Two historical images of student life today.
I found this description of eighteenth-century Oxford in Richard Mabey’s biography of Gilbert White: ‘Lectures were rarities. The university library (the Bodleian) was open for only six hours a day. Some of the books were even chained to the shelves. Tutorials, and even examinations, were often little more than exchanges of stock questions and responses, or disputations upon a few standard problems in grammar or logic. Sometimes, if a tutor failed to turn up, debates were carried out with a blank stone wall.’
I think I read somewhere else that some Oxford courses around this time did not even bother with exams. They had a residency requirement: you just had to be in Oxford for three years and they gave you a degree. One occasionally encounters students today who would benefit from a similar arrangement.
I also found this revealing comment about the revolutionary ferment of 1968 in a near-contemporary account: ‘Plateglass universities hardly rate as centres of radicalism. Debating societies have not flourished … committed politicians on the staffs, and there are many at local and national level, say that apathy, not activity, characterises their students both at election time and between elections. There have of course been protest marches at all the new universities, focusing on Vietnam and Rhodesia. But equally there have been protests at East Anglia over war toys, at York over the censorship of The War Game, and at Kent over the banning of Radio Caroline. The coinage is a little devalued when the activity of protest seems more important than its object.’ (Source: Michael Beloff, The Plateglass Universities (1970))
If there are any revolting students reading this, may I suggest that they organise a union sit-in about the disgraceful defenestration of the lovely Mo Dutta from Radio 2? Saturday mornings won’t be the same again.
Mundane quote for the day: ‘Many objects remain unnoticed simply because it never occurs to us to look their way. Most people turn their backs on garbage cans, the dirt underfoot, the waste they leave behind. Films have no such inhibitions; on the contrary, what we ordinarily prefer to ignore proves attractive to them precisely because of this common neglect.’ – Siegfried Kracauer