I know, because I was one of them.
Some of you, who have read my book, The Way of Beauty, about beauty in education will remember my descriptions of my time as an undergraduate at St Edmund Hall – ‘Teddy Hall’ as we called it. My intention was to reinforce a point made by Cardinal Newman about the Oxford he attended in the late 18th century. Here is a picture of Teddy Hall today:
Newman told us that in his estimation the lectures were a waste of time, the tutors were inept, and the curricula were ill-thought out. The strongest forming influence, he said, was the influence of the educational community and most of all interactions between students. Immorality and rowdiness pervaded all aspects of life, but despite this Newmans tells us, it was responsible for making Oxford the greatest university in the world at forming students to do what England required of them – ruling an empire and subduing the Catholic Faith! Here is Newman’s college, Oriel:
I would not be so critical of the tutors or the curriculum in my subject Metallurgy and Science of Materials in 1980s Oxford when I attended. And I have little to say about the quality of the lectures because I barely attended any. However, I would assert that the strongest influence on my education was the same as that in Newman’s day, the conversation with other students and the fun of living in the college community.
Newman was not arguing for bad tutors, dull lectures, or pointless classes in the curricula. Neither was he promoting immorality in college life. Rather, he was telling us that we have to understand that students teach each other the important things in life and if we don’t have a community that does so for good, it will do so for ill. Picking up on this theme, much of my book is devoted to discussion of ways in which a good community can be created and which forms students as faithful Catholics.
As an illustration of the power of the community, I am going to describe how St Edmund Hall introduced me to Schubert and from there to the pleasures of classical music. The faculty had no influence at all. I should add that have not attended a music class since I gave up playing the recorder at age 11, and there were no general education classes at Oxford for anyone (Read More)