Education: Letter - No enlightenment on the Net

IN HER article ("The online truth is out there" Education, 14 January), Lucy Hodges apparently endorses the view that "the lecturer of the future will offer patience and sympathy to students, not revelation [of the truth]".

The Internet is excellent for conveying "information". Some will be true; some false. Great skill is needed to sort one from t'other, and to realise that much is neither "true" or "false", since it offers different ways of looking at problems, and different approaches may be more or less useful in different circumstances.

The Internet may be quite useful for "training" (i.e. the passing-on of relatively simple skills). However, when it comes to higher education, the Internet is a poor substitute for a lecturer.

I doubt if many lecturers have ever spent much time in "revelation of the truth". We do convey information, but we have always, patiently and sympathetically, tried to help students to understand why "the truth" is so hard to find, and why it is even more important to acquire the complex skills needed to understand and evaluate the utility of the different approaches on offer.

Teaching (in a didactic manner) a prescribed syllabus of conventional wisdom, is not what higher education is all about. Exposing students to competing ideas is an (intellectual) contact sport for human beings. That's what makes it an enjoyable and uplifting experience for all concerned.


Department of Psychology

Dundee University