Monday, 18 June 2007

The "studying blues"

"I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes."

So said the inventor of the Miner's Safety Lamp, Sir Humphry Davy (1778 - 1829). Right from childhood we're taught that success is good and failure is bad. At school, prizes went to those who gave the correct answers, or won the Sports Day events. For those who gave the wrong answers or came last in the race, there was sarcasm and dismissal.

I still recall being put into the "1 Mile Race" at the Grammar School Sports. Four laps of the circuit, and I came in last, huffing and puffing, to the jeers of the other members of Pelham House. I wasn't a runner then, and I've never been a runner. I'm not built for it. I can walk - long distances if I have to, and I can swim, over 120 lengths in one session about 6 years ago when I was fit, but I can't run.

Then there was French. At school I was useless at it. I even scored the legendary 1% in the end of year exam and was thrown out of the class. I then did German for a term until they threw me out of that as well. (It was the same teacher!) I ended up doing triple art periods, plus triple Private Sudy periods for my last year. You were only ever supposed to have double of one or the other. I was labelled an academic failure, though looking back on it I have now reversed that opinion and consider that the school failed me. I now get by in French reasonably well, and when I holiday in the Lot-et-Garonne I can make myself understood, and understand the replies. No lengthy conversations, but I have a basic competance.

And so here I am struggling with a short 12-week Open University course and considering that I might not actually complete it. There are various reasons.

Firstly, the workload of ministry leaves little time for private study, even though I have tried to keep various afternoons free of meetings. I haven't touched the course this last week, mainly because there has been the monthly Parish magazine to compile and get off to the printers. (It went in the post this morning!)

Secondly, I think that the amount of course work one is expected to get through in this short time is excessive. The Introductory Notes say that I can expect to spend 6 hours per week on the course. This is a laughable estimate. It's more like double. And there's a major 5,000 word essay at the end. All this for no qualification but 10 points on the OU scale that can be put towardas a degree (300 points).

Thirdly, I'm finding that I'm not really in step with the academic nature of the questions. I read the material and I look at the questions and I think, "What the hell are they asking?" I then look at the specimin answers and say, "Well, I know that, but how is that an answer to the question?"

So I am asking myself, "Why am I doing this?" I said in an earlier Blog that it was because I wanted to study something outside of ministry and church. That's still the case, but maybe, for me, this is not the right way of doing it.

I'm not giving up yet, but if I do, then I shall have to come to terms with my failure to complete it. It rankles a bit, especially since I know I'm not stupid. I passed the Mensa entrance test some years ago and became a member. Well, I was a member for two years until I worked out that I was being asked to pay a subscription of £25 a year for absolutely nothing. I wasn't that daft, and they'd proved it.


  1. Hmm. From my distant, objective viewpoint I might suggest that it is the subject (and the study of) that is important - and not the 5000 word essay or the rather paltry (I nearly wrote poxy!) ten points towards the OU degree. All that stuff is meaningless froth!

    I have no idea how the OU works, but I would simply do the course work according to my own time and schedule. That way I would be learning the subject, maintaining self-interest, and refusing to think in terms of failure.

  2. True enough - after all, I have all the Course material, so I needn't be tied to the timescale. We'll see.