Raising Academic Aspirations

So far this week, I’ve been exceptionally brave and have NOT mentioned the fact that Brandon is away. Brandon – my Son, my Court Jester, my faux Gay Best Friend… Oh how I’ve missed him! But today he “graduates” from the course he has been on, so (after the ceremony) we can bring him home. Yay!

He has been on a residential course at Manchester University, designed to encourage the brightest kids from schools in “rough” areas to continue into higher education… Excellent, we would love him to do that. And the whole thing has been free; including his room, meals, tuition, a night out bowling, a disco and a hired costume to “graduate” in! Apparently they spend £500 per child, on this four-day course.

So what lofty intellectual ambitions have they been instilling in my child? What dreams of academic excellence? What plans for studying and learning, once school is finished and his future profession calls?

“I’ve been doing Street Dance” he told me, during a phone call on Monday night, “And DJing. I was the best one at scratching – they wrote my name on the board and everything”. Great. Clearly they are going to turn him into the next Stephen Fry. Even now I can hear Oxbridge calling his name. Since then he has been able to do a class in Chinese and have a go at cutting open a fake arm… But even so, I do think it is lazy of them to immediately equate the idea of  kids from deprived urban areas, with the idea of studying “street” subjects. These kids are clever, the course is meant to get them to aim higher – so stop with the f*cking graffitti, drive-by, urban fashion nonsense and get them reading Shakespeare, or Descartes!

Each child is going to be involved in a little presentation about their course, at graduation this afternoon. I wondered what Bran would be doing, so I asked him, when he rang last night. Hamlet’s Soliloquy, perhaps?

“I’m doing a rap about recycling plastic bags” he said.

Oh for goodness’ sake.


17 responses to “Raising Academic Aspirations

  1. I know you will be glad to have him home. Plus, he has new skills he never would have learned at Hogwarts.

  2. Ggggggrrrrrr! I so agree with you. All the rhetoric in youth work is about raising aspirations for young people and as you so eloquently point out what we do is confirm their underlying sneaking suspicion that they can;t really have access to this aspect of culture and the only way they’re going to make their way is by being pop-stars or athletes.

    • I hate the idea that they “dumb down” for kids who aren’t rich. My first husband lived in a council house and had an alcoholic father, who beat the shit out of his Mum, both parents worked in factories… But he joined the Bronte Society at age 16 and used to relax by copying Burne Jones etchings! He’d had enough of Street culture, he was surrounded by it anyway.

      Half the time these course are more about showing PARENTS that their kids could go to University, mind you, and that IS a good thing. Kids could certainly benefit from that aspect of it.

      Brandon had fun and I’m not as ungrateful as I sound… I just think they should have been more like that guy on TV, who teaches kids Opera and stuff.

  3. How lame is that? I shouldn’t complain too much though, sent my boy to a similar sort of thing at a University here in Texas and they spent the afternoon learning the cheers for the football team. Sorry, they don’t call them cheers at A&M, they call them Yells.

  4. I once went to a weekend workshop when I was in junior high that was meant to encourage girls to stay interested in math and science. I learned how to give stitches, make a circuit board, and I did a project with fractals. (If would have been really angry if the classes were all about the chemistry of makeup and other “girly” things.)

    • That sounds good! Bran is brilliant at Maths, I’d have loved him to explore studying THAT at Uni.

      • I was really good at math when I was a teen. I earned all of my college math credit requirements before I graduated high school, so I haven’t been in a math class since I was 17. Just make sure your kid doesn’t burn out on it like I did.

  5. One of the difficulties quite a few universities face is that students exclude themselves from applying there, because they’re ‘not for people like me’. I’ve certainly seen access schemes like this one try to knock down walls so that people can see that Oxbridge isn’t all Brideshead Revisited. It’s not that they don’t want to study or learn, it’s that they think they’ll be excluded by middle and upper class kids who’ve spent two decades learning Brecht and Ibsen by heart, or that the maths course will only accept people who’ve been tutored 24/7 for the last 10 years. Trying to break down those stereotypes so that people feel “Okay, I could be happy in a place like this” can be important, so I don’t think it’s altogether a bad thing showing that a degree in Performing Arts can be just as much about contemporary dance as the effect created by end-stopping in a Shakespearean soliloquy.

    • No, it isn’t all bad. But as I said to Sarah F, above, these kids need to see that they can be identified with more than just “street” activities.

      They did do other things and the presentations were very good, I’ll say that for them. It was also an education for Brandon to be on his own for four nights.

  6. I”m sure it will be the best recycling bag rap ever. :)

    And then on to the science and math courses. :D

  7. It WAS really funny, I watched it yesterday. :)

  8. HAHAHA! I don’t even know what to say. Maybe they give out cans of spray paint in the graduation gift bags that you can use to colour some flower pots.

    • At the final presentation, kids took turns in coming forward, to say why they liked the course. Lots of them said they had been nervous before arriving but settled in to enjoy it. One boy got the biggest cheer though, by saying (in his little “street” accent)

      “I was never worried about coming here, time off school though, innit?”.

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