Yesterday, at about 4pm, work kind of ground to a halt. I found myself distracted, with a nagging feeling that I should be revising a paper, but not actually being able to bring myself to it.
I did the pretty routine job of dealing with emails, emails that did not require much conscious thought. Satisfying in terms of production and job completion, but soulless and not deeply satisfying.
I looked at my bookshelves, books that I had collected on education and mathematics education. Books that I had inherited from my predecessor who was retiring. Books that I had picked up from other members of the faculty as they retired.
I thought to myself, “there are lots of these books that I haven’t actually read.” I began pulling them off the shelves. Finding things that I didn’t know I had, a book on gender and mathematics and a book on parents and maths. The gender book will be useful for a masters student and the other a colleague will find interesting. I leave them on the table.
By 4.30pm I was getting committed to a book sort. Should have been something I was doing at the beginning of the day. I was starting to pile up and collate books in themes. Certainly ‘research methods’ is an important and regularly used section, so are my class, society, social justice, sociology books, and then there are my psychology and learning books. Oh and the books on professional learning and professional development. I was pleased with the slightest semblance of emergent order. But it was all late in the day.
I lingered a while on Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism. I had been reading about Scruton’s influence on education in the 1970s and 1980s. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read it there and then and my office was now trashed in a minor way (enough disorder not to be ordered).
I was overwhelmed with all the knowledge that was there on my shelf, and how much human effort had been used to generate it. What’s the point? No one lives long enough to read all this stuff. How do we make use of all this knowledge to improve education?
Perhaps I can write a book about it.