I was not, I will confess in all honesty, a particularly reliable student when it came to lectures! Basically, I went to the ones which interested me (Old English, Middle English Romances, Anglo-Welsh Literature and maybe a couple more) and gave the others a miss! Shakespeare, for example: Aberystwyth’s Great Hall, in the Old College, did not get one single visit from Ali Browning in TWO YEARS!
I do have some excuse for this: Having moved out to first Llanfarian and then, a bit later, Llancynfelyn, travel was a problem in the days before we got a car. The first bus from the latter village got into town at ten, which meant that nine o’ clock lectures were buggered; the last bus left at 3pm: No chance of attending 4pm and 5pm lectures, then!
But I think there is more to it than geographical inconvenience: I do not like, and never have, being lectured to by sanctimonious, or tedious, or long-winded ‘teachers’. What I am about to say might sound really mean-spirited to some, or disloyal, or just nasty – but I don’t care: There are an awful lot of boring and inadequate educators (at every level) in our educational system. There are those who get top degrees at Oxbridge, know their subject intimately – and have the communication skills of a brick and the ability to relate to young people of an Elective Mute.
I do not warm to those who swan on to the stage (be it in a school or a university), just behind their own bulging egos, all the books they have written on their subject piled perilously on the table – and then, adopting the timbre of Marvin, the Paranoid Android, maunder on, like a form of verbal Chinese Water Torture, for two hours, while even the most biddable students are drawing gallows in their notebooks and stringing the moaning droning wazzocks up.
I take exception to the hypocrisy which drives so many to lecture everyone around on moral values, behaviour, attitude and so forth, while clearly being crammed to the gunwales with hatred, prejudice and a vast sense of entitlement themselves!
I have a latent capacity for disruption when lectures, or meetings (aggghhhh!) go on longer than the Thirty Years War and have the Excitement Quotient of drying paint. I get restive when being preached at by garrulous gonks who wouldn’t be able to enliven a lecture if you passed eight trillion volts through them.
Lecturing, or teaching, needs, in my view, to be far more than the imparting of knowledge. It should be fecund, funny and feisty, not dry, drear and dull. Lectures need to inspire, enlighten, amuse, excite, wake up the bodies stuffed into seats. If lecturers can startle, shock, surprise their clientele; if they can vibrate with energy and passion and pass that on; if they can keep their minds open and the door to fossilized opinions closed; if they can relate to those who flock (whether willingly or not!) to see and listen to them; if they can exchange pedantry for pleasure, and genuinely engage both with the subject matter and their students, they will become those rare individuals who light a fire of academic passion within the bosoms of the younger generation, and who are remembered for the rest of many lives because of their brilliance and engagement.
I did not miss a single Middle English Romances lecture in two years – and can still hear, in my mind, Professor Maldwyn Mills reading to us from ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’!
And that was nigh-on forty years ago!
I rest my case!