LECTURES

The Mail

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

As has been noted, the fair-mouthed but foul-typewritered supporters of "King" Collins recently added Soc Rel 10 to their targets for disruption. On Monday from about 10:30 to 11:00 in Lowell Lec there was general shouting and very little communication. One young man, a supporter of the provocateurs, pointed out near the end of the hour that he had never seen so many attentive people at a lecture ("Lecture? Lecture?" was the irrelevant chorus. "Think about that," he urged. So I have. Of course it didn't matter that the situation could not be called a lecture. The Collins group in fact wishes to replace the structured monologue form of education with an unstructured multilogue sort of interaction of which we had a taste on Monday. What matters is the nature of attention and its object. I think it highly likely that the attention directed to the proceedings in Lowell Lec was that sort which is attracted by novelty, is a short-lived attribute. But I can't conclude therefrom that the Collins system has no value other than novelty.

I turned then to a consideration of the educational results of the two classroom systems.. There seems to be a general rule, which was reaffirmed by Monday's events, that in an unstructured group of this size (200+) only the loud, quick-reaction people are able to interpose their views. A quick reaction is of necessity a shallow, one-dimensional reaction. Furthermore, once interruption is admitted and allowed, no speaker is about to develop an idea (support it solidly and investigate its implications), but instead must compress his thought into slogan. Thus depth is sacrificed by the Collins system, and investigating a question in depth is the essence of academic inquiry. A lecturer, confident that he can develop a subject for a considerable length of time, has the opportunity to explore that subject in depth and usually does so.

It is less common that his investigation is multidimensional (i.e., that he indicates the "relevance" of the subject to various other fields, ideological systems, and so on), which is too bad. But this is the realm in which the auditor of the lecture is asked to think for himself, and with which he is made competent to deal by the matter of the lecture and by his prior knowledge (hopefully he has prior knowledge of the dimension he is interested in). "Les enrag├ęs" appear to think that if a student is sitting silent, heavy-lidded, and impassive, then he is not thinking but rather simply accepting the ideas of the lecturer and incorporating them into his belief system. I can't imagine what would make these "students of life" assume that the silent do not think, unless they are generalizing from their own experience and they themselves can think only with thir mouths. Peter Wellington '71