Archives for category: teaching

College and university essays are prime examples of situated educational praxis and an element of learning how to live. This view however, is in stark contrast with the more popular, wide spread and understood view that essays are important as far as the student gaining a grade that either passes or fails them in a given class. The college and university essay however, is a preface to future work, and life. That is, a training that sees the student honing their skills and raising their abilities ready for jobs that require specific skills and abilities. Therefore, the aim of this short piece is to discuss the meaning and place of college and university essays by situating them as important social, life living phenomena and not something separate to or removed from life.

University is an apprenticeship which trains the student in the necessary skills of their life to come. In this way then college and university essays are situated ‘outside’ or ‘before’, but instead they exist as a specific important, in many ways a necessary, way and part of the life of the student. This view does not simply apply to the young student who is the stereotypical writer of college and university essays, but for anybody who is embarking on education. In fact these view and the other viewpoints depicted here dealing with college essays could easily be transcribed into education and training at all levels. The difficult area is making the work relevant the showing the student its importance.

Learning how to discuss, reason and argue in a sophisticated way is important to writing, specifically, and in life, generally. These are skills that must be demonstrated sufficiently well within the confines of an essay for a good grade to be conveyed.

Chambers online dictionary cites the root/route of ‘essay’ as a sixteenth century French word meaning ‘to try’. This meaning is exactly what students wishing to demonstrate their knowledge, through learning, do. Students try, they attempt, they make a go at laying down, writing down, an understanding of something they have been taught. The other beauty of the essay is that it is short form prose, and most usually consists of a sole thesis which is introduced in the first paragraph and elaborated upon for the length the essay.
The fact that essays are also prominant in academic journals, as well as newpapers and mainstream magazines, books are also most usually composed of a collection of essay length chapters. Thus, this makes the teaching method of essay writing relevent when one is learning their trade. After all, when one is learning how to make a brick and mortar wall, the ultimate test is whether they are able to build the wall correctly.

The old adage ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is one to be mindful of. This is because the most powerful of non-fiction, in some cases even fiction (see 1984), are the pieces that demonstrate learning not simply as an esoteric academic study, but as something important and necessary in the world. A piece of writing that discloses to the reader something that changes them.


Below is an extract from a piece about teaching kids through asking questions, in this case binary arithmetic.

39) Okay, let’s go back to our two-fingered aliens arithmetic. We

0          zero

1          one.

What would we do to write “two” if we did the same thing we do over
here [tens] to write the next number after you run out of numerals?


40) What should we call it?


41) Right! Because the first number we need it for is ___?


42) So what do we put in the two’s column? How many two’s are there
in two?


43) And how many one’s extra?


44) So then two looks like this: [pointing to “10”], right?


45) No, only to you guys, because you were taught it wrong [grin]
— to the aliens it is two. They learn it that way in pre-school just as
you learn to call one, zero [pointing to “10”] “ten”. But it’s not really
ten, right? It’s two — if you only had two fingers. How long does it take
a little kid in pre-school to learn to read numbers, especially numbers
with more than one numeral or column?


46) Is there anything obvious about calling “one, zero” “ten” or
do you have to be taught to call it “ten” instead of “one, zero”?


47) Ok, I’m teaching you different. What is “1, 0” here?


The rest is here