A conversation with Dr. Nicholas David James Baldwin, Dean of Wroxton College
Interview and photo by Dan Landau
If there is any one person who represents the Wroxton Experience, it would be Dr. Nicholas David James Baldwin, political science professor and beloved dean of Wroxton College. A fixture at the college for almost 30 years, Baldwin is one of England’s foremost authorities on Parliament as well as a very popular figure among Wroxton alumni. He teaches a variety of political science classes and notably, the “Anatomy of Contemporary Britain,” a survey class that covers British culture, history, government, and current events, providing his American students with a crash course on “what it is to be British.”
FDU: How did you come to be interested in teaching about politics?
NDJB: Politics was always a topic of conversation in my family – from my earliest memories. Before I came to Wroxton, I even stood for Parliament!
FDU: Your parliamentary election loss is FDU’s gain. When did you first come to Wroxton?
NDJB: I was hired to teach a course for four weeks in the Summer of 1984 — and I have been here every since!
FDU: How should students prepare for a course with you?
NDJB: Aside from the fact that background reading never does any harm, I would say that they need to have an interest, an open and inquiring mind and a willingness to work hard and to learn. My students would no doubt tell you that I should probably add “the ability to tell the time” – namely, to be punctual!
FDU: What is the one thing that you want each of your students to come away with from your classes?
NDJB: An understanding of, and an interest in, Britain/British Government and Politics.
FDU: What is it like to teach a whole new class of students each semester?
NJDB: Always interesting; the hard thing can be saying goodbye to really good students after what is really only a short period of time.
FDU: The toughest part of your job is…
NDJB: Welcoming in each Semester, getting to know the individuals involved over the fifteen-week period, but then having to say goodbye.
FDU: The most rewarding part of your job is…
NDJB: Finding students who develop a real interest in the subject matter – that and the friendships that I have made.
FDU: Your favorite Wroxton memory…
NDJB: Good heavens above; there are so many of them it would be very difficult indeed to select any single one. I suppose my main memories are of the people I have met, many of whom have become great friends.
FDU: What is it like to teach American students in England? How do the cultural differences play out?
NDJB: This is really not a question that can be answered briefly – indeed; my whole “Anatomy of Contemporary Britain” course is designed to answer this. The course is a special inter-disciplinary programme intended as a helpful companion to finding oneself not only in a foreign country but also in a foreign culture.
Common use of “English” language in both the United States and Britain often conceals essential differences that exist in culture and in attitudes. These differences are identified and explored through the study of a variety of topics both in the classroom setting and outside.
As many of my students will tell you, I tell every class that British and American cultures are different. Not better or worse, just different. There are reasons why differences occur, reasons why things are the way they are. It is the task of the student to pinpoint these reasons, to ascertain why. In doing this, one will be able to come to an awareness — and greater understanding — of Contemporary Britain.