“Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed”

If I could say it more beautifully I would try, but I cannot. Bertrand Russell, a towering intellect, kind man and one of my heroes described perfectly what I think teaching and thinking should be like. His ten commandments of teaching from the 1951 issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Taking the faff out of booking meetings

The usual procedure for booking a meeting between student and tutor/ supervisor is a flurry of emails – can I meet you?, yes, when?, that day? cannot make that, another day?, no, can’t do that time etc.

Having spent many an unhappy hour with sending such emails back and forth, I have now introduced a new system for meeting my students. I have blocked out one morning and one afternoon a week when students can book a meeting with me, online, no emails required. They select the timeslot they want, fill in a brief form (incl. purpose of meeting) and the system sends both students and me and email to confirm the time and adds it to my google calendar. Meeting booked. No emails exchanged.

And it is all free, powered by the youcanbookme.com site. So, if you are one my students, you can book an appointment to see me!

It has reduced my emailing by a lot. And THAT is worth something.

Moving from lab web page to blog

Call me a cheapskate, but hosting a personal webpage about my work is expensive and maybe not that useful for anyone. Blogs might just be the way forward to update things quickly and give quick news about research etc. if it does not work, I’ll go back to hosting my own personal webpages — i.e. pages which allow me to publicise my work without being subject to university rules.