Thursday, June 11, 2009

hard work, good luck, red bull

Update from alumna Alice Obrecht, currently working on her PhD at the London School of Economics:

I've been thinking about the writing center a lot lately, for two reasons: one, I think my life would be better if I had a bread makingmachine. Two, exam time is looming here at LSE.

The brilliance of the British system is that students are politely asked to do various chores throughout the year - for example attend class somewhat regularly, participate in discussion, submit written work that is marked and returned to them-but 100% of their grade for a class is determined by a single 3-hour exam sat in a large, often sweltering, hall in June. In this 3 hour exam students are expected to write 3 essays, by hand. There is also a pit of tarantulas they must avoid falling into as they exit the hall. Unfortunately that last part is not true. Yet.

So I am thinking of the WC at the moment, as I always do this time of year. On the one hand, focusing course assessment around written work is a good idea. On the other hand, this way of doing it seems to take the writing process and pump it full of Red Bull and extreme anxiety and the search for the Perfect Essay Structure that can be learned and repeated over and over.

Hence my procrastination in preparing for the revision class I must teach tomorrow (and hence this as another chance at procrastination). But basically I will say what I always say, which is that writing a good philosophy essay is like good cooking or having a good sense of personal style. Outside of some basic guidelines, like don't switch around the salt and the sugar, or don't always expect people to understand the irony of your clothing choices, there is not much to say. You are free.

And it is your choice: will you be inspired by that freedom, or

Then I will tell them to work hard, and wish them luck, and remind them of the health side effects of drinking too much Red Bull.

She also writes: " I would have liked to send you a picture of me on the boat I'm living on, but forgot to bring my camera with me to school. Perhaps later."