Monday, January 18, 2010

Hello Again

My last post here was on December 3, 2009. The next day I left for what I thought was going to be a productive summer break.

Instead I ended up spending my break overseeing the painting and repair of my mom's house in Kimberley.

I guess in a sense it was productive but not in terms that speak to my academic work.

The word 'academic' may be a little too strong since my modest intention was to write two Study Guides over the month or more that I would be away.

For those reading outside of South Africa the concept of a Study Guide at the college/university level may need a little 'splaining.

In fact I am still confused that lecturers are expected to produce Study Guides for the classes they teach.

What it all amounts to as a colleague of mine who also taught in the US says,"is nothing short of f*cking plagiarism."

Instructors merely copy material from text books and write inane little summaries that describe intended "outcomes" for the material covered.

The fixation on "outcomes" in South Africa is paradoxical, particularly in higher education.

I say paradoxical because the fixation has little to do with learning and everything to do with big brother administration and academic bookkeeping.

Literally dozens upon dozens of paragraphs are devoted to stating the obvious.

You will find "outcomes" descriptions that explain it so: "At the end of this section the learner (f*ck I hate that term) will be able to discuss important issues pertaining to course objectives.

Or, "the learner will be able to discuss (insert number) issues that pertain to foreign policy."

Huh?

And so it goes.

Once a Study Guide is completed it is handed to a group of otherwise unemployable English (or Linguistics) majors who contain themselves in a department called Academic Development.

Instead of directly counting beans for academic profit they count words so that the bean counters can find a way to chart productivity.

These academic developers check Study Guides for "outcomes coherence" while making sure that the learners are being "guided correctly".

I have a theory about the origins of Study Guides. I also have a theory about English and/or Linguistics majors who are employed in academic development but I'll set it aside for now ;)

It occurred to me that during the apartheid years textbooks from outside of South Africa were not freely available because of a general academic boycott and cost factors.

So folks just copied pages from available textbooks and assembled them into what is now supposedly Study Guides.

The practice continues even though the academic boycott is over. What remains is that textbooks are very expensive.

Books on the whole are too expensive in South Africa. A major reason for this being that the government imposes huge taxes on books.

So much for the literate society. I guess the cost of books explains why so many folks listen to the likes of Julius Malema.

AnyHowze, I intended this post as a Hello I am Back on the Blog spiel.

But, if I am going to secure a promotion of any sort this year I will have to copy a few textbooks and paste together a Study Guide or two.

I feel dumber by the day.

Peace and good new year blessings to youze.

Onward! 2010

4 comments:

Dade said...

Hoo boy. This post just confirms what I have long suspected about Academia...

Glad you're back, Ridwan.

Eugene said...

Interesting. I always thought academia sucked. Quote some stuff from "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

Tax on books! WTF! Is that all books?

Ridwan said...

Hey there Dade.

Great to read you again brother. I also like your new picture ... gotta look twice at that hoody ;)

Academia is a business.

Edward Said was right when he remarked that academics are people in the business of academia. Intellectuals are quite a different thing, he added.

The sad part is that so much emphasis is put on credentializing
students.

Here in SA they have what amounts to a circus around high school graduation rates.

Student names are printed in newspapers throughout the country and so everyone knows their business.

The exams are national and set by outside examiners and so you can imagine the f-up that ensues.

In my province, the Northern Cape, the failure rate has increased by 11percent over last year.

In fact the province was the best in terms of results just 5 years ago and now is at the bottom of the 9 provinces.

What worries me is content.

I have taken a look at what passes for an exam paper and it is puzzling.

What are we preparing these young folk for?

Certainly not to be successful at the university level.

Be well Dade!

Ridwan

Ridwan said...

Hey there Eugene!

Yeah they tax all books. It is a scam that is devoid of developmental integrity.

Folks don't read because it is too expensive.

Books cost an average of three times more over prices in the US and UK.

This government needs every little monetary reserve it seems.

They tax medicines. They tax phone calls!

Value added tax (VAT) is added to just about everything except a few basic food items like bread and veggies.

We are taxed to hell and the infrastructure is falling apart nonetheless.

I face the issue of having to find ways to get my students to read without prescribing textbooks.

If the books are available online for free the students still have to pay to get online and it is not cheap.

Yesterday I read that only 1 person out of 10 is online in SAfrica.

And this statistic the government uses to indicate progress.

Our priorities are whack.

We are spending millions upon millions to host the soccer world cup in June.

Watch those brand new stadia fall to ruin after the visitors have left.

And, watch the public paying for the nonsense of hosting such an event.

Peace brother Eugene.
Ridwan