College life

Cambridge_Queens'_GatehouseA Cambridge contemporary died recently. The funeral was in Hampshire. I didn’t go. I gather that at the do afterwards a group of them raised the possibility of hiring a venue for a house party reunion. Would I be interested? one of them asked.

Part of me is curious, of course. It would be fascinating to see who’s fatter, thinner, balder (men only college in those days), richer. It would be interesting to see who’s still a nice guy, who’s a pompous gobshite.

But a bigger part of me is reluctant to go, so I was examining why this might be so.

When I think about those years, the predominant feeling is that I was always smirked at, tolerated. I put that to the man who wondered if I might like the house party, and he agreed that it was so, but that it was always with affection. “Like the village idiot” I suggested, but response came there none. ‘You can’t help loving that Stan of ours’ they sang in a College concert,

Why? No public school veneer? No sporting ability or interest? No posh accent? No family connexions? No sex appeal? (This was the opinion of the Deputy Head, a woman, at Penrith Grammar School, who said so to SWMBO when we were both pupils).

At a time when students are about to begin college courses, leaving the nest, incurring massive debts with student loans, it’s as well to remember that the image of partying, drinking, and carousing student life is a figment of the imagination of irresponsible commentators. It just aint so.

Essays, reading, tutorials, practicals, lab work, site work, placements, regulations, theses, dissertations. It is hard work. And on top of this—even before this—one has to deal with one’s own insecurities and thread one’s way through the cliques and gangs and the self-appointed élite of the student body.

And when they come out? There are not enough jobs befitting their qualifications, according to today’s news. So they take jobs for which their courses have been entirely superfluous. Still, it’s kept them off the streets for 6 years or so.

My father felt strongly that education was the way to better oneself. That was so in his day, but not now. So why not send people to school until they can read, write and do sums, then at 12 they can join the jobs market. Higher education then follows only for those that need it or that actually would like it.

A sure vote winner.

6 thoughts on “College life

  1. I have now retired from “Education”, Fr Stanley. I can’t speak for QEGS, but it strikes me that my days in a (N Irish) state grammar school were FAR superior an academic teaching experience, than the ‘WASP mentality/Masonic boys network/pseudy-class snobbery etc’ I later encountered within a CoE cathedral independent. Of course, the powers-that-be had to largely abolish the former type of school, in favour of the ubiquitous ‘Factory Comprehensive’ for the nation.

    Bright move that..

    • QEGS was an 11+ Grammar School in my day. It remains, I think, the only selection based state secondary school in England, despite the best efforts of decades of Labour Cumberland/Cumbria County Councils. The education was excellent. It’s difficult to explain to people who don’t know east Cumberland, but there really was no class system. The distinction was town vs villages – that is, town jobs vs farming. Of course the pupils had their own hierarchies, as everywhere, with the jocks at the top. QEGS was (and is) mixed and although it is said that boys benefit from all boys schools, there was no evidence of that then. There were no snobs at QEGS – the children of local aristocrats (Hasell, Whitelaw, Vane etc) were nowhere to be seen. I guess they were at places like the comprehensive school over the bridge from Windsor Castle, of the North London comp near Watford, or the railway junction near Coventry. Ah – now that I think about it, there were a few locals families with notions, and maybe one or two GPs, who sent their children to local minor ‘public’ schools – Brookfield Wigton (Quaker), St Bees and Sedbergh. I knew nothing of them of course except for a couple of older cousins who went to Brookfield. This reply is bring back memories that are worthy of a blog of their own.

  2. To read Stephen Fry’s autobiography you wouldn’t get the impression at all that there was much hard work involved!! Probably part of his strange reality inversion.

  3. Good comment Sir Stanley of Monkhouse. Though frankly I’ve always suspected that you have a curious appeal to women, so I think you do yourself a disservice. BTW: people are still taught to read, write and do sums. Marks are still deducted or added for SPG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) in English exams and written work. It’s one of the great tabloid myths that they’re not – and the myths usually contain ironic and unintentional spelling errors.

    • Yes Ian, I agree about the snide remark and have removed it. My comments about my SA were not mine – they were reported as said by others! At the age of 17 or whatever, I was shocked that the Senior Mistress of the School (second only to the Headmaster) should have thought it an appropriate comment to make to another pupil, later my wife.

  4. Education as you well know does not stop at the gates of a college of a university or with a piece of paper which states you have graduated. I am not sure when education is completed. It would be good that students are taught that. Perhaps I am a sour old puss.

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