Mouse or Rat

I was teaching mostly research scientists last week, and in a discussion about how to improve our various working environments, one of them speculated that it would be nice to have fewer mice. I double-took. What was she suggesting? When I asked her what she meant (was she an anti-vivisectionist? did she want voice activation on her PC?) she said that she worked in an old building which had housed laboratories for many years, and over time mice had escaped and irrevocably colonised the offices. I told her she was lucky they had only been experimenting on mice, since chimps colonising the offices would probably not be as cute as it sounds. But I could see how it might be somewhat demoralising.

I suppose mice on the loose is an occupational hazard for a research scientist (and, if you ask me, fair play to the mice). Later in the week, when my scientists were tasked to design an ideal workspace, the group had some trouble convincing one of their number that they did not need to designate a space especially for the mice (in the basement, if I recall). It is not the first thing you would think of, if you were not an experimental life scientist.

We do not run vivisections here at OISE (and there are no escaped students colonising the basement, so far as I am aware). There is, however, always a whiff of the laboratory about some of the classrooms. The classroom is where you try stuff out, whether as teacher or as student. It is not exactly a controlled space, but, loosely, language learning and teaching progress by trial and error. Give it a go, put it right, try again. Not everything works; by the same token, not everything that does not work is a waste of time.

And at the end of each week, we turn our newly-modified and gene-spliced productions (i.e. our clients) out into the mazes of the real world to see how they will fare. We have yet to produce a mutant super-linguist, but I suppose we can live in hope.