Thoughts on a graduation Part 2

November 26, 2010 at 2:20 AM 5 comments

Coming to terms with the new ConDem Governments proposals to slash and burn the UK economy and welfare state has occupied my time for many weeks now but the recent demonstrations by students over the proposed increase in university fees and cuts  to education has made me pause for reflection.

I recently attended the graduation of my youngest daughter from Oxford University. My daughter had warned me that I might be bored because the graduation ceremony would be conducted in latin and I must admit that I was dreading the experience, but being the proud parent I was definitely not going to miss the opportunity to celebrate her achievements.

Ironically, I was fascinated by the experience. Firstly, because despite regular pronouncements that we are a multicultural society and that we have overcome blatant discrimination I was the only black parent on the room. Secondly, that the ceremony itself  was not only the conferring of a degree but also an initiation into an elite club of Oxford graduates (this was reflected in the latin ceremony) and lastly because of the description of an Oxford education as equipping students with the tools to learn, analyse and think about how they would use the knowledge they acquired during their life, in the vice-chancellor’s speech   This for me was a brilliant description of the purpose of education.

I have always bemoaned  the discourse on state education over the last decade has  been more about its ability to train students for work and not educated them for life.  My experience at Oxford starkly demonstrated the gross inequalities in our education system for those  (often  through privilege) that experience the advantages of being educated at an elite university like Oxford and the rest.  It reminded me that those that fought for a universal state education system did so in the belief that all our children be given these opportunities.

In the fight to safeguard our educations system and the opportunities for  wider participation in higher education we need to remember the aims of those that took up the original fight for universal education, to make sure that the opportunities afforded the privileged is available to all and in our fight to defend education access remember that education is not just about equipping our children to be cogs in the wheels of business and make profits for those who already have plenty, but to widen their experience and equip them with the tools to make sense of all aspects of our current realities and beautiful world so that they can build a better tomorrow.


Entry filed under: Politics.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jonolan  |  November 26, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    A quick question – how many total were in the graduating class?

    • 2. whsullivan  |  November 26, 2010 at 9:02 PM

      300 students were graduating that day

  • 3. jonolan  |  November 27, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    OK, then Blacks were somewhat under-represented based upon very simplistic demographics. At 300 there should have been – based solely upon racial demographics and ignoring all other factors – 6 black families there.

    I’m not British so I can;t accurately speak to all the other factors, but it seems like your situation was probably not cause for real concern or an example of inequality.

    That is unless you think that a purely egalitarian approach should be adopted and merit ignored or that good money should be cast after bad in an attempt to improve the urban education system.

  • 4. bet365  |  November 28, 2010 at 1:42 PM

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    • 5. whsullivan  |  December 1, 2010 at 4:03 PM

      The picture is of Sankore Mosque, Timbuktu, Mali


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