Guardian Interview: Tara Brabazon

The Education Guardian has an interview with Tara Brabazon. While I think that she has some good ideas, such as giving her first year students a list of 200 or so extracts of papers, to use as references for their essays (I do hope, however, that either they’re available online or in sufficient quantities that students can get hold of them). 200 or so does, of course give plenty of scope for students to read several, select those with contrasting view points to discuss, but not so few as to be seen to be “spoon feeding” them.
However, she also says:

Students must not be allowed to accept as truth anything they can find through Google, including “facts” given credence by Wikipedia. User-generated content, she maintains, is creating an age of banality and mediocrity, and stifling debate.

I’m assuming that she would allow them to use Google to locate other academics websites, to use Google Scholar to find new references, to use Wikipedia quoted sources (especially those that are academic sites etc) to create their own reviews – and/ or to improve the Wikipedia site, as Martha Groom has done.

And bloggers? “People I didn’t want to talk to at high school are trying to force me to listen to them again,” she says. “Yet so many wonderful books are published every day, providing the best research material in the world.”

Again, some blogs may well be the starting points for academic research; may contain reviews of books, may contain current research – in that gap between having the idea, and actually getting the book published. Alternatively, it may just be a student reflecting on their learning. Not all blogs are the same…

Looking at published material; most people would intrinsically trust a report about a new cure for Influenza more if they read it in, say, The British Medical Journal than they would if they read it in The Sun. That’s not to say that Sun is wrong, any more than the BMJ is right. It’s just the level of cross referencing you’d be likely to do to check up.
Today’s students need to learn that ability to cross check for websites, as well as for paper based resources.

2 thoughts on “Guardian Interview: Tara Brabazon

  1. None of the comment on the various blogs appears to have come from someone who actually attended Prof Brabazon’s actual lecture. This was particularly offensive. At one point Prof Brabazon noted that her choice of overhead projector slides rather than powerpoint would stretch the “Vice Chancellor’s genitals”. If a man in a public forum referred to a named woman’s genitals, vagina or nipples it would be deemed offensive. It would also be considered sexual harassment arising out of the deliberate targeting and sexual demeaning of an individual in front of their colleagues and in public. Any subsequent decision not to act against the perpetrator would amount to making an exception for her, presumably because she is a “personality”, a woman, an Australian or a professor. Such an exception trivializes the serious issue of harassment in universities and implies that the sexual demeaning of a man is less important that the sexual demeaning of a woman. Recent discrimination suits suggest the law does not make this distinction. Prof Brabazon has brought the university, the field of media studies and the academy into disrepute. If the university chooses not to act against Prof Brabazon in this instance they need to provide a public account of why her actions do not constitute sexual humiliation and harassment. A public account is needed because the University is a body set up to serve the public, funded by the taxpayer and because the organization’s press office has so effectively turned her into a public figure in the last few days

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