Free education, Free the people
I wrote this post earlier today, actually on Facebook, but pulled it before pressing the Post button. I am still not sure whether to submit it here – not because I in any way retract anything that I have said nor because I fear having my head above the parapet but because I know that I am in turmoil right now, deeply saddened, possibly distraught even and am aware that I have not thought anything through properly yet. These thoughts may be just a staging post. I simply want to get my own thinking done. That’s why there are so many I’s appearing. I this, I that. It’s all about me. Except it is not.
Anyway, here goes. Feel free to argue the toss, I am curious about what is going on in people’s heads these days so do feel free to invite me in. I won’t necessarily respond. I’m weary. I reserve the right to delete any real ugliness, not in a spirit of censorship but because its presence in my space tends to make me feel like I need a really good scrub with Carbolic.
I ran away from “Civilisation” a long time ago and I suppose that it is very easy for me here in my cushy rural idyll, to stick to my ideals and hippy trippy love and peace attitudes. We rarely see a dark skin up here – heck, this is Orkney, you can’t even catch a tan up here! I do have reason to be grateful for the Orcadian influx of Doctors and Dentists from other nations, though they are only evident at times of need. I cannot know the pressures on Urban systems now, though did live and work in a thriving multi-cultural community before leaving Yorkshire a decade and a half ago. I value the diversity and cross-cultural opportunities that I found there. I feel enriched by them.
The first person that I met in rural Scotland was a bigot: “I hate Black people, me” he said, with pride. “I’ve never met one, but I hate them.” He went on to tell me with some glee of the “Chink” family that had lived in the village but had been successfully forced out again.
I was so shocked. I recoiled. I wanted to say “Get out of my house” but unfortunately he still had some belongings in it and was waiting for the removal van to return.
By God, I felt dirty by association.
I like to think that one day I shall be able to look back on that incident and laugh but even now, it repels me.
But can you really blame individuals for their ignorance. This is something that I have had much cause to ponder in the past few days. You see, I am struggling with the analysis that “College-educated” people voted to Remain in the EU and “Non-college educated” persons in the main voted to Leave.
Education is all. The big enabler.
I was not born into the middle classes. I had no advantages as a child. My home was a two-up-two-down in one of the less good streets of a gritty city in the North of England.
My female parental unit had her school leaver’s certificate and had trained as a secretary so considered herself one up on all those about her. I’m not sure what the male parental unit achieved but I do know that his wife looked down on him for being less educated than herself.
I didn’t distinguish myself at school. I did not attend university – I’m not sure that I even knew what a university was, there had never been any mention of such a thing at home – just a constant mantra of “work hard at school or you’ll end up in a shop“. I was bemused when my peers were filling out UCCA forms… I guess I was between schools when that talk was held (I went to 4 different grammar schools and had a history of missing out on essential parts of the syllabus in all subjects and also I think, school life in general)
There is a deal of complexity around this to do with the erosion of my self-esteem that does not need to be dealt with here so let’s just skip forward to my early Thirties, when I began To Get A Grip.
I signed up for an Open University Degree. We had virtually no money but that was okay because back then my Local Authority was able to fund Part-time study and because we were low income, I had my first year’s course for just £2.
I was just dipping my toe in. Just in case I was as useless at it as the female parental unit had always predicted – her other favourite mantra was “you’re stupid…” It turned out that I was rather good at the studying business. I won a trophy for being the best on my course. I was the first woman to be awarded this prize (it was for Technology). I was bowled over. Hell, I was in the newspaper! LOL.
So naturally I stuck at it and the next year I doubled up on my work load, getting the equivalent of a full time year in University for… £13.
Then disaster struck and financial assistance was taken away. I was faced with the loss of my learning opportunities and that by now was a hard thing indeed. I had such a taste for it.
Happily, I had by now shown my mettle – and to the right people it seems. I ended up with a good job in a Polytechnic that was just going independent of the Local Authority and needed to employ some new skillsets and persons to help them steer through the changes to come. I could now afford to complete my degree — but did not have to because my new employer backed me and also saw me through a Master’s Degree afterwards.
Any reason that any person has now to assume my membership of the Middle Classes can all be traced back to that first year of OU study for the princely sum of £2 that led me to a decent education, a good income, a very healthy career, a network of educated friends, a rapid rise up the property ladder and in time, a really good husband (… and a drop back down the property ladder but who cares, mere Stuff is not what matters)
I’d still prefer my fish and chips out of newspaper though 😉 and I’m still working on the esteem part.
I have been fond of saying that there is no such thing as Luck; That one makes one’s own luck through hard work, application and the seizing of every opportunity that presents itself. Maybe there is also an element of wanting to stick it to those who tried to hold you down in the first place that helps the grit and determination side of things. Lucky I was however, or perhaps it’s better to say “fortunate”, to have begun this great adventure and progression in my life at a time when Education remained a right made attainable by financial assistance. More fortunate yet, to find myself thereafter working in the Education sector.
My time in the University system as a student, an administrator and a lecturer changed most of the things in my life but also served to underpin my lifelong belief that Education should be a right to all, accessible to all, free at the point of delivery (I’d like to put an end to the loans system too but that is a different argument for another day.)
Education changes lives and it changes attitudes. It liberates us; frees the underclass. It builds nations. It is the best of Good Things.
It saddens me at this time to be wrestling with the idea that Education is become the great divisor rather than the leveller that it should be.
Here in Scotland, the overwhelming vote was to Remain.
Here in Scotland we pay for University study from the public purse.
That’s interesting, isn’t it.
It still doesn’t help the poor ignorant sod who hated Black people even though he’d never met one. You’ve got to want to improve yourself and seek out the opportunities where they exist. I daresay some horses may be led to water and not enticed to drink but can we not at least make a start and put Education back where it belongs, at the forefront and not just the province of the already privileged. Please, let us narrow the divisions, not exacerbate them.
So, I’m sorry about all that. Normal service will be resumed shortly: there will be flippancy, there will be yarn and knitting and other good things, and there will be an update on our trip Sooth.