There’s a strange beauty to being stuck in city traffic on a rainy day. You’re suspended in a moment as the world bustles by. You give in to your inevitable lateness and find a curious tranquility. Your mind is massaged by raindrops, stroking down your window; jostling with each other like racehorses.
That’s a nice way to think about being wet and late, isn’t it? I don’t stop myself enough. We’re so carried away by our own lives and understandably so. The world travels so fast, information shared so quickly, it’s almost becoming a cliché. Perspective is everything. Perspective is one of the many brain functions that separate us from other species. Our housemates on this floating rock called home.
I often debate the value of university education. Despite having never been through it myself, it seems to light a fire in me, spark an interest, provoke a reaction. Is it fair to say that a university degree is devalued when so many have the opportunity to attain one? Expectant graduates saturate job markets. Some of them will succeed and some will fail. Such is life. So often I hear the argument that a university education is pointless, with job prospects thin, it’s simply a costly way of plunging yourself into a life of underachievement.
The issue with this argument, while reasonably well founded, is that it fails to use the very skill a university education is most useful for. It gives you the opportunity to better yourself, to open your mind to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new cultures and new people. It teaches you to search beyond the surface, not to stop at face value. It’s more than a certificate; it’s perspective.
Perspective is everything. An inability, or indeed refusal, to see the world from a different viewpoint is what leads us to war, injustice and poverty. Society has a responsibility to equip the next generation with the tools they need to aid their social mobility, to give even a glimmer of hope for a progress and, heck, maybe even a peaceful future. The very existence of radical, destructive terrorist organisations like ISIL are built on a refusal to see the world from beyond their blinkers.
Here at home, the rise of UKIP is a troubling example. At its core is an intolerance of people different to their own while a disillusioned working class has peddled their growth. This band of misguided troops, lead by a banker no less, support a policy that wants to “scrap the nonsensical target of making 50% of school leavers go to university.” Is this an elite protecting their knowledge?
Access to education is a fundamental human right. Access to university education is the same. Never again should it be reserved for those who can afford it. Ambition, determination and hard work are our currency.
There needs to be changes, granted, and vocational options and the value they hold should be celebrated (I don’t doubt this is where UKIP’s policy stems from). Furthermore, the way we judge our students is wrong. The old saying goes, “… judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”, and it has never been more relevant.
But we mustn’t underestimate the benefit of seeing the world differently. 85% of the world lives in knowledge poverty and that is unacceptable. We have the tools to change that and we owe it not just to the next generation, but also to ourselves.October 05, 2014 | No Comments