Degrading

On Wednesday, just as I was about to get on the train from Euston, to continue my long journey home to Cumbria from Kent, all departures from the station ceased.

What followed was a 10 hour-long, chaotic journey on packed east-coast trains. However, what promised to be a tedious and stress-filled slog to the North became an utter joy because of the company of a group of Year 12 girls from Leeds College who were travelling home from Kings Cross. There were about 20 of them and they were garrulous, generous and full of chat and laughter. They had spent the day at the Houses of Parliament and chatted to me enthusiastically about what they had experienced there. It was the day that Jo Cox’s killer was sentenced, and they had witnessed some of the response to that, and they’d spent time in a Q & A with Hilary Benn. They were, between them, studying Law, Philosophy, Economics and Politics.

They loaned me a phone charger.

They passed sweets around.

They gave up their seats for others.

They had an obviously brilliant relationship with their tutor and debated with him enthusiastically about taxes, the monarchy and class.

And yet, they were, repeatedly, self-deprecating about themselves and their college because of their grades and the college’s ranking. “I’m an E-U-U,’ said one girl, ‘I don’t even know why I’m doing A-Levels!”; “Leeds is crap isn’t it? They only take students like us,” said another.

It was happenstance that I was reading Kohn at the time. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so attuned to their (de)valuations of themselves and their own worth if I hadn’t been.

 

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