Fast Track: Classes for the wounded and self-indulgent fools

Night classes are great for qualifications, but for personal developmen t?

The new academic year is here again, but wannabe university students aren't the only ones rushing to get places. Further education colleges all over London are currently in the midst of the hectic night-class enrolment period, which will last until term begins on 21 September.

Night classes provide a valuable service. They plug the gap between what you've forgotten or were never taught at school, and what you now need to know in the adult world. With many of the vocational courses already fully enrolled, the popularity of the night class is in no doubt. Whether you need to refresh your rusty O-Level French or learn a new computer package for work, or if maturity has brought a curiosity about a subject you never paid attention to at school, a night class is a way to improve and extend yourself.

However, vocational courses for those who wish to give their careers a shot in the arm, and those which provide a recognised qualification, account for only part of what's on offer to the night class enrollee for the 1998/99 session in Greater London. The non-vocational courses, which range from arts and crafts, covering painting, ceramics and writing, now count among their number an increasing amount of "alternative" courses which offer an insight into the current obsessions of our culture. Still, night classes have always been about more than just straightforward off- the-job learning. In the accommodating world of the evening class, there has always been a place beside the functional for the sublime.

Take the creative writing class. A hugely popular option, creative writing classes offer a refuge for the misunderstood creative genius stifled by a hash and insensitive world. The would-be writers who attend should benefit from the chance to read their work aloud, and get constructive criticism from the teacher and fellow students. Alas, many who attend are often thwarted in their attempts to improve because of the common presence of a certain type of character. Creative writing classes all too often seem to harbour the kind of writer who, despite flying in the face of the opinion of anyone who has ever come into contact with their work, believe that they possess a creative genius which the rest of the world is too blind to see. How, then, are the opinions of these people, so obviously at odds with the real world, going to help others improve their writing?

After the functional vocational courses, and the long-established arts courses, a fast growing sector of night classes are concerned with pseudo- psychological "personal development". These courses are non-vocational, concentrating on more ambiguous skills such as communication, understanding and relating. They are increasing in popularity and, despite offering no kind of qualification or final assessment, they are fully booked every year.

Once a solely American phenomenon, the "personal development" class is now de rigueur in British FE colleges. Like the self-help book, that other great American institution which has found favour this side of the Atlantic, personal development classes offer an array of solutions to problems you never knew you had. Did you, for example, ever find it difficult to "be in a group"? If so, hey presto! The "Being in a Group" sessions offered by the City Literary Institute, one of the larger FE colleges, located in Covent Garden, promise to teach you precisely "how to be in a group", presumably by getting together with other people each week and sitting in a room.

Other courses include such treats as "The Wounded Healer", where those that have been "emotionally wounded" can turn it to their advantage with the help of a two-day class in which they will "explore themes of the wounded healer through the myth of Chiron and initiation rites of Shamanism".

While leafing though a self-help book in the privacy of your own bedroom may be a comforting and possibly useful diversion, if a bit naff, to identity yourself as "a wounded healer" and devote two days to indulging in the myth of Chiron and initiation rites of shamanism, in a college in Covent Garden, starts to verge on the kind of self-indulgent hippyish fads favoured by Ab Fab's Edina Monsoon.

But, of course, it's generally accepted that many people go to night classes just for the social life, and that the enrollees on courses such as "The Wounded Healer" are more interested in the company of other human beings than in mythical figures named Chiron. How much self-deception is required to convince yourself that you'll learn something worthwhile on the "Wounded Healer" class, when what you're really trying to do is to avoid watching Police, Camera, Action! over a meal for one?

On scanning many of the non-vocational courses, it appears that all it takes to carve out a career running personal development evening classes is a nice line in psychobabble. Some tutors would seem better suited to teaching "How to pull a fast one and get 25 people to shell out pounds 60 on a night class, plus the cost of the course text, which happens to be written by you". Though some tutors' entrepreneurial skills may need more honing before they offer any more "Clown Skills" courses, like the one at the City Literary Institute, whose description sails a little too close to the thinly veiled piss-take wind when it promises that "students can expect to learn an awareness of their own stupidity".

Whoa! What a vindictive streak has emerged. Perhaps a course on "Diffusing and Managing my Argumentative Streak" is called for, or possibly the "Anger, Pain and Creativity" class at the May Ward Centre, or even over to the Hounslow Adult Centre for "Choosing to Live Happily" because, at the end of the day, whatever problem or interest you can imagine, there's a night class somewhere about it.

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin