22 November 2005

On being reactionary

We have several sides to our characters, and in particular to our values. Sometimes my impeccably liberal approach to life is sullied by the resurgence of my atavistic conservative side, which cannot be suppressed forever.

A former colleague was brilliant at managing this. She was and indeed is, a very accomplished and effective counsellor, the embodiment of empathy, warmth and genuineness for her clients. But she emerged from her sessions and (without letting slip of her professionalism of confidentiality, and only in the presence of trusted colleagues) she would—in the jargon—"abreact". She became judgemental to say the least; "What a total prat! How could such a f****** immature selfish git think she could sustain a relationship...?" and so on for five minutes or so. Then she would sigh, and say, "Sorry. That's better. I just needed to get that off my chest." When tackled about this (I was not her supervisor, just a trusted colleague and friend), she was open about it. "I can't deny that that there is a bit of me which wants to slap some clients' faces and tell them to get a life. It's better to acknowledge and vent that bit than to leave it simmering to contaminate my real practice."

It is in that spirit that I respond to the glimpse of a notice the other day. It advertised "Post-graduate learning support."

What? We have graduates who need "learning support"? OK, I concede that in particular circumstances such as specific learning disabilities like dyslexia, or overseas students working in a second or even third language, support may be needed. But surely, one thing which should be taken for granted in graduates is that they know how to learn!
What does it say about our university system that we graduate people who still need support to do what they have spent about sixteen years learning how to do, i.e. learn?

Abreaction over, for now.

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