What you really need to know about knowledge

A note from our editors on this Knowledge edition of Et Cetera.

Everything in Et Cetera is about the student experience; all those factors around us that shape our time at university. We’re devoting this edition to focus on the concept of knowledge itself. How it is disseminated, how it’s accessed, what we’re learning and why, and what we should know about this.

The academic world that we live in is strange. You pick a course, get a summary of what it’s about, buy some second-hand textbooks and start trawling through the content. Three to four months fly by and suddenly you’re sitting in an over-air-conditioned exam room, palms sweaty and head pounding, trying to recall 13 weeks of lectures in two hours of pure endurance and exhilaration. Knowledge, right?

We heard a bold claim from a recent graduate that he had learned virtually nothing in three years of studying finance, and it got us wondering how common that feeling is. Tertiary education is meant to impart a level of knowledge that guides each student’s interests and, ultimately, their future profession or career prospects. If the romantic ideal of knowledge learnt and retained is obsolete, then what are we all still doing here? Check out Bridget Rumball’s article for a critique of the narrow definition of ‘knowledge’ in the university experience. 

Since we launched Et Cetera at the beginning of the year, our list of contributors has been growing. Our new writing team felt very passionate about a theme like Knowledge  – probably because the pursuing of one’s interests and commitment to a subject area is a highly personal and often arduous experience. Benjamin Ezzes makes his case for the study of classical languages, Elizabeth Harris argues for the introduction of mandatory classes in writing skills, and Nick Blood tackles the STEM vs humanities debate through a sustainability lens. 

The luxury of having these years of your life to just think, read, and meet new people from different places, and to be working not for someone else but towards advancing your own, self-directed intellect, is not to be taken for granted.

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