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Mark Steel Lectures - Why The OU Worked With Mark

Updated Thursday, 21st October 2004

It's not the most obvious union at first sight - a University and a comedian. The OU's Derek Matravers explains the hook-up, and reveals why Mark.

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Mark Steel is well-known as a comedian and a newspaper columnist. He was the author and presenter of a series of lectures on various famous people that went out on BBC Radio 4. These were funny and accessible, and conveyed something of the passion and excitement of getting to grips with the thoughts of great individuals.

Our thought was that if Mark could convey such excitement on the radio, it would be worth seeing if he could do it on the television. Mark was, on his own admission, not very good at school. If we could show him dealing with ideas, and putting forward his own take on ideas, this could convince others that this was something that should be part of any decent human life.

What these programmes show is that we don’t have to put up with the second-hand and second-rate ideas that are given to us, that we can get a different perspective by looking at the lives and thoughts of some great intellects from the past. Cultivating the intellect in this way is the essence of university study. This, in brief, is why we backed these programmes. Mark reveals, by example, that education can be taken seriously without retreating to a place where no one can follow it.

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