Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge  
Friday, 26 August, 2011, 07:35 AM - Education, Banner
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

We asked 100 people about something associated with university. You said "fun". Let's see, how many people in our survey, when asked to mention something about university, said "fun".

X - The top answer was in fact "expense", followed by "fees" and "cost" and trailing way behind was "love of the subject being studied".

In actual fact love of the subject should be the single most important reason for going to university, or at least Cambridge University. We don't want people doing a degree in hospitality management for fun. We want people who woke up as youngsters and said, "YES - when I grow up I want to run a hotel!" These must be people who delight in stock control, whose one ambition in life is to ensure that every pillow has a complimentary mint, people who really know how to grovel to a dissatisfied guest.

When a young person studies accountancy, we want people who love accountancy. They will have started off with a simple hobby, perhaps purchasing a book like "100 Ways to Have Fun with Double Entry Bookkeeping". At university they can develop their interest and progress to such fascinating subjects as corporate tax law, or fixed interest securities pricing.

We don't teach any of these wonderful subjects for the rather vulgar aim of making money. We do it to open up a wide new world to young people, to satisfy their sense of wonder.

And for reasons that are not entirely clear, I would just like to mention the Invisible Magic Friend.

16 comments ( 1147 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 390 )

Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow 
Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 07:41 AM - Education, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Students are about to get their A-level results. My son got his Highers and has decided to study maths. If he goes to an English university he'll graduate with a debt of about £50,000. Alternatively, he can study in Scotland and not graduate with a debt of £50,000 - this may well be his first test of his aptitude for maths.

My own school results weren't that good, so I studied Islam. School results aren't everything you know. I mean, I wasn't that great at school and I'm a Professor of Islamic studies! Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of learning. One of the nice bits of the Koran says we should be big fans of learning and who am I to argue with the Koran. Other things are important too though.

Life is so much more than exam results. Life has other things in it too. We should leave some room in life for those other things. A famous poet once said, there are other things in life, so I must be right. Hard work and learning things are always good, but there are other things too that make life worthwhile.

Try and make room in your life for other things.

7 comments ( 1244 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 344 )

Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham 
Monday, 27 June, 2011, 07:11 AM - Education, Wilkinson
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

And in the news headlines today, it's Durham University open day! Happy Durham University open day everyone! If you're a prospective university student, with all those lovely fees to spend, why not come along to Durham University open day and learn all about Durham University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country. Only a few shorts years from now you'll be receiving your degree in the splendid surroundings of the magnificent Durham Cathedral, a privilege unique to Durham University - shaped by the past, creating the future.

If you're wondering, why go to university? What are universities for? Well, universities used to be about being more Christian. But don't worry if you're not into all that, if that isn't you're "thing", because here at Durham University, whose open day is today and to which you are all most welcome, we teach and do research in the full range of both academic and vocational subjects. Here at Durham University, we equip you to meet the future, whatever your chosen field.

Centrally located, with its intimate collegiate nature yet cosmopolitan outlook, Durham University is the university that Jesus would have chosen. Like Jesus, Durham University, is concerned with developing the whole you. We'll see to it that you turn out properly spiritual as well as properly educated. As one of our low paid cleaning staff said, "These kids are the future."

So why not come to Durham University - an eminent source for good.

9 comments ( 711 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 489 )

Rev Canon Dr Alan Billings 
Monday, 11 April, 2011, 07:31 AM - Education, Science, Billings
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Martin Rees, who in case you haven't heard of him, is the Astronomer Royal and former president of the Royal Society, has been criticised for accepting this year's Templeton Prize. He has won the prize for his exceptional contribution to spirituality. Rees was asked why, as an atheist, he went to church.

"Well it's all part of tradition you see. We really do have the most splendid choir at Trinity, rated one of the best in the world and the chapel itself is very pretty. The clergy always dress up in the most splendid robes and sometimes they spread a lot of smoke around, which really adds to the atmosphere."

I think we can all see that Prof Rees is a most deserving winner given such an exceptional contribution to spirituality. His understanding of theology is clearly profound.

This is where so many of the shrill, loud and really not very attractive atheists get it all wrong. They keep wanting it all to make some sort of sense. It is, in fact, idle ritual, completely devoid of any real meaning. Once you grasp this essential reality, that it's just a community social occasion that makes no claims about anything in particular, many people are able to relax and enjoy the ambience that so many of our parish churches provide.

The Church really comes into its own at times of great joy or sadness. On the day when we commit ourselves to a future with our partner, or say goodbye to a loved one, what better way to do so than with a meaningless ritual conducted by a man in a dress.

Then we come to morality. Now there is, of course, no question that atheists can be just as moral as more holy people. No doubt about it. Hardly worth mentioning, but the Big Book of Magic Stuff Part II, is just full of stories about how to be moral that atheists don't learn about. This is why it is so important to send your children to Church schools. Naturally you will have to become a devout Christian to do this, but that is a small price to pay so that we can brainwash introduce your children to the great traditions of the Church of England.

Once children have gotten used to all the pointless readings, strange hymns fully of empty words, and people talking vacuous nonsense, they will be fully prepared for a life that will continue to be enriched by paid clergy. Who knows, maybe one of your children will one day accept £1 million for making an exceptional contribution to spirituality.

3 comments ( 291 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 467 )

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Thursday, 7 April, 2011, 07:38 AM - Education, Sacks
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

The government has announced its plans to increase social mobility. Social mobility is so important, but there is only so much governments can do. Previous governments created the kind of grammar school that I went to, but they're mostly gone now.

Where are the disadvantaged going to get that kind of opportunity today? I was fortunate, I had good parents. Many people have bad parents, which is a shame. My parents wanted me to be something better, and look at me now, Chief Rabbi, Baron Aldgate and a Dr Dr Dr Dr Dr Dr Dr Dr. I've been doctored more times than many of you will have been to Buckingham Palace.

It's often said that it's not what you know but who you know. In other words, you can be the most brilliant, gifted young genius in the country, but if you don't catch the eye of people who are really important you will remain mired in obscurity. You'll be an anonymous nobody, a reject, a worthless, ignominious failure.

Nowadays, where can nobodies, who otherwise have no access to people of quality, mix with their betters and seek to promote their own social advancement? Where else but in our places of worship! Talent may no longer get you into the best school, but you can come along to my synagogue where you will be free to ingratiate yourselves with those who possess the power and the patronage to see you good. Smile at us, make us laugh, flatter us, tell us how wise and generous we are. Do us the odd little favour here and there and who knows what favours we might bless you with in return.

The Big Book of Magic Stuff Part I, when it's not commanding genocide or national enslavement, tells the rich and the powerful to take pity on those who are not our social equals, so sometimes we will.

8 comments ( 1309 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 459 )

Reverend Rob Marshall, an Anglican priest 
Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 10:26 AM - Education, Marshall
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

It's really important to learn to read. The younger the better.
Michael Gove says it's really important to learn to read.
Victor Hugo said it's really important to learn to read.
C.S. Lewis said it's really important to learn to read.
I say it's really important to learn to read.
Learning to read can open up young minds to all sorts of possibilities.

Then, as soon as it's open, we'll fill it up with stories of angels and shepherds and wise men, that we'll tell them is the truth and they shouldn't ever question it.

4 comments ( 1141 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 505 )

Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian  
Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 08:38 AM - Education, Morality, Akhandadhi Das
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

We usually think young people are only interested in the X Factor or student fees. Surprisingly, it turns out that young people are not as shallow and materialistic after all. A recent study by a group dedicated to religious education, found that young people just love it - religious education that is. When asked "Do you think studying lots of different religions will increase your understanding of lots of different religions?", 80% replied yes. 20% thought that studying religion would not increase their understanding of religion.

This just goes to show how young people yearn for spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff. Apparently, even atheists, who you'd think would want to remain completely ignorant about other people's belief systems, think studying religion can teach you more about religion. Isn't that just amazing? This shows that even atheists yearn for spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff.

Young people also want to debate right and wrong. This is, of course, exactly what religion encourages you to do, as long as you end up agreeing with what a particular religion's fixed list of rights and wrongs are.

One of the Hindu Big Books of Magic Stuff, and we have many, tells the tale of Prahlada. As a young boy, Prahlada showed signs of being interested in spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff. Fearing that the boy may turn out to be a useless, gibbering idiot, his father sent him to be educated, but it didn't work. This too shows the latent desire in all young people to study spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff.

Some (i.e. atheists) think that religion should be confined to the home. I'd like to deliberately equate religious practise with the study of comparative religion, which they are also uniformly against. This narrow minded, dogmatic view of some (i.e. atheists) should be contrasted with my more enlightened view that children should be taught about many diverse religions. Once again this shows how spirituality, mysticism and general transcendental woo-woo stuff leads to a better way of doing things.

We need RE in schools. The only way to help young people develop their own individual morality, is to examine all the contradictory views of the world's religions.

13 comments ( 651 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 558 )

Reverend Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Benet's Church in Cambridge  
Thursday, 9 September, 2010, 07:15 AM - Education, Tilby
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

A trainee doctor has complained that, even once she passes her final exams, she won't be ready. The way the European Working Time Directive has been implemented means that she works shifts, with less access to consultants and fewer opportunities to examine patterns of behaviour. It leaves her lacking the confidence to make the big decisions that doctors need to make.

I can understand her position entirely, it's exactly the same with the clergy. There's much more to being an Anglican vicar than studying complex books on invisible magic stuff and then passing the exams. We talk about the "formation" of the clergy, where trainees act as disciples to master clergy, just as they learned their art from more experienced clergy before them.

Being a vicar is as much an art as a science. There's the art of how to draw inappropriate analogies while sounding completely serious and plausible. You have to learn how to continually extract money from people's pockets for the upkeep of the church roof. The weekly chore of the Sunday sermon is no easy task either, trying to sound superficially enthusiastic and inspirational, without actually saying anything at all. Then there are the big decisions to make: shortcake or hot buttered crumpet for tea? What hymns to sing at the daily service?

Yes, I can really sympathise with the rookie doctor first having to face the rough and tumble of the big bad world. It's so much like being a vicar.

6 comments ( 1115 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 312 )

Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet 
Friday, 20 August, 2010, 07:31 AM - Education, Pepinster
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

It's a tough year for school leavers. With so many young people getting A and A* on their A Levels, there just aren't enough university places to go around. Many will have to abandon their long held dreams of an honours degree in Media Studies and become lowly plumbers instead.

Catholics have always been really big on education. It's all about learning to acquire knowledge for its own sake, to reason, to analyse and to conclude that the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth and transubstantiation are all reasonable, rational phenomena. It's a character trait that we inherited from the Greeks just before we shut down their schools of philosophy.

Cardinal Newman was a very well educated Anglican. He was so clever and so well educated that he became a Catholic. His Hollowness, Reichsführer Benedict the umpteenth is going to turn him half way into a saint next month. He's infallible by the way, so if he says John Henry Newman is Blessed, then he is and that's an end to it. Newman might even get made into a full saint one day, if only he'd stop lounging around in heaven and do some more properly validated miracles.

Catholic education isn't about indoctrination. It's about opening up young minds to the truth about the Invisible Magic Friend, that other, rubbish, schools get so woefully wrong in their misguided and errant way. You'll also have a much better chance of getting that coveted Media Studies degree and not end up as something completely useless, like a plumber.

9 comments ( 1093 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.5 / 422 )

Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Monday, 16 August, 2010, 07:08 AM - Education, Wilkinson
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

A Level results come out this week and we'll be working hard at St John's College Durham, one of the oldest and best theological colleges in the country, to select the very best minds capable of doing justice to our rigorous programme of theological study.

With more and more students getting three A's every year, there will be the inevitable outcry that exams are getting easier. As a Rev Dr Dr, let me just assure you that, judging by the quality of our theology students, this is simply not so. This is something that I wish to thank the Invisible Magic Friend for, and so we move effortlessly from the subject of academic attainment onto my real subject for this morning: thanking the Invisible Magic Friend.

There's not enough thanking of the Invisible Magic Friend going on these days. For example, no one thought to thank the Invisible Magic Friend for David Beckham who so selflessly and for so little reward, laid down his career for Harry, England and Saint George.

Jesus constantly thanked the Invisible Magic Friend, that is himself, for everything he had done for himself. If it was good enough for Jesus then it ought to be good enough for you. So I'd like to thank the Invisible Magic Friend right now for my son. He was ill once, but thankfully the Invisible Magic Friend sent an ambulance. Thanks to the efforts of the paramedics and doctors, the Invisible Magic Friend made him better and he is still better today. Maybe he'll want to study the difficult and logical subject of theology when he gets his A Level results.

And now, a little academic joke about students. As our chancellor said at the graduation ceremony this year, "I'm sure many of you have had to work hard, but I'm also sure that many of you have been hard work."

(Titter, titter, titter.)

6 comments ( 1173 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 92 )

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