address was delivered to faculty at MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY on 07 September
1999. It is a revision (and an extension) of the adress I delivered to students
at St. Thomas University during the inaugural speech delivered to the incoming
class of students by the winner of the St. Thomas University Excellence in Teaching
Tomorrow, 08 September, 1999, is a very special day for me, and I would like
to share my Special Day with all of you.
"A Special Day?" you think. "It must be his birthday."
But no, it's not my birthday. Could it be my Saint's Day then? If we were in class, and you were all students, I would see some puzzled faces. A hand would be raised: "Please Dr. Moore, what's a Saint's Day?"
I would smile at the student brave enough to ask that question. "Good question!" I would say. "When one person asks a question, class, there are twenty people in the room, perhaps more, who wanted to ask that question, but did not raise their hands because they were afraid to do so. Never be afraid to ask questions. Question everything. Question everyone. Ask questions all the time. That, in part, is what you are here for: to ask questions and to learn to ask the right questions.”
So: what is a Saint's Day? Well, in Spain, people often have two celebrations a year: their birth day and their Saint's Day. Their birthday is, of course, the day they are born; their Saint's Day is the Feast Day of the Saint after whom they are named. That was a good question, class, and you have gained a little knowledge! But No! It is not my Saint's Day.
Why is today such a special occasion for me? Again, if this were a classroom I might, at this stage, do one of several things:
- I might divide you into groups and ask you to discuss the question;
- I might turn on a video;
- I might access the classroom computer and show you a multi-media presentation;
- I might give you a lecture or a talk or a question and answer session, much as I am now doing;
- I might send you to the library to find out the answer for yourselves;
- I might send you to the computer room to surf the net in search of an answer;
- I might ask you to work together on an interactive listserve and let others help you access the information;
- I might send you home early with reading material for the next class;
- I might send you home to watch a specific television program;
- I might set you the question as a Problem Based Learning Group Research Project (written answers on my desk, tomorrow, by 3:15 pm!);
- I might ask you to write your essay in a journal page or in a researched essay (due in six weeks time, with annotated bibliography!);
- I might ask you to tap in to your subconscious and freewrite around the question for fifteen minutes;
- I might tell you to do some thinking and asking around, because that specific question will be on the final examination;
- I might ask you to design a poster or your own multi-media presentation demonstrating the meaning of the question and several possible answers ...
... Clearly, there is no right or wrong approach and there are many ways of dealing with what is, on the surface, a relatively simple question. You are using many of these approaches in your own classes here at Mount Allison University and I do not presume to tell you that one way is right and another wrong. So much depends on the shifting relationships between teacher, learner, class size, class maturity, work capacity, research resources, and subject matter. At Mount Allison you have a national reputation for the excellence of your students and of your faculty. You have proved over a long period of time your ability to distinguish between the more important questions and the correct research and investigation procedures; above all, you know how to choose those that are most suitable to you and to your own students.
Since this is NOT a classroom, since you are not my students, and since I would have great difficulty in dividing you up into small groups so that you could discuss why tomorrow is such an important day for me, I will provide you with the required answer: TOMORROW, September 8, 1999, is my RE-BIRTH-Day! Tomorrow, I celebrate the day of my RE-BIRTH. Thirty-three years ago tomorrow, I was RE-BORN.
Permit me to share with you the matter of my RE-BIRTH!
It came about like this: On September 8, 1966, I got up at 4:00 am, ate a light breakfast, packed my suitcases into my father’s car, and headed for Heathrow Airport, London. There I boarded BOAC Flight 1040 and at 3:00 pm that afternoon I landed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. By 3:15 pm, I was passing through Canadian Customs and Immigration and by 3:30 pm, I was RE-BORN as a Canadian.
This RE-BIRTH was not an easy process. It took me a long time to learn to act, think, and speak like a Canadian. It also took me a long time to realize that while the Canadian within me was growing stronger every day, other parts of me, even when they were rigorously maintained, were beginning to die. Thus, at the same time as I celebrate my RE-BIRTH as a Canadian, I mourn the gradual passing away of my Welshness, the slow disappearance of my Welsh family, the fading of my Welsh friends, some of whom I have not seen in more than thirty years.
Yes! I was RE-BORN 33 years ago tomorrow. But this is not the only RE-BIRTH that I have undertaken. There have been many other rebirths:
- 28 years ago, I emigrated from Ontario and was RE-BORN as a New Brunswicker;
- 27 years ago, I left the University of New Brunswick and was RE-BORN as a St. Thomas University professor;
- 24 years ago, I was RE-BORN when I graduated with my PhD and was officially no longer a student;
- 5 years ago, when I visited the Dominican Republic, I was RE-BORN as a conscious critic of certain neo-colonial policies and attitudes towards Developing Countries; in the DR, incidentally, I was also held up at gun-point -- and surviving THAT little incident certainly guaranteed an instant RE-BIRTH which I celebrated in the closest bar!
- 4 years ago, in December 1995, I was RE-BORN as a pseudo Professor of Education when I visited Oaxaca, Mexico, as part of what was later to be called the St. Thomas University - University of New Brunswick - Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca Faculty Exchange Program;
- And tomorrow, on September 8, 1999, as I celebrate the 33rd anniversary of my being RE-BORN as a Canadian, I am in fact in the process of being RE-BORN yet again.
I will explain how in a moment. Meanwhile let me say that along with the pain and struggle for RE-BIRTH come various things:
- PRIDE: in the fact that I, along with everyone else in this room, can achieve RE-BIRTH;
- HUMILITY: in the knowledge of how fortunate I am, together with all of you gathered here in this room today, to be counted among those who are still capable of RECREATING their lives and of being RE-BORN;
- RESPONSIBILITY: in the knowledge that when we are RE-BORN a new set of duties falls upon our shoulders;
- ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM: in the knowledge that I, like every one of you, am capable of sharing the secret of my RE-BIRTH with the students who come to my office and my class almost every day in search of the new selves which they wish to create for themselves.
This summer, to prepare myself for this Fall's RE-BIRTH, I did the following:
• I revised all my courses;
• I attended the University of New Brunswick Multi-Media Institute for three weeks and completed my Certificate of Multi-Media Studies;
• I reconstructed, with the aid of Clare (without whom I would not be here today, but perhaps I'll tell you more about that later), my web page;
• I (re)commenced my annual summer reading program to update my thinking.
I say all this to assure you that I know as well as you do that knowledge is not a solitary, self-contained unit which, once attained, stays with us forever. Knowledge is an ongoing process; learning is a lifetime commitment; you, as faculty, teach at Mount Allison University, as I teach at St. Thomas University, not just to earn a salary, but to continue a life-long commitment to teaching and learning. If you are like me, you love the sheer process of teaching and learning; you love the contact with young, developing minds.
I try always, as I am sure you do, to encourage my students to start their life studies with us at St. Thomas and to continue their life studies when they leave university. We do not say “Learn for four years and then you can stop learning for you will have all the knowledge you will need for the rest of your lives.” At least, I hope we don’t.
And it is the same thing for us, as faculty. For we, as faculty, are actively involved in our own ongoing research and scholarship, some of which we publish and some of which we use in our classes; research moreover, without which the knowledge we share with our students would be a dead package, taken from our notes, and handed over without thought or revision, or consideration, to the next generation, much as certain forms of knowledge were handed to me when I was an undergraduate by some of the teachers de cuyos nombres no quiero acordarme / by teachers whose names I do not wish to recall, to borrow the famous words with which Cervantes opened perhaps the world’s greatest novel: Don Quijote de la Mancha.
So what did I read this summer?
Amongst other things, I read about the RENAISSANCE -- the RE-BIRTH of Western Civilization in the 15th and 16th Centuries; I also read about the REFORMATION that came about as a direct result of the challenges and questions posed by the RENAISSANCE; and I read about the COUNTER-REFORMATION that sprang up as a reaction to and dialogue with that first REFORMATION.
I also realized, not for the first time, the similarities between our own age and that of the RENAISSANCE. The RENAISSANCE, as Marshall MacLuhan pointed out in The Gutenberg Galaxy, was a time of new ideas and new technology; in addition, a radical change occurred in the paradigm of man’s learning and thinking. The known world was expanding with the voyages of discovery that set out to East and to West. Man’s view of the universe changed with the various discoveries in optics that allowed us to see objects in space larger and in more detail than ever before. This led, of course, to the concept of the heliocentric universe, where human beings were displaced, away from the centre of creation; a new concept for the Church, and one that they fought against bitterly at the time.
In the same period the printing press had an enormous influence on the dissemination of knowledge, and totally changed peoples' ways of disseminating, creating, receiving and perceiving written information. It is very difficult for us to understand, even today -- perhaps especially today -- the impact of the printed word on a semi-literate society in which, again according to Cervantes, groups of people would gather in the evenings to have books read out loud to them by the one or two people in the village who could read. Walter Ong has described this process to us in Orality and Literacy, another book which I (re)read this summer. Suffice to say, that for us, as a television generation, it is difficult to understand the initial impact of radio upon our parents and grandparents. For the new generations of students emerging today, it is difficult to imagine life without the instant communication of television, telephone, email, and computer.
In many ways, the impact of print must have been similar to the impact of the electronic technological revolution which we are going through today. And one thing I know for certain, after completing my Certificate in MultiMedia Studies: none of us are aware, nor will we be fully aware for a long time yet, of the full impact of the electronic technological revolution upon the hearts, souls, intelligence, and minds (not to speak of the wrists and eyes) of those who use it and of those who are now growing up, many of whom know no other way of accessing information.
The paradigm of knowledge and technical skill is still changing and developing explosively; as a result, we are still unaware of exactly what can be achieved by the new media. Take computer chess, for example. Chessmaster 2000 had approximately 150 games programmed into its chess library; Chessmaster 4000 not only has 1500 games programmed in, but also presents us with games in which Karpov commentates in digital audio his own moves in his own matches!
Yet, in spite of this tremendous rate of progress, few of us who follow Chess would have dreamed that Deep Blue, programmed by a gentleman from Clare’s home town of Bournemouth, would thrash Karpov, the world chess champion from the Soviet Union, only a year or two down the road. Nor can we understand the extremely rapid progress that leads us in a matter of months, to see the memory banks in a pc clone expand from 1 gig of memory to 4 gigs of memory, to 6 gigs of memory, to the 10.6 gigs of memory that Dell is advertising in its latest computer sales. In some ways, it is like the 10, or 12, or 14 zeros that are now following the initial figures in the MEXICAN FOBAPROA SCANDAL: so many zeros that the concept of the magnitude of the debt is beyond the understanding of most of us.
In our day, then, as in the Renaissance, the paradigm of knowledge is expanding explosively. Knowledge in the Renaissance evolved so quickly that few individuals were capable of grasping the full meaning of the REVOLUTION, the RENAISSANCE, the REBIRTH which they were observing and in which they were involved. In fact, the RENAISSANCE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS or the continuing discussions between the ANCIENTS AND MODERNS were very similar in many regards to some of the discussions regarding the FUTURE OF EDUCATION that we are holding in all the Atlantic Provinces Universities right now. Authority or Innovation? The old ways or the new? Technology or Tradition? Whatever side we come down upon, these discussions are good for us all for they mean we are alive and thinking and that our knowledge is not a dead but a living thing.
This summer, I also (re)read Mikhail Bakhtin; I believe with him, that human beings can live in a DIALOGISTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CHRONOTOPOS -- that is to say, in less Bakhtinian language, that people can hold a dialogue with their time and their space, a dialogue which can bring about change, new directions, new commitments, in short, a RE-BIRTH.
And now, from Dialogue to Drama: Wayne C. Booth, in Freedom and the Individual (the Oxford University Amnesty International Lectures of 1992) wrote that we are all individuals, writing the drama of our own lives; each student’s entrance to Mount Allison University, in Wayne Boothian Theory, is a chance for that student to begin his or her play again; all students can rewrite their roles and their characters; as we can rewrite our lives and our roles. In short, each one of you can, like me, be RE-BORN. And believe me: September is the month in which this ANNUAL REBIRTH can and should take place.
I also read several books on the THEORY OF TIME: sidereal time, atomic time, linear time, instantaneous or contemporaneous time ... many of the courses I teach at St. Thomas University are based on linear time: each term, they progress steadily from Day 1 to Day 36; however, our lives as teachers and learners are also based on seasonal or cyclical time. For teacher and student, the learning and teaching cycle begins anew every September; this is the time of the SEPTEMBER RENAISSANCE or RE-BIRTH. September then is the month for us ALL to be RE-BORN.
In some ways, the most important books I read this summer were all written on or about don Francisco de Quevedo. These books no longer have a single author. We are no longer dealing with one person’s ideas. Thus, although Pablo Jauraldo Pou’s name adorns the edition of the latest and best biography of don Francisco de Quevedo, Quevedo’s life has actually been researched by an extensive team of scholars, students, and friends, so large, that only the most important dozen or so can be acknowledged. The same is true of James O. Crosby’s edition of the Sueños, or of Ignacio Arellano and Lia Schwartz Lerner’s edition of the metaphysical poetry, or of Crosby and Jauralde’s edition of Quevedo y su familia en setecientos documentos notoriales, a compendium of legal documents concerning the Quevedo family which runs from 1572 to 1724.
In fact, when a single author, not a member of a team, writes on Quevedo nowadays, it is to offer a study of just a small portion of the author’s work. In this fashion, Josette Riandière de la Roche’s Nouveaux documents quévédiens: Une famille à Madrid au temps de Philippe II deals with a very short time period and only a selected aspect of the life of the poet. In similar fashion, Santiago Fernández Mosquera’s La poesía amorosa de Quevedo: disposición y estilo desde CANTA SOLA A LISI deals with only one aspect of Quevedo’s poetry, that of the love poems seen in the light of the sonnet sequence to Lisi.
TEAMWORK: it is becoming more and more necessary to work as a member of a team in order to keep up with the knowledge explosion with which we are confronted. I once said, tongue in cheek, that a TIER 2 CIDA GRANT APPLICATION demands the construction of a team. You need
- a reader who specializes in how to read the AUCC / CIDA guidelines as they change from year to year;
- an interpreter who specializes in what the current buzzwords are in government circles actually mean and how to use them in your documents;
- an accountant who specializes in cash flow, international money transfer, and book balancing;
- a manager who specializes in Results Based Management or whatever form of management system is the current government buzz word;
- this manager must also have organizational skills to link the various parts of the application to the Results Based Management that is currently demanded by AUCC/CIDA.
Further, the manager must have people skills in order to hold the team together when things are going badly or well, for triumph and disaster, as we well know although both impostors are ever present when applying for Grants from Government Sources; you also need
- a writer who specializes in writing up the final text so that it will convince the granting authorities that you, the applicant, another often forgotten member of the team, actually knows what you are doing;
- finally you need what I call a people person or a wheeler - dealer who will get out there and make the appropriate contacts and find out who are the current movers and shakers and who will actually give you the internal promotion that your CIDA GRANT needs if the application is to be successful.
I would also suggest, perhaps not totally tongue in cheek, that a similar team approach to the writing of SSHRCC GRANTS FOR THE HUMANITIES would not be a bad idea.
TEAMWORK: As I said earlier, I completed my Certificate in MultiMedia Studies at the University of New Brunswick this summer. One of the things that I learned was the importance of teamwork in computing.
In our first SCENARIO FOR A CASE STUDY this summer, for example, we were required to design and build a commercial web site. Of course one person can build a website, and a pretty good one at that. But the studio team which we were given consisted of
- a graphic artist,
- a sound engineer,
- a creative director,
- a computer tech,
- a multimedia specialist,
- a photographer,
- a specialist in digital photography,
- a graphics designer, and
- a colour specialist.
We did not have digital video capacity and were forced to contract digital video out. Costing was also a major part of the exercise: how many people, how many tasks, what order for the tasks, how many hours, how much time, how much money! I repeat: the new paradigms of knowledge that are developing around us will be demanding more and more teamwork from us.
I will end this brief presentation by reminding you that this fall, on Saturday October the Sixteenth, 1999, to be precise, the Atlantic Teaching Showcase will be coming to St. Thomas University, Fredericton. I hope to see some of you in St. Thomas, at that meeting. I am, as many of you know, the Chair of the Atlantic Association of Universities Teaching Showcase for this year.
However, I have not arranged the Showcase on my own. On the contrary: I have gathered a team of faculty and together we are working towards the Teaching Showcase. In fact, I have one person looking after finances, another looking after registration, another building a website, another looking after catering, another looking after audio visual equipment, another booking rooms, another organizing the program, another recruiting and organizing student help. We have planned and arranged the program between about eight of us.
An exercise in teamwork, no less.
I know that in all that I have said so far today, here at Mount Allison University, I am talking to people who know as much as I do, or more, about all these things: REBIRTH, RENAISSANCE, TEAM WORK, COLLABORATION. For a very long time, I have been impressed by the quality of Mount Allison’s teachers and by the quality of Mount Allison’s students.
In five weeks’ time, at the Atlantic Association of Universities Teaching Showcase, there will be a session entitled “WORKING TOGETHER: MODELS OF COLLABORATION INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM.” This particular session is a perfect example of the type of teamwork I have been talking about today. The session was presented to me in its entirety as a proposal for a single session incorporating 4 papers and some interactive discussion. The session will have a 90 minute slot and I very much hope to be present for what promises to be an exciting time. The session currently consists of a series of four papers, as follows:
- “Mixing media: High Theory, Low Culture (or Inviting Popular Culture into the Classroom”;
- “Collaborating with Students: Sharing Power over Syllabus Design”;
- “Interdisciplinary Collaborative Project: A Model”;
- “Beyond Discipline: Facilitating Collaborative Student Research”.
The session organizers are all associated with Mount Allison University and I would like to congratulate Professors Pat Saunders-Evans, Deborah Wills, Robert Lapp, Jeff and Ausra Burns on the hard work they have put in to an excellent integrated proposal.
Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery. I have stood here today and spoken to you and you have kindly listened to my words. Tomorrow, I will spend part of my RE-BIRTH-DAY with you, here at Mount Allison. I have been invited to attend your Learning and Teaching Development Workshops, and I hope to take back to St. Thomas University some of the excellent ideas on which you are working here on campus. You are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in your field. Tomorrow, it will be my turn to listen to, and learn from, you!
Thank you for inviting me here.
And thank you for listening.
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