The current Civil Rights Movement and protests across the world have highlighted many of things wrong with the UK education system, notwithstanding the wrongful way in which degree paths are chosen. True, most of us browse UCAS searching for something that we are passionate and driven about, with dreams of changing the world for the better. But what transpires is a sea of lost freshers, who lose their motivation to create substantial change as they are drowned by a culture of blissful ignorance, pursuing academic worth and popularity instead of cultural engagement and social impact.
How is it that the curriculum is so narrow it ignores diversity? How is it that we trot along unquestionably as a white majority wave at us across lecture theatres? How is it that, despite our awareness, we passively accept traditional, ethnocentric decorum with any resistance being substantially superficial and mostly covert performative allyship?
University has become a breeding ground for egos. Marks are given on how acutely you can despair over inequalities without having to be proactive. Teaching is given for the sake of merit and league tables, devaluing the potential activism that can be sparked from passionate, capable, and extrinsically motivated student bodies.
This is not a dig, more of a reflection. Look at me, doing a combined honours degree because I openly have no clue what I want to do with my life. Although resentfully, I completed three online exams this year in Sociology, Education, and Sport. And do you know what I realised as I posted and shared black squares, videos, and images in support of BLM on my social media? I am a hypocrite, guilty of ignoring my privilege and not engaging in the discussion before it was pathed for me. I was educated academically but failed to recognise the importance of actively articulating what I had learnt by delving deeper into the realistic repercussions for marginalised voices for the better.
I, like many others, had been desensitised to the subject the more I associated it with testing.
In all three exams I wrote about racial inequalities and disparities. In all three exams I recognised the plight of black men and women. In all three exams I described how black culture had been stolen, manipulated, and unfairly claimed by the white majority in the UK. Yet, only when faced up with the tragedy that recently transpired did I recognise how naive and wasteful I have been in educating myself.
We are taught about it at university, encouraged to read about it, but to what ends? Yes, we are provided with a certain extent of knowledge at degree level but, instead of realising the potential to enact change, the vast majority of students merely engage with injustices for academic and personal gain.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many championing causes from grassroots’ level who are students, but not enough. Realistically, a substantial number of students don’t advocate change until the movement is already established. Rather than using the plethora of study material tested as a springboard for pre-emptive action we are usually quite passive.
No more. You can see a slow awakening amongst the student body. The veil has been lifted and this will be the generation to grow, change and develop in the pursuit of equality for all.
It all starts with learning, discussing and acting.
Image: Aaron Fulkerson. Available via Flickr.