acting this way. The image does not come. I am not an older man, I do not have the … what is the word …? Well, if I cannot even find the word, how can I stand with such authority, with such knowing, and entertain the masses; a lecture hall full of undergraduates who can sniff out the slightest whiff of fakery.

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Overland/Lit Hub article: Can Fiction Still Make A Difference?

 

silhouettesWhen teaching creative writing, I invariably ask my students why it is they want to write. The answers range from the predictable – ‘to straighten out my thoughts’, ‘to create my own world and escape reality’, ‘to remember and capture memories’ – to the faintly quirky – ‘to reproduce the contours of my mind’, ‘to take ideas out and decide if they are a diamond or a piece of glass’. While these reasons are perfectly valid, I am yet to encounter a student who gives the answer I did when I first began my writing journey: ‘to change the world.’ Read more.