Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AFTO Day Three: Everything Else

After the Tolkien-filled morning I got lunch next door to The Eagle and Child because it was way too hot in there to eat. Also, the weather continues to be lovely. Sunny and in the low 70s and only raining late in the evening. Thanks Oxford.

The first lecture for the day was called "A Pilgrim in Search of Learning" and was given by G. H. L. Le May, a historian. He was delightful. He was like your great-uncle who've you've taken out to lunch and say, "Tell me about the old days," and then he talks for three hours. I would totally take Mr. Le May to lunch. He talked about his personal experience at Oxford. He came to Oxford from South Africa, and before he came he liked every subject with the exception of history. He was in the process of getting a law degree from a university in South Africa, when he met a history professor who made him completely rethink history.

Le May transferred from law to history. He was now interested in understanding the past. He came to Oxford University and went in to Worcester College. At first he hated the college, he said he thought it looked like a women's prison. The Oxford system or education and grading was new to him. I actually learned a lot more about the Oxford system than the guy who was suppose to be talking about it yesterday.

Oxford students have tutors who they work with one on one. There are also group lectures, but they don't have to go to them. There are no grades until the end of the term when they have exams. Whereas we have papers assigned and then due a month a two weeks later, papers are assigned and then due at the end of the term. Le May had a hard time transitioning to his style of education. I think I would too. I need more structure then that. The course work was difficult, but luckily he had, for the most part, really good tutors. He was a really interesting gentleman.

Then I fell asleep. I had to. I was so tired. There was no way I was going to make it through another lecture, dinner, and then a social mixer without sleeping. It was only for an hour, and it was before 4:00, which I feel is the napping cut-off. I felt much better when I woke up.

The second lecture of the day wasn't actually a lecture but a round-table discussion with the Rhodes Scholars who are teaching at The Oxford Prep Experience and The Oxford Tradition. There were seven of them. Three were from South Africa studying economics, anthropology and forced migration respectively. One from Zambia, who had just finished his PhD in particle physics. One from Kenya, who is also studying forced migration. One from Jamaica who is studying stem cell therapies, and two from India, studying the theoretical understanding of religion and neuropsychology respectively.

When I think "Rhodes Scholar" I think old white men. It was surprising to see all these people in their 20s who were not all men, and from a variety of countries. I didn't really know very much about the Rhodes scholarship aside from it being a prestigious honor and you have to be smart to get one. It was interesting to hear how the Rhodes scholarship is perceived outside the U.S. It's just another scholarship. There isn't anything especially special about it. Outside the U.S., anyone can apply for the scholarship. in the U.S. you have to be nominated by your college. Because of this, certain colleges produce more Rhodes Scholars. Not that there aren't schools in other countries who produce more Rhodes Scholars.

Two of them had a disagreement about integrating. One women talk about how she liked how supportive the Rhodes community was, and she liked how she could get away from her college where she felt like she was always having to explain herself and be with other people from Kenya. One of the South African woman said it was because of that that people thought of Rhodes Scholars as snobby and elitist. They needed to work harder into integrating into their college communities if they wanted to change that stereotype, and not always just hang out with each other.

They talked a lot about want to change the Rhodes Scholar stereotype, and that the Rhodes Scholarship has acknowledge the problems and is working at bringing different kinds of people into the program. But it's a work in progress. I also didn't know that even after getting a Rhodes Scholarship you still have to apply for a specific college, and just because you have the scholarship doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get in.

It was an interesting conversation. It was kind of dominated by two of them, and I would have liked to hear from some of the others more, but still interesting.

The Rhodes Scholars joined us for dinner, and afterwards we went over to Oriel College for a social mixer with the teachers and administrators of The Oxford Prep Experience and The Oxford Tradition. The picture is Oriel College by night. Everyone I talked to was very nice, but man, it was hot in there.

Shane, who is in the Shakespeare seminar and the Canadian representative, and I took some posed pictures. This is us having a very serious conversation. You can tell it's serious because he's taken his glasses off and is gesturing with them.

There's some good lectures line up for Wednesday. The former poet laureate of Britain is coming, as is David Benedictus, the writer of the new Winnie-the-Pooh.

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