Supporting

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Choice, nuance and how everything is Decartes' fault

Hello. Wouldn't it be great if every choice we faced was binary; this or that, up or down, left or right.
The problem is life, science and research are rarely that tidy despite the temptation to make it so and that's what this post is about. When you're reading research or writing assignments it's sometimes tempting to go with the 'one thing or the other' approach as it's easy to write and means that more often than not you won't have to read too much.

But it probably won't get you a good mark and it won't leave you with the feeling that you've done your best.

And more to the point, as tempting as it is, there's often more potential outcomes and options than just two.
The reason why I'm squarely blaming Descartes for this relatively modern obsession is because he was one of the first philosophers to propose that the mind and body were split into two discrete elements-and it really caught on. Suddenly dualism was everywhere and people were dividing things into two categories as explanations for social phenomena. At the moment, dualism is enjoying a renaissance which is interesting and a little surprising. Although maybe it's to do with people wanting simple answers to complex problems in times of uncertainty-it's just a thought.

Anyway, if you want to look up concepts like dualism use Credo, our online database of encyclopedias; it's easy to use and provides enough detail to get you started on most topics.

Finally, remember that most issues are not black and white; subtlety or nuance are important skills when discussing and writing about topics and need to be honed like any other. That always comes from reading and making connections between authors and findings.

As always, come and see me if you want to discuss any of these issues, along with help and advice on anything else.


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Poor doors, social housing and the politics of accomodation

I'm starting to face the fact that I may no longer be working class.
Between myself and my wife we own four and a half degrees, three cats, one (mostly unused) bread maker and one house. We've also just started employing a cleaner. Or as a friend of mine neatly put it, "ha, you now have staff".

When we lived in Milton Keynes we had a rented house on a key worker estate. It was fine. Everyone was either a teacher, policeman, nurse etc and it was a pleasant enough atmosphere. We didn't feel like second class anythings. Skip forward to us finally getting our own house in Leighton Buzzard on a new build...and the first thing the estate agent said to us was 'how far away do you want to be from the social housing tenants?' We were genuinely shocked.
Our supposed transformation from one social group into another was brought back to me this morning when I heard about these so-called 'poor doors' and the growing economic divisions in the UK. Housing has always been political. It's been used to keep rich and poor apart since Victorian times but there's growing evidence that it's happening on a larger scale.

So with all that in mind I'd like to suggest some resources to you; firstly, a radio show called the Moral maze covered the topic of social inclusion from a moral standpoint last night (Wednesday) at 8pm on Radio 4. Just follow this link to listen again if you don't see this post until after it's been broadcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054qfjx  .

Finally, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is constantly examining the links between housing, health and social standing. The full range of their published reports is available from here.






Thursday, 22 January 2015

My Dad

Three days ago my Dad died.

He was a major force in my educational history, so I'm going to share a few things with you concerning how he inspired me.


He believed passionately in lifelong learning. When his eyesight failed him, he read audio books and when his hearing failed him he read audio books AT HIGH VOLUME. He never stopped taking in new knowledge.

When I told him I was considering applying for university at the age of 27 he said, "about bloody time!" He could have said 'play safe and keep your job', but he didn't.

He also believed that nothing's worth doing if it's easy. When I was at uni this phrase drove me nuts. WHY COULDN'T IT BE EASY??? He'd shrug and say, 'because then anyone could do it'.

I hope you have someone who encourages, provokes, inspires or supports you. I'll be back at uni next week so if you want a lend of any of my Dad's words of encouragement you've only to ask.

I know he'd have liked that.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Do you feel like a student yet?

How do you become a student?

Sign up to a course? Well that's the first step but fundamentally that means you've completed some basic admin. I don't think that makes you a student.

How about attend some lectures? Well you can be in a room and learn next to nothing if you're not engaged. Attending lectures could mean you've managed to read your timetable-it doesn't make you a student.

Write assignments? I suppose that's part of it, but you can probably pass things with the minimum effort. I've passed things without learning much of note. It didn't make me a student.

Here's what I think - students are created from a desire to learn new things, to test the parameters of our own understanding and to take pleasure in the slow revealing of new knowledge. That isn't always straightforward, in fact it's often the exact opposite. We don't like uncertainty or feeling out of our depth. Well guess what? That's part of becoming a student too. It shouldn't be easy.

We have all at some point read academic material that we haven't understood but persevered nevertheless. That's how you become a student.

We have all juggled the academic and the personal and somehow managed both areas. That's how you become a student.

We have all regretted starting something but refused to give in. That's how you become a student.

But eventually, slowly, through progress that sometimes feels like root canal treatment, you increase your understanding.

And one day you wake up with a working knowledge of your topic and enough confidence to tell other people about what you know. Guess what? At that point you're a student.



Monday, 15 December 2014

Jobs for Christmas.

Here is my suggested list of academic activities for you to engage in over the holiday...

1) Read some book chapters and journals for upcoming assignments.

2) Engage with some academic texts and make some notes on what you've remembered.

3) Open some of the tomes in the library and look at the words which make up the sentences.
Then record some of these sentences.

4) Find some academic literature from your chosen subject; then look at it.

5) Find publication, peruse publication.

6) Locate text, conduct scrutiny of pages.

Got the message yet?!?! Good!

I wish you all a relaxing and warm break (punctuated by some reading, maybe?) and I'll see you again in January. My last day is tomorrow (Tuesday) and I won't be going near social media over Christmas so hopefully you'll be fine.

Much love and a successful 2015 to you all.

Alan


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The What, Why and How of Podcasts

It's easier than it's ever been to make information come to you.
Missed a TV show? Just use catch-up or on demand services.
Missed a gig? Someone will have recorded it and put it online.

Very little media is now gone forever and radio shows can be caught up with via Soundcloud or Podcasts.

This post is just looking at Podcasts and how you can use and reference them effectively.
You can find Podcasts in every corner of the web and if you're unsure of what they actually are then it's simply a digital recording of a radio show which is converted into an MP3 format, so it can easily be downloaded. Podcasting is easy and all you need is a mic and a web-enabled device.

There's a lot of Podcasts out there (both on itunes and elsewhere)  that are certainly broadly relevant to the social sciences so you'll need to explore, but I'm going to suggest five specific Casts that I think are worth a listen.

1) Thinking Allowed is a Podcast covering the Sociology radio show on radio 4.

2) Digital Human is a show debating different psychological/sociological aspects of our relationship with the Web.

3) British Psychological Society (BPS) Podcasts page is a list of psychology-related programmes, some of which cover topics of interest to anyone studying criminology, child-related topics or mental health.

4) More or Less is a good listen for anyone trying to get their head around statistics and research-it's much more interesting than it sounds!

5) Podology is a general resource for sociological-related Podcasts. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly worth an explore.

Finally, remember you can reference Podcasts. If you need help with that bit then use your unit handbook or contact me and I'll show you the format.

Happy listening.