Sunday, 15 May 2011

Little white lies

One of the kids I work with came out with one of those unanswerable questions they throw at you every so often.

I'm trying to drill them in subtraction strategies in advance of the SATS next week but they're much more interested in telling me about their cousin's wedding, the programme they saw on TV, what they intend to spend their birthday money on, etc... One of their cousins goes to college. "College is boring."
"How do you know?" I ask.
"I asked my cousin who goes. He says it's boooring..."
"I went to a college with my cousin. I saw lots of computers..."

T asks me her unanswerable question. She's 6 years old. She's about twice the size of all the other kids in the class, and is slow in her reactions and her manner, and so gets bullied and shunned, but her sweet, agreeable nature and thoughtfulness and intelligence means that the other kids are starting to come around gradually and treating her with a bit more respect.

"If we go to college, will we get jobs?" she asks, unanswerably.

She must have heard the grownups talking about it and remembered. Smart cookie that she is. What can I tell her? Yes, you can go to college. You can fight your way out of your high-rise working class ghetto, and get the grades against all the odds, and apply to college. And if you succeed in going to college, you can get yourself saddled with astronomical debt which you will never have a hope of paying back. Your body and soul will be owned by the bank for the rest of your life, and that's assuming you'll get a job at all to pay it back, which we can't take for granted any more. It's not fair. It's not fair. It's not their fault.

They're all looking at me, interested that she's asked a question which I don't have a ready answer for.

"Good question, T. Some people are finding it hard to find jobs at the moment." I look at their little unaware faces.

"But it's still good to go to college."


  1. One day, one of them – perhaps T – will tearfully dedicate her third Nobel Prize to lovely Miss Annie who said it was good to go to college.

    Unfortunately by that stage you'll be in a secure unit after that unfortunate incident when you broke into Downing Street and ripped off George Osborne's head with your bare hands.

  2. No, T, you won't. It's still fun to go though.

  3. Thanks, Tim.

    GSE, right. I want it for them, but is it worth it?

  4. For some people, college is the most fun they ever have in their entire lives. If you aren't going to get a job anyhow, why deprive yourself of that? Plus, it's not going to reduce their chances of getting a job.

  5. My children were talking one day and agreed that they didn't really need their degrees for the jobs they do. However, they also agreed, without a degree they wouldn't have even got an interview. They're good jobs and pretty well paid, but a generation ago university-level education wouldn't necessarily have been required.

  6. GSE - because of this

    Z - that's me, that is! (I don't count the teaching degree especially, I reckon they will be phased out too, too expensive & you don't need to be qualified to work in a "Free" school.) I just wish a) there were proper jobs for the kids out there and b) there was more emphasis on work experience & proper apprenticeships. *clambers down off high horse*