Corpus Christi, History

Johnathan is totally new to Cambridge and hopes to find solidarity with his peers who are also just starting out in the bubble. He likes nothing more than an adventure, and has previously tried semi-professional kart racing, motor biking and even a flying lesson or two. His application column was about Greggs. We liked this.

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JOHNATHAN ZEMLIK is getting to grips with lecturers, and takes a look at the good, the bad and the unwashed.

There are three types of lecturers: good ones, bad ones and ones that just don’t care. A major privilege of Cambridge is being taught by the greatest minds in their respective fields. A good lecturer, can make the most skull-crushingly boring aspects of your course seem fascinating.

But just because you’re an expert doesn’t make you a good teacher. You can have the best ideas in your field, but if you can’t break it down and explain it no one will care. Put more bluntly, you can’t polish a turd.

Recently I went to a lecture series where a good 40% of what was said went over my head, mainly because the lecturer spoke at the speed of a pitched rap-battle, mentioning concepts and theories I can’t even spell, never mind understand. While I know the problem isn’t me, coming out of the lecture I still feel stupid for not understanding.

Worse than the amateur rappers are lecturers with agendas, people who want to convey a message. They think they’re being subtle by introducing it into the lecture, but in reality it’s like being treated as a bunch of dumb kids.

For God’s sake we’re at Cambridge we can see right through the shit you’re selling. While I respect someone for having views on something, I can’t stand it when people refuse to listen to others.  When question time comes and you don’t get an answer, either because they dart off before someone demolishes their 1960s Marxist ideology or they kick up a dust storm of irrelevant waffle to hide behind, I’m left seething and still no closer to understanding.

Then there are the lecturers who don’t care. Usually older and quite experienced, they speak well, if a little monotonously.

But look into their eyes and you’re met with the cold, dead gaze of someone who’s taught the same lecture series for the past 40 years. If they were to die and be reborn in some sort of zombie apocalypse, they’d just stagger back over to the history faculty and continue lecturing, thumbing through their well-leafed notes.

This breed of nonchalant, questionably un-dead lecturer also tends to tread a very narrow line between academic and tramp. They may be able to build a supercollider but they’ve never heard of a washing machine.

There’s a link between level of filth and intellect among academics. The scruffiest looking people around the faculty are in fact the geniuses of their age often found in a badly stained jumper, musing on interpretations of Holbein Painting, or the importance of numerology in the King James Bible. When I give money to some of the homeless in Cambridge I wonder if the money will go towards someone’s next meal or a young academics PHD fund?

There’s diversification of quality everywhere, it’s a sad fact that some lectures will prove utterly useless. Lets face it we’re at Cambridge, we can take it; we may have some terrible lectures, but they’re the best terrible lecturers in the country.

  • History is


    "I went to a lecture series where a good 40% of what was said went over my head"

    Try going to a maths lecture.

  • yeah i agree

    i'm cleverer that all my lecturers too

  • Ya didn't mention…

    Are you from the North?

    • Comment Judge


  • Which

    university are you at again?

  • Legal Eagle

    I would say that the old lecturers are usually the best because they have been going so long that all their agenda has dissappeared and they give the conventional position AND the controversial stuff rather than just talk up their latest theory. Also they tend to speak at a human speed.

    • Lawya

      Clearly you never took jurisprudence and have never met Nigel Simmonds. Despite it being the subject in law in which the most things are potentially debatable, the man simply will not contemplate other opinions.

  • Turd polisher

    That's not what polishing a turd means.

  • Terrance

    Lectures are a place to kick back, take of your shoes and sock and make some small talk with your peers. If I sit next to an attractive girl I introduce myself as Terrance, if I sit next to a boy I introduce myself as Jonathan

  • I'm sure…

    …you're a lovely bloke, but this article makes you sound like a waspish, complacent, ignorant and self-obsessed twat. I know you're a fresher, but come on mate, it's week 8, the novelty of being at Cambridge should have worn off by now (at least to the extent that you don't feel the need to constantly reference it).

    I also don't really get why you're dining out on mocking senior academics for their age, appearance and dress sense – you're here to learn from them, not shag them. On a final note, perhaps if you did a bit more reading (only if there's time before Cindies lol!) then you might grasp the concepts and theories that you can't spell a little quicker during your lectures, and the spark of comprehension that will illuminate your face might even help to resurrect the eyes of your lecturers, who are probably dismayed to be wasting their time presenting to uninterested and precocious first-year undergrads

  • the problem

    definitely is you

  • you come across

    as a brat.

  • Syntactico the great

    You write poorly. Find a new hobby next term eh?

  • Beth

    I have so many problems with this article, I can't list them all. Maybe learn to proof read, learn to use commas correctly (especially in opening paragraphs) and also learn how to correctly use the phrase 'you can't polish a turd'. All of these skills will become useful in later life.

    • Captain Humble

      I thumbs-downed this comment when I meant to thumbs-up it, and for this I am truly sorry.

  • ImSoHurt

    Trigger warning:
    This is worse by far than the merciless baiting any fat/thin/ginger/anyone received from the sidelines of sporting fixtures held on 22 acres due to its sexist nature. Don’t just kick him out of uni, hang him. Bring back the death penalty for anyone who shouts something as morally bankrupt. Even better, collect roughly equal parts of righteousness and futility and start an media campaign attempting to turn the country against him when a middle finger would have done at the time.
    This has triggered me, and reminds me of that monster rightfully doing nine months in jail for momentarily wapping his todger on the head of that pissed girl at a party, fuck him, fuck the rest of his life and fuck this psychotic, bigoted, misogynistic menace to society as well.
    You go girls, keep up the great work