Thursday, February 4, 2010

Plants and Factories

Last Saturday’s Says You [or Sez You, maybe: I have never seen it written], featured a round of differences: tavern versus saloon, pupil versus student, repulsive versus repugnant and so forth. I noted particularly the discussion of plant and factory. It seems that while the latter refers to the building or set of buildings within which manufacturing takes place, the former term covers not just the buildings but also all the equipment and other resources inside.

This distinction is confirmed by my Longman’s Modern English Dictionary:

Plant: the assemblage of buildings, tools, etc. used to manufacture some kind of goods or power.

Factory: a building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured by collective production.

Why am I intrigued by this? Because syllabus design used to be like building a plant. We created the space, we installed the machines and tools, we ordered the raw materials. Then the students came to work.

Now syllabus design is like building a factory. We are still responsible for creating the space, I think: we name and advertise the course, locate it in classrooms both actual and digital. Everyone knows ahead of time what kind of business we are in. But now we wait for our fellow workers to arrive, and only then do we consider what machines to install, what tools to make available, what raw materials to order.

And, of course, I especially like that final phrase in the definition of factory: “collective production.” The essence of education, say I.

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