Bruce Charlton has a recent blog post about his piece in The Guardian in support of the academic lecture. He says,
But when lectures are taken seriously, and conducted in the proper way, they are the best pragmatic way of teaching knowledge to people who want to know. … when it ‘works’, a good lecture is an experience that may be remembered forever.
I agree. The best way to learn is to discuss the topic with a human teacher who is knowledgeable, articulate, and charismatic. There’s no substitute for having a personal relationship with a teacher.
I just want to add one point. There are many reasons why today’s educational authorities want to denigrate lecturing. But one big reason for contemporary antipathy to the lecture is that it’s a narrative. A person tells a true and compelling story and the listener can’t help but be drawn into it. And the narrative gives order to reality. It transforms a bunch of apparently unrelated facts and skills into a satisfyingly-ordered whole.
And that’s countercultural. It’s counterrevolutionary. The prevailing ethos, in education and elsewhere, is that the individual creates his own meaning. Or, to be honest, he may fail to create meaning, and that’s OK too, to today’s authorities. All that matters is engaging in a process (in this case, a process of “learning”) that is as unconstrained as possible. Metanarratives are oppressive.
It’s true that education retains a certain goal-seeking and reality-based orientation. Developing skills still counts for something, especially in the hard sciences and technology. Furthermore, the faculty, on their own, tend to develop teaching skills and philosophies that retain a lot of reality and common sense. It comes with the territory of taking your teaching job seriously.
But although the Lords of Education still want good “outcomes,” they don’t like the traditional processes. What they really want is for educated people to emerge, spontaneously, from “student-centered” activities. So they naturally look with suspicion on lecturing.
As Orthosphereans know, an orientation toward the true, the good, and the beautiful is inherently counterrevolutionary these days. And a good lecture is just that.