Monday, February 01, 2016

Toppling Cecil.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford University has left me cold. Not that I could possibly deny that he was one of the more hideous figures of British colonial history, but it seems to me to be a bit of self-indulgent tokenism. I've never been keen on iconoclasm.

Though a better social mix at Oxford may improve the diversity of newspaper columnists, real educational inequality is far wider, like, er, between Oxbridge and the rest. That concerns me more.

That said, there is a problem at elite institutions. It must be twenty years or so since I went to a conference on widening access to higher education at the University of Cambridge, but it encapsulated the problem nicely. At the conference dinner, they wheeled out one of the progressive academics who rounded up her speech by saying, "As for ethnic minorities, we have no problem with those. After all, we have educated the sons and daughters of princes and prime ministers from all over the world." Oh dear. I don't think she quite got this equality lark.

I am certain that things have improved since then, but these are the attitudes that must fall, not a Victorian statue.

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