Ren decides that this is a suitable time to talk about the TITE because none of the Department’s Continentalists are here (they are, of course, staying away because today’s talk has been an analytic talk). He’s wondering how best to bring up the topic up, when Compton says, ‘So you were going to tell me what happened yesterday at the titty.’
‘Yes, I’m afraid it’s all become very titty-politti,’ Ren says, sounding a bit too pleased with his prepared line. He starts to fill Compton in on what happened in the TITE yesterday. Some of the other philosophers present – Walter Clutterbuck, Tristram York, Martha Gelber, George Bagnall, Bill Porterfield, and Derek – keep half an ear on what he is saying, as much as they can with Hedley and Beresford bashing away at their other ear. They’re mostly sympathetic to what Ren is saying about the TITE. Derek is as hard left as they come, but he has no truck with Continentalism. The rest are analytic soft leftists, and regard Continentalism, in their understated way, as ‘unfortunate’. But it’s hard for Ren to be heard as the visiting speaker and his antagonist are continuing their pointless and loud argument at the other end of the group. Ren can see Douglas, who is stuck next to them, looking over at Ren’s end of the group wondering whether he could politely move away, now that Beresford and Hedley are fully preoccupied with demonstrating how ignorant the other is.
‘Oh dear,’ says Martha to Ren. ‘I was afraid something like that might happen with that course, but I didn’t think it would get as bad as that.’
‘It’s that Balderstone chap,’ says Bill. ‘No wonder it’s like that with him in charge.’
‘It’s not just him, though,’ says Compton. ‘This is what the people behind it wanted. The whole of SADE are like that.’
SADE, which stands for the Staff and Development Unit, is the department that runs the TITE and other staff development courses.
‘This is the beginning of there being no escape from the left,’ continues Compton. ‘You will be forced to be a leftist if you want to be an academic. Eventually it will become law that you have to be a leftist, not just in academia, but in the wider world.’
‘You always exaggerate these things,’ says Derek. ‘And I’d rather you didn’t call them leftists. The real problem with the SADE lot is that they’re foisting mumbo-jumbo on intelligent people who have previously been trained to think well. What we need is to make academic people teach what they know better, not to cloud their minds up with poison gas.’
‘From what I’ve heard none of the SADE people know anything about teaching academics to be better teachers, it’s not just Balderstone,’ says Ren. ‘They’re terrible teachers themselves.’
‘Yes they are,’ says Martha. ‘I went on one of their short courses a few years ago, it was a disgrace.’
‘Not a surprise,’ says Walter. ‘You know they’re all just rejects from other departments?’
‘Are they? What do you mean?’ says Ren.
‘I mean that most of them have not been hired in as teaching specialists. Most of them don’t have a background in education at all. They’re people who their original departments wanted to get rid of, because they were no good at research or teaching, or both, but as it’s hard to sack an academic, they got shunted off instead to SADE.’
‘Great, so we’re being taught by third-raters who couldn’t hack it as proper academics themselves,’ says Ren. ‘So where does Balderstone come from?’
‘He’s one they did bring in from outside. But I don’t know what his background is,’ says Walter. ‘Do you?’
‘He conveniently doesn’t have a staff webpage,’ says Ren, ‘so I don’t know what he has. But he appears to have never seen anything so outlandish as an educational research finding, so I doubt he would come from Education.’
‘Well, you say that,’ says Compton, ‘but a lot of Education departments have been colonised by the left, and their training is now worthless.’
‘You mean colonised by the Continentalists,’ corrects Derek.
‘Education departments were colonised by the left a long time ago,’ says Compton. ‘That opened the opportunity for them to be further colonised by Continentalists, which has now happened. And now they’re got their foot through the door into the rest of the University system.’
‘Well, I’m going to ask Grant, as Head of Department, to write a letter of complaint on behalf of the department,’ says Ren. ‘My other issue with the course is the inordinate amount of time it takes up. The whole thing needs to be completely overhauled, or dumped.’
‘They won’t dump the general idea of having training courses for new lecturers, that’s here to stay,’ said Compton. ‘So the line has to be that it should be taken over by empiricists. It should be shorn of the politics, and it should be reduced in the time it takes up.’
‘You know we’re only doing one afternoon of video work?’ says Ren.
‘One afternoon a week?’ says Walter.
‘No, one afternoon in total,’ says Ren.
‘You mean where they video you giving a mock lecture?’ said Bill.
‘Yes, apparently four of you get to do it in a group, which means you get about half an hour spent on you for filming and analysis. This course goes for two whole years, and we get half an hour of video work. Half. An. Hour. Out of two years. That sort of thing should be the basis for the whole course. Regular filming of yourself and analysis of how you’re doing, are you speaking too fast, too slowly, are you being too boring, how comprehensible are you for the level you’re teaching at, are you getting better at this as you go along, and so on. That’s the sort of thing that’s needed. A proper nuts and bolts servicing of your teaching over a couple of years. Not half an hour of it, and then five hundred hours of postmodernist propaganda, which you must parrot back, or pack your bags. You know, I might just not go any more.’
‘But don’t you have to pass the course, otherwise you don’t pass probation?’ says Walter.
‘Yes, but probation is three years long. My contract doesn’t say that I have to start it in my first year. I could re-enrol next year, when it might have improved.’
‘Or got worse,’ says Compton.
‘Well, I’m going to get Grant to do something. I’m also getting some of the other people on the course to get their Heads to do something too.’
‘Another drink for anyone?’ says Walter.
‘Another pint of Mildewmelter, please,’ says Ren.
‘Or whatever it’s called. Mildewmouse? Something like that.’
‘Would our guest…’ begins Walter, before raising his voice, ‘Would our guest like something as well?’
‘Yes thank you,’ says Beresford, looking up from the argument. ‘Another red please.’
Walter looks embarrassed. ‘I, er, meant our guest speaker, but of course I will get you a red, Beresford. Hedley, would you like a drink?’
‘I’ll have red too, please.’
‘Medium or large?’
‘Oh, large I should think. Thank you.’
‘Large for me too, thanks,’ says Beresford, who isn’t going to let Hedley outdrink him.