Thursday, 8 May 2008

A variety of salad leaf

This week's Times Higher Education Supplement has a leader on the appalling treatment meted out to foreign language teachers by Italian universities. I wrote it. Here's a taste:
I became a lettore in 1982, in Rome. The building I worked in was a box of concrete and rattling glass that would soon be declared unfit for purpose and abandoned. My first class, for beginners, had almost 100 students and was held in a room the shape of a boot. Standing at the toe, I watched what I taught being relayed to the hidden third of the class beyond the heel. Students would turn up hours before class began for a seat within sight and hearing of me. It didn't surprise me that only 10 per cent of Italian students graduated.
I didn't have space to describe the room we were given in the place to which the faculty was moved a few years later. The building had been a private clinic of some sort. There was a padded cell on the third floor and in some ways I'm surprised we weren't told to store our books and receive students in that. But someone had a better idea. The morgue. Perhaps it was felt that the chilly atmosphere would help us to preserve our linguistic freshness. (You'll need to read the piece to understand this reference, and the title. And if you'd like to leave a comment, I'd be delighted.)

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