I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I occasionally feel the urge to have a really good rant. These explosions of fury are usually of no practical use, but occasionally they can be incredibly productive. I had one on the allotment today as I raged to my sister at the impossibility of my pursuing an ambition to take a further postgraduate qualification because of the extortionate cost. I got little sympathy from her. She is of the view that if someone has to pay for me to learn it shouldn’t be her as a taxpayer, but she was grateful for the incredible speed with which I cut back the raspberries as I railed against the establishment.
Joking apart, I am in something of a dilemma. As someone who finds a casual ‘teach yourself’ approach difficult to maintain when the lure of social networking is so strong I want the thought of assignments hanging over me to ensure I remain focused. The cost of further study is higher than I expected and as many are finding it impossible to afford a first degree, let alone a second postgraduate qualification I can hardly be surprised that I am expected to finance the course myself. The difficulty I face (apart from the fact that we have no money to spare) is my inability to convince anyone in my family or circle of friends, including my generally very supportive husband, that the investment is worthwhile. I am facing a brick wall, cemented I believe by the fact that I want to study a subject under the heading ‘Humanities’.
I hoped to study for a Masters in History or in Genealogy. The latter is more obviously vocational but neither option seems to meet with enthusiasm, although I have met some great people on twitter who have taken up the opportunity to study these subjects in depth and found it a fabulous experience. The difficulty for me is that I am surrounded by those who consider themselves of a ‘practical’ nature. My husband recently went so far as to suggest that those studying Physics or Chemistry for example should pay lower tuition fees than those taking English, Philosophy or indeed History. This was apparently on the basis that this would encourage people to study subjects that are thought less appealing to the many who, he thinks, only want to go to university to have a good time. That was possibly the closest thing to a row we have had in many years. I was furious; but my vigorous defence of my area of interest and determination to establish the value of subjects that I believe enrich lives and create rounded human beings did not seem to convince and he is not the only person who appears to feel like this.
I genuinely believe we need to understand the past in order to properly understand our place in the world not only as a species but as individuals. The discipline of study alone is valuable but so many have thought so much over the centuries that I almost ache for a greater understanding of way lives and events have connected. For example, how much easier it is to challenge the way we are governed now when we have a proper understanding of decisions taken by the ruling classes in the past? It is not just a longing to listen to ‘In Our Time’ with Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4 without losing the thread about fifteen minutes in. I have come to the conclusion, particularly with my own study of family and social history, that the study of the past is positively therapeutic. You don’t necessarily need counselling to understand your nature. Just study your history.
So what should I do? How can I justify putting £2,300 on a credit card for one year’s study? Is it the investment I think it will be, taking me further into a subject I love and have already achieved some very small success in? Or are my family right, thinking as they do that it is really just an extension of my obsession with knowing things? They are largely of the view after all that reading is just something to do when you are bored and there is nothing on the telly.
I appreciate that you are not careers advisers, dear readers. But any thoughts on how I might convince my family, and indeed myself, that the study will be valuable will be gratefully received…..