Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Student Representation or Political Grooming?

Key Thought
Academic institutions exist for the purpose of imparting marketable knowledge and skills. Academic institutions are not meant to function as political recruiting offices and should be deterred from such activity. Elderly undergraduate students are, by definition, not representative of the typical undergraduate, and should be disqualified from student representation.

Have you noticed how important date of birth is? In almost all official and quasi-official dealings, whether in cyber-space or on paper documentation, this one fact is considered a compulsory field i.e. it must be filled out. In the world of CRB checks, at 17 years and 364 days, a person is deemed vulnerable and must be protected from those who are one day or more older! The consequence of this patent absurdity is that, on your 18th birthday, should you wish to work with any one who is one day or more younger than you, you must be CRB checked and cleared!

If this obsession with age and age-related groupings is fundamental to our governance, then logically, one should ask whether it is seemly or appropriate that an almost 50-year old undergraduate is allowed to represent an entire cohort of 18-year old students at University. It must be obvious that the chasm in age, experience and goals between such a 50-year individual and an 18-year old must surely be greater that the tiny gap between an 18-year old and a 17-year old!

The fundamental differences between a 50-year old undergraduate and an 18-year old undergraduate are legion; I mention only three; Firstly, one learns about the cognitive process at teaching college and we are taught that the steep learning curve of youth starts to flatten with age and learning becomes more difficult, such that an almost 50-year old may find his ability to learn highly technical subjects such as Maths and Science is greatly reduced compared to his 18-year old classmates. Secondly, such an individual probably carries historical socio-political baggage. Thirdly, the very nature of representation implies identification with common needs of the group (ladies who have borne a child would never countenance men pretending to know what it feels like to have a baby). A 50-year old cannot pretend to be 18; indeed that is exactly how the darker elements of grooming begin in cyber-space; i.e. the "groomer's" pretence of being the same age as the "groomee".

Within academic institutions for over 18-year olds, the dangers of such grooming masquerading as representation ought to be self-evident and cause deep concern. The consequences of grooming very rarely benefits the student/"groomee" as the student rep/"groomer's" motives must be self-interested and the object is always to further the interests of the student rep/groomer.

What might those self-interests be? I suggest just a few; firstly, such an individual, having not accomplished a degree at the time when batch mates of his own age did it, may feel a need to compensate by advancing himself/herself in importance through non-academic union activities. Secondly, the individual may lobby to reduce academic rigour in highly technical subjects because of his own learning-curve issues. Thirdly,such an individual may seek, to influence young people to espouse causes whose roots reach into the student rep's past.

I recall hearing such a student rep state, during the time of the student protests in London, that the Mill Bank Building was a legitimate target for an arson attack. The University authorities and academic staff were aware of this, but many, being much of a much-ness in age, and consequently able to identify with a common socio-political outlook and past, indulged the student representative's views. It mattered very little to this older demographic that arson is a crime and an 18-year old ought not to be encouraged to get a criminal record.

I also recall that academic rigour was dramatically reduced, while entertainment content of modules was increased over the course of three years, as a result of relentless lobbying by this student representative. The long-term repercussions for the future employability of young graduates affected by the "dumbing down" of their very expensive degrees appeared inconsequential.[Please note that with a University degree, there is no money-back guarantee if a student fails to get degree-related employment].

Finally, I recall this almost 50-year old student rep systematically advising/grooming students & young student reps, to defy and professionally damage selected staff who expressed concern about these subversive activities.

With so much obsessive concern about vetting and age in the UK, why is no-one vetting student representatives who have so much influence upon young lives?

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