Monday, 30 May 2011


Anyone who knows me thinks I’m an optimist maybe, sometimes, too much of one. A colleague in advertising suggested I’d enthuse over old turnips to win the account for Old Turnip Growers. So when I say that because Brighton’s population has a greater % of people with degrees than anywhere else in the UK, you need a 2.1 to get a job at Pizza Express, everyone would assume I was being flippant.

Which I was. But now I’m not so sure.

All I hear anyone talk about now is education. I see people doing jobs they hate, working themselves to death and suffering rotten lifestyles to fund their children’s education or lying sleepless in bed in case the dice falls the wrong way when they allocate primary school places. Fortunately it fell the right way for my grandson. Great excitement and relief; even pride. Grandson aged 4, asked if he had anything to say, replied (and I love the brightness of this):

“Yes. Can you stop going on about it. It’s only a school.”

It’s only a school. Right on son and it can help but not substitute for your innate smartness and appetite for life.

This week I heard of a brilliant young talent in childcare who wouldn’t (couldn’t) do his exams so now he’s out of childcare and into…whatever (or nothing). Imagine if they discover Wayne Rooney had insufficient GCSEs and was being fired by Man United. Or if you were told the meal you’d just enjoyed in a restaurant had been cooked by a degree-free chef. Imagine the rising sense of nausea. Not even an HND?

Exams trap people rather than liberate their talent. I want to know what people show a liking and talent for. And that talent being encouraged and becoming great and amazing.

Degrees are not qualifications. They comprise a pretty easy exam at the end of a pretty enjoyable three years talking, listening, drinking and learning. Which is good in its own right..

But education is not about ramming stuff into kids, it is…Balliol. Oxford? Literally, from educere (latin) – to lead out, draw forth.

So more of this drawing out, please. And the next time I hear someone given a job based on the exams they’ve passed rather than their energy, enthusiasm and appetite for life remind me to be optimistic if I can.

Turnips indeed!

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