Tuesday 4 June 2013

Exam Revision - I hearby declare it is concentration time

I have an OU exam next week - Tuesday to be precise.  In the afternoon, in Leeds.  Dreading it. 

As you may know, if you follow my posts, I've been an Open University scholar for many years, mainly for fun (yes, I know I'm crazy, but 'different strokes').  Unfortunately since the changes to the fee structure and other associated re-organisations at the OU I haven't been enjoying myself anywhere near enough.  I wrote a blog post about the changes a week or so ago.
A panorama of Blenheim Place, all pillars and twiddly bits on the roofs
Blenheim Palace (from Wikipedia)

This year's module has been AD281 - Understanding Global Heritage.  Sounds like history doesn't it, just my thing, especially with the new museum opening in Barnsley this summer.  Ah, but, no, but ... it turned out to be about politics and definitions of what heritage actually is and how it is manipulated by the "people in power" to reinforce their actions, ignoring the stories of the subaltern (that's lower or lesser peoples, such as the working class, indigenous peoples, women, slaves and so on) groups and generally being very colonial (the western European outlook is sooooo superior to everyone else) about what can be counted as being of "Outstanding Universal Value". 

There's this nice (bless her cotton socks!) Australian lady, Laurajane Smith, who has written a book, Uses of Heritage (2006), which is surely only one viewpoint, her own personal one it sometimes feels like, and yet we have been expected to take on board her ideas on the "Authorised Heritage Discourse" (now known to us poor students as the AHD) as if they were  the only explanation going.   I'm not saying it doesn't make sense, far from it, but I've done other OU courses where we were expected to criticise authors using other works as part of the course and none of that seems to be going on here, apart from a (very) few mentions of Patrick Wright, Robert Hewison and Raphael Samuel.  I guess this is because they wrote in the 1980s and 90s ... so LJS has trumped them and no-one has critted (yes I know it's not a word) her yet so we are stuck with her as the great new thing.

Anyway, to get to the crux of the matter, there's a three hour exam next Tuesday afternoon.  I get to type my answers, thank goodness, with my wrists and shoulders there is no way I could write for three hours straight.  Even taking minimal notes for revision has been a pain, literally!  I've been making lists and plans and studying the structure of the exam paper (they send us a Specimen Exam Paper (SEP) and an advance notification about the chapters and themes which will be covered in two out of three of the questions.  This means (what a surprise) that it is of very little help, except possibly psychologically, as the second question, the compare and contrast, could be about anything at all - so you have to have a good overview of the whole nine months work to be on the safe side.  
Foreground, wierd colours of dried chemical deposts on the shore of a lake or pond, middle ground erupting water geyser, background pine trees.
Geyser erupting in Yellowstone Park (from Wikipedia)

So far I've looked at most of LJS's stuff - being such a big part of the syllabus she's bound to crop up in the exam - and a handful of case studies in detail.  Our last essay was on Multiculturalism, so I'm skipping that, it's either in my head from the TMA (tutor marked assignment) or it's not.  Similarly Yellowstone Park and Blenheim Palace, as they were the topic of another essay.  In an attempt to study things I find most interesting I've been looking at Carpenters Estate in East London (council high rises threatened by the developers), New Lanark in Scotland (the town built around a cotton mill by Robert Owen's father in law and improved by Robert in the early 19th century with the well being of the workers in mind) and today it's the turn of some Tenement Housing in Glasgow.  I like housing ... 
19th century or early 20th century living room, range fireplace, crowded with furniture, hanging washing airer, dark pictures on the walls, proggy rugs on the table.
Miners' Cottages living room with proggy rugs, Beamish (from Flickr)

I might manage to squidge in a bit of Beamish (given I just spent two days there hoping for a question on it may be pushing serendipity too far) and the Archives of the UK and the Republic of Ireland (who decided what to save and what to throw away).  I have to cover more natural stuff, so I've picked a hodge podge of things, to go with Yellowstone: the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, in the Philippines, Orford Ness in Suffolk (wildlife and concrete pagodas), the Darien National Park in the Panama and Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire (two out of four of them are World Heritage sites, honest; yes, I didn't know that before this course either and they are not the British ones). 

I have memorised the ten criteria the World Heritage Convention use to 'inscribe' buildings, groups of buildings, sites and places.  Each of my fingers now means something - Creative genius, Human Values, Testimony to Civilisation, Stages Human History, Vulnerable settlement, Beliefs Tangibly linked, Aesthetic Natural, Stages Natural History, Processes Ecological Biological and Conservation Biodiversity Habitats.  Of course the full criteria are much longer and have many more mouthy words in them, but the main push is that they have to be of "Outstanding Universal Value" - whatever that means (ohh, a bit of LJS creeping in there!)  
Banner protesting "UCL and Grab" with a picture of a digger threatening housing and a tower block and a tree, carried in a procession
Demonstration against the planned demolition of Carpenters Estate (from thepolisblog)

I only have to pass ... I only have to pass ... I only have to pass ... but of course, me being me that isn't enough - I want to do well, a philosophy drummed into me  in my youth - you have to do better than everyone else otherwise you are a failure (despite knowing that this is hogwash now, it's still embedded in my psyche). 

So farewell blog, for the next week at least ... I'll let you know how it goes.


GoneSouth said...

Hope you did as well as you hoped!
I am a great fan of the OU and was sad that they both put the fees up and discontinued all postgraduate psychology which was what I was then wanting to do. I did the first year of a 2-year Masters at Oxford Brookes instead but it wasn't a patch on my undergraduate psychology course (albeit 20 years earlier). I am sorry to hear that the critical openness which was so wonderful about the OU is in jeopardy.
I know what you mean about not feeling it is good enough just to pass....Very hard to shake off.

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi again,
I have also responded to your comment on my Page Bank blog post.

Yes I got a Pass2 in my last exam. Which meant I got a 2.1 Humanities with History degree overall. I would have loved to continue to study for ever, and have tried some of the new FutureLearn courses. Unfortunately I seem to be the sort of person who needs a goal or a deadline. I found I wasn't motivated to complete the courses as they weren't 'worth' anything.
I read lots of academic history books instead now and just wish I still had access to the Open Uni library for journals and other resources ... maybe one day will be able to afford to do some further study at a higher level. Cross fingers.

GoneSouth said...

Good luck with it all Linda. Maybe there will be a miracle tomorrow and lifelong learning will be brought back under slightly less austerity......
So glad you got your degree. I know what you mean about the deadlines keeping us focussed, but sometimes they can become a bit of a treadmill too. A fine line......