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This article is taken from PN Review 3, Volume 4 Number 3, April - June 1978.

Poetry and Learning Blake Morrison
 
WE ALL have our 1960s myths, I suppose, and for those of us still teenaged and impressionable at the end of the decade the sharing myth was a particularly potent one. Shared possessions, shared problems, shared partners: it all seemed possible. Shared education, too: teaching contexts-the seminar rather than the lecture-in which a genuine dialogue between teacher and student could take place. I remember being horrified to learn from a Professor of English at Leeds University, where I was interviewed for an undergraduate place in 1969, that he had no faith in seminars and tutorials and had 'never learnt anything from a student'. Perhaps my indignation showed. At any rate the interview concluded with the professor advising me to 'go abroad for a year'.
 
I offer these preliminaries not because I've any politico-educational axe to grind (though clearly every opportunity should be taken, even in a 'pre-political' periodical such as this, to protest against those 'frontier guard' academics whose chief pleasure is to bully, whether in classroom or TLS correspondence columns, whoever dare trespass on their specialist territory), but because the Open University was inaugurated at a time when sharing ideals were at a peak. And if any university has helped to consolidate the idea that education can be a two-way process it is (as it shall be termed from here on) the OU. This may seem paradoxical. On the face of it, the OU degree is very much a one-way process in which home-based students ...


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