Another Badman meeting (and a post about university)
Anyway, here's the part about which I want to blog today, unsurprisingly!
B said he felt some traveller children he had worked with weren't fulfilling their potential, by not going to Uni.
I just want to make clear - and I'm sickened that this needs making clear to an educationalist of so many years' standing: Attending university is not necessarily fulfilling your potential!
My sons have both looked into the idea of attending some kind of college for formal study: Ali attending an open evening at the local college a few years ago and Tom thinking about attending university, but in the end they concluded that they'd learn more by continuing under their own steam. I think it's fair to say that their overall experience from talking to both further and higher education staff was disappointing and quite worrying: what stood out for them both was the complete absence of any kind of passion or enthusiasm, either for the subject in question or for the learning process in general. Everyone they've spoken to (mostly tutors, but some admin staff) gave the impression that they were just doing a job, for the paycheque alone.
Maybe they were unlucky in the people they came across, but I think this includes something in the region of twenty individuals, so that's a lot of bad luck, isn't it? More likely, in my opinion, is that they'd have been lucky to have met someone who was still passionate about learning - or had ever been.
Not that I blame the people themselves. I think the whole system is at fault, having narrowed everything educational down to grades on pieces of paper, it has stifled the life force out of the process of learning. This reminds me of the slow and systematic shutting down of my children's natural curiosity when they first attended infants' school, almost as though it was deliberate. (Which of course, John Taylor Gatto - my hero - thinks it is.)
So if you're tenacious enough to apply yourself and stick to the system right to the bitter end, i.e. teaching or college lecturing the wave upon wave of new students year after year, none of whom you ever knew from Adam, let's just say that it's no surprise if your natural spark got up and left the building long ago. Anyone in that position who still has theirs deserves a medal and a million pounds, I think.
But to take the blinkers of prejudice off and talk about people really fulfilling their potential, why does this have to include a cap and a gown? What does a degree ceremony prove, other than the ability to apply yourself to someone else's syllabus for a few years, to a greater or lesser extent? Is that really what we want to consider to be the pinnacle of human achievement? I don't think so. The people we honour and celebrate don't tend to be academics, do they? They're usually inventors, performers or entrepreneurs - none of which requires a university degree.
On a personal level, the people I have the most respect for are the ones who have - usually against the odds in this National Curriculum era - managed to find their real niche in life, whatever it might be. These people are comfortable in their own skin. They have nothing to prove to anyone and above all, they are happy in their work. This is what I wanted for my children. If it included university, so be it, but I would never have encouraged that over and above any other choices they might make. Why would I? We know so many graduates who have nothing to show for their years at uni except a mountain of debt and a drink problem - not even a job.