I think all the world (and school) needs is a little more humour.
Most of us have got it – I’m not even saying the art/technique of humour, or wit, or charm etc. These aren’t available to everyone in equal degrees. I refer to humour as an attitude, as in good humour, which I like to think is easily accessible to everyone, and plentiful – but it’s a real downer when people are worried about unis and scholarships to the extent of being tedious and frankly uncompanionable. It’s bad enough to let such feelings simmer and fester in your consciousness, but it becomes obnoxious when your worries manifest in your conversation as well – when all you can talk about are mugging techniques, applications, personal statements and CVs.
I just wish that we could see our last months in school for just what that means – last months in school. We won’t be learning so much anymore, at least not in a similar style – and maybe as someone too lazy to do most of his readings or much “extra-curricular” (not quite the same as non-curricular) reading, I’m not the most qualified to say idealistic things like these – and I regret that some of us have failed to see the acquisition of knowledge as something other than a means to have something to regurgitate on foolscap in November. Writing essays is of course the main reason why we’re learning so much, but why make yourself miserable by thinking it the ONLY reason? I may sound very politically correct here but I think if one person can get an easy A for Literature in the A levels and yet not relate to Hamlet as more than a “central plot device”, that person is a failure in at least some senses, and possibly in all senses but one (ie. the ability to write critical essays on one specific Shakespearean play).
Besides, I reasoned it out to myself, and I decided I can’t see the point in anyone deluding the teachers into believing that they are someone they are not. An uninspired student who cons his way into Oxford by sycophancy and excessive hard work doesn’t become any more inspired in Oxford, contrary to popular belief; the only thing that has changed is that Oxford now has one more uninspired student than before. Moreover, there’re only so many social strata you can swindle your way into before you find yourself incredibly out of your depth, where even sycophancy proves useless in the light of your abject inadequacy; is it worth so much effort merely to feel inferior all over again?
Maybe I’m saying this because I have annoyingly mediocre essay-writing and exam technique (easily one of my bugbears in JC life, trust me), but I think there should be more to life right now than making sure that a few old gits at Cambridge like your work enough to give it a grade A. I really, really miss the times when we did things purely to do them, or learnt things purely to pacify an insatiable curiosity, and not for someone else’s pleasure. And this is why I only have unqualified admiration for people smarter and more successful than me who genuinely enjoy what they’re doing, and merely a twinge of pity for people smarter and more successful than me who have fussed and toiled only to achieve success defined not on their own terms, but on the terms of society.