Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Delivering training to post graduate students?

After a chance comment at a Graduate Research Student Forum to one of the senior administrators I got an email today from someone asking whether I’d be prepared to convene a session on publication on the basis of my role as Senior Editor of Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology.

All fine and dandy. But I was struck by the title of the email which talked of ‘delivering training to post graduate students’ and a slight shiver ran up my spine. Why? Well obviously I should look to the philosophy of education and training but my remaining PhD annual progression monitoring forms for this evening won’t write themselves so there’s no time. In the absence of scholarship, I think my inchoate thought about the nature of training runs as follows.

Training is possible where the gap between the training and the activity trained is predictably crossable. Those driving schools that offer guarantees of free retests on failure after so many hours of instruction clearly take the logical gap between training and success to be empirically and inductively manageable.

At the other end of the spectrum – still with my inchoate thought – are activities which, whilst they have their roots in instruction require an exercise of judgement which seems to go beyond what was directly conveyed in the instruction. Perhaps character has been moulded, eyes opened to tracts of the space of reasons, but the judgement is in part an act of self creation. I’d like to call this ‘education’.

Even these rough thoughts do not work very well, however, to mark out clear divisions. I sometimes think that students can be trained to explain Descartes’ method of doubt. (Perhaps it helps in coping with the logical gap between training and success to start with those people who show up to a philosophy class in the first place, however.) But we provide an education for those who can see both the force of his arguments but also how to turn such sceptical doubts aside. Equally, in the School of Health, I’m sure we train nurses how to take temperatures, and train them in the necessary mental health law but we hope to educate them in the sensitivities that will allow them to take the temperature of someone detained against their will with minimal further indignity.

In this case, I am not sure it would be possible to train someone to get published although it is, probably, possible to train them out of willed failures to follow formatting guidelines. Anyway, for the second time in a week, I find my delicate sensibilities as a university lecturer easily offended by a quite standard and proper use.