Studying from a different perspective
Studying from a different perspective
Many of us like to engage in further study when we leave school. For some, it is an important element of their career path, for example, if they want to be doctors, lawyers or engineers. Some people embark on courses later in life, either to advance their careers, or to change to something completely different.
In the old days, much university work was encouraged to be original research, but in more recent times the emphasis has been on collating everyone’s research and very little original work is being produced.
Recently I decided that I would like to work in Counselling supervision and applied for a master’s degree in Counselling which would give me a good level of qualification, so that I could supervise any level of counsellor. I was told that my pre-existing engineering degree wasn’t suitable as a starting point and, as all of the counselling qualifications I had were below degree level, I would have to complete a Post Graduate Counselling Diploma and then I could do a master’s degree. It would mean a delay of two years, and lots of extra study.
In the Engineering degree course that I completed in 1972, there were lectures to attend, practical experiments to do, lots of calculations, reports to write, but no essay writing. In the graduate level counselling course, there are lectures via video, tutorials to attend via Zoom, two-day in-person workshops, heaps of books to read, films/videos to watch and two essays to write per trimester (term). The interactive tutorials and in person workshops are fun, the essays are not.
The reason the essays are not fun, is because we must show we have done research through reading, which means citing references. We are not allowed to plagiarise anyone’s work, which is fair enough, but we must discuss what other people have written about, show other people’s opinions, and then write what we think about them. Sometimes we are allowed to write from our own experiences, but it doesn’t appear to be encouraged. We are all rich with lived experience, yet in the world of academia you are only allowed to reference experts who have written a book and many of those books are written entirely based on citing other experts, so it becomes a circus act of who said what.
One of the challenges of writing using other resources is the way we are obliged to cite references – I understand there has to be some kind of regulation or consistency so that the lists are easy to read and easily recognisable, but the formatting is extremely tight. Some people avoid the hardship of this aspect of study by subscribing to expensive software that does it for them. This bypasses the effort, but what does it say about the value of accurate citing when we subcontract the process out to software? Attention to detail is important because in order to get pass marks, when it comes to citations and reference lists, the placement of every comma and full stop matters. My question is, what really matters here?
The relationship with future clients is what matters, whether you are a doctor seeing patients, a lawyer representing people in court, an engineer designing some highly technical equipment, or a counsellor seeing clients via Zoom and face-to-face, it is the relationship between us and the people we serve that matters.
The ability of the counsellor to listen with empathy, with positive regard and with zero judgement is not changed by their ability to put a comma in the right place. All trainee counsellors must undergo practice hours, but initially the emphasis is almost exclusively on learning and writing accurately about theory, and not on the people who will be using our services when we graduate.
The world of academia, it appears, is so focused on the intelligent way it presents itself and the information it has access to, that it appears to be losing sight of the practical side of life, the human connection. Whatever the subject, it is important that all students and graduates can relate to each other and the rest of humanity as real human beings, so that they can offer truly advancing and deepening service.
Our true evolution is in how we relate to each other, regardless of whether we are a doctor, engineer, lawyer or counsellor. Not just universities but schools as well, need to focus less on paper documentation of people’s abilities, and focus more on how well students are interacting with each other and their teachers.
The shootings in America are witness to how we as a society are developing; no amount of academic education will stop the evil that is being conducted on our streets and in our private homes. Domestic violence, rape, theft and murder are escalating all over the world and the high-level academia, with its rigour and referencing, have shown themselves to be powerless to stop it. The ivory towers, built of words, paper and computer screens are not serving our genuine and heartfelt need.
We as a human race have a different kind of education that we need to explore. We all need to work to support society, and many of us need to study a trade in order to serve others, but we also need to stay in tune with those we serve, to see everyone as equal regardless of their academic status, for indeed we are all equal, deep inside.
Our education needs to include social skills, self-awareness, care for others, and responsibility for living in a way that truly serves and enriches, so that what we bring to the workplace is human connection, quality of service and an energy that inspires evolution for all.
Attention to detail is important in every job and especially in the counselling relationship, because a good counsellor needs to be able to observe the client’s subtle body movements, and hear the nuances in their tone of voice, in order to get the full picture of what the client is feeling and expressing. How can we use our studies and essay writing to deepen and develop this real skill base, to produce a counsellor who is attuned to the subtleties of the client, and not just the placement of a comma?