Saturday, July 30, 2011

Success story

"Thank god for crime; it saved me from a life of boxing". One of my favourite quips though I can't remember the source. It turns round a standard story of a life rescued by sporting excellence. That redemption is precisely what happened to Cec Thompson, the Rugby League international who died recently.

Thompson overcame a difficult upbringing, illiteracy and racism to become only the second black player to play international Rugby League for Great Britain in 1951. (In comparison, it took until 1978 for Viv Anderson to become the first black player to represent England at football, but then Rugby League has a better record in dealing with discrimination than some sports, perhaps because it too was the target of bigotry from the Rugby Union for around a century.)

This would have been a stirring enough story if it had not been for a second redemption, this time it was because of adult education. This from Andy Wilson's obituary:
He had launched a window-cleaning business in and around Workington, and also felt sufficiently confident with reading and writing – developed on coach trips to away games with Hunslet, when he would learn new words from the Reader's Digest – to make a tentative move into journalism. He joined music and operatic societies, and an art club, passed his English O-level after taking night classes in Workington while coaching Barrow, then enrolled at Huddersfield Technical College in 1962.He was then encouraged to apply for a place at Leeds University, and started a course in economics in 1965, at the age of 39.
He ended up as a teacher.

This is another reminder of the power of adult education and its continuing need, even though successive governments seem keen to abandon it.  And for those who think that adult learning should be purely vocational, please note his starting point; music, opera and art. I haven't read it, but I see that his autobiography, Born on the Wrong Side, is still in print. I might just order it now.

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