BasseyUbong

On Clichés – A Prolegomenon

Lessonslearnedinlife.com posted this quote in 2016 from an unknown author: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” The blog continues by saying that it is good to determine which of the three is the basis for someone’s entry into someone’s life so that the person knows how to relate with that entrant.
It is sad that the original author is not known for that person deserves giant credit.

In my experience spanning over three score years, I can attest to above-quoted aphorism and can dare to assign approximate percentages – without the benefit of formal research – to the categories: 100% of persons enter people’s lives for a reason for there can be no accidental encounter (if you are a determinist). The second and the third share 100% at the proportion of 90% to season or transitory and 10% to lifetime or permanence. It is the 10% that make life worth living and unfortunately they are few and far between. It must be noted that in the three categories interactions generally lead to outcomes ranging from the benign (as in a conversation during a brief interaction that provides useful information or makes someone angry or pleased) to the other extreme involving something that changes life for the better or worse (such as a marriage or termination of life). It is a long positive-negative continuum of a mixed bag of outcomes usually indeterminate at commencement.

The long preamble is for me to inform the reader that once upon a time I met a man known and called Professor Joseph Donatus Okoh, a teacher par excellence among the long list of who he is, what he has been and what he stands for. I met him through Professor Addison Mark Wokocha my brother, friend, mentor, and colleague in that order, himself a product from Professor Okoh’s intellectual factory in the specialist field of Philosophy of Education.
One of the unique attributes of Professor Okoh is that his curriculum vitae has space for the number of persons he successfully supervised for the PhD and the number from that group that have become Professors. I am in one of the groups as at today. Professor J. D. Okoh has touched my life in a decidedly positive and permanent way. One of the female hostels in Abu Ivy Technical College in my village of Oboyo has been named after his wife, Professor Julie Okoh, an award-winning playwright; another female hostel is named Nkechi Vivian Wokocha House, wife of Professor Wokocha who has also touched my life in a positive and permanent way.

So why did the matter of this academic colossus, once Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt and Visiting Professor in Canada, USA, and United Kingdom forced me when we were five hours away by road to write on the subject of the English word cliche? It is because Professor Okoh continues to be a philosopher separated though not divorced from the ivory tower (a cliche?) of formal education. After reading my post on “A stitch in time saves nine” (he reads all my posts and comments on some) he directed me (better still, gave me an assignment) being one of his lifetime students to critically examine some cliches the list of which he sent ‘peremptorily” as a Prof should send to his student although he said with humility that he is “eager to learn.” I readily accepted and I have been reading up preparatory to writing on each of them. No scores will come to me but I am certain my comments will keep him awake and make him live longer for us. Professor Wokocha always commented on sermon summaries I sent to him every Sunday. He would have been delighted in my current posts if he had not crossed the river earlier than he should.

Before taking on the first cliche on “It takes a whole village to train a child” which is typically African in our traditional social system, let me conclude this short preamble by highlighting one of Prof Okoh’s teaching methods. Yes, he employed the chalk and talk approach but at graduate level he, as I read, prefered the discovery method. Much of the interaction we had (my class could be counted on the fingers of one hand, reason? See the logo of the Philosophy of Education Association of Nigeria which shows a bald-headed man; it can be read that philosophers are persons with “lean and hungry look” and who are dangerous. William Shakespeare speaking through Caesar in the play “Julius Caesar” noted that Yond Cassius is like a philosopher because he had a lean and hungry look because “he thinks too much.” Because philosophers think too much they are as sparse as teeth in the mouth of a nonagenarian).

Prof Okoh would give assignments that required dozens of pages as an answer. Same went for MEd and PhD semester examinations to be presented to him as viva (just in case a student or candidate paid commercial writers to do the work). Know ye teachers at the graduate level and even undergraduate level that open textbook examination is more difficult than the closed book approach if the questions are in the argument format instead of “list” or “explain” etc. Only intelligent and hard-working students know several locations in a book that the answers can be pieced together. A student or candidate verily learns a hundred times more while writing an examination at home in the discussion and argument format rather than selecting three out of five questions plus objectives of which luck plays a major part. Imagine answering ten questions – all, no choice, which covers the entire course outline for the semester – for just one-semester examination! Some of those answers have ended up as journal papers in their right.

If you have a quarrel with that approach then you are not aware of the unique style in Finland adjudged the best education system in the world now being studied by several countries for the purpose of adopting. Only one examination after primary school is administered to determine whether the child is mature enough to go further or not. This, the only one in the school system is neither formative (periodic) nor summative (final) and therefore not on curriculum content.

With this brief intro, I can now comment on the subject of cliches, bearing in mind that long before linguistic philosophy came on the scene, philosophers engaged themselves in gymnastics of definitions and contextualization before entering the arcane stomach of the lion to attempt an analysis for knowledge’s sake or for pragmatic purposes.

The case therefore not rested.

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