Playground Politics, and Why I’m Glad I’m Not Five Anymore

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Playground trends.

If you went to primary school in the 90s, you will have been sucked into a number of trends. Pokemon cards, which drained your pocket money and transformed lunch hour into a microcosmic stock exchange. Tamogotchis, which instilled children with their initial sense of altruistic feeling for another living thing. And conker games, which were subsequently phased out during the conker bans of 2004 onwards, also known as the Cotton Wool Act for the Protection of Cosseted Youths (CWAPCY)… To be fair, those things did hurt like a bugger when they whacked you on the knuckles.

The point is, as a half-witted child in a sea of other half-witted children, you feel that the only way to respond to trends is to immediately tag on to them yourself. You lack the wisdom and initiative to sneer satirically at the trivial pursuits of your classmates, condescending to them in your enviable uniqueness. There was no hipster counter-revolution. You were either the outcast without any Pokemon cards, sniffling to yourself in the corner, or that chubby connoisseur, cackling as you managed to convince some deluded Year 3 to trade you their Charizard for your lowly Abra.

Growing up, you realise this doesn’t have to be the case. You see a lot of great trends, in magazines, on the streets, or on your university campus. You could buy brothel creepers, or you could stick to your original conviction that they look a little creepy. You could join the netball team, reaping all the social and fitness benefits, or you could invest your time bouncing about a stage performing musical theatre. You could take recreational drugs; a lot of people do. Or you could decline, citing the perfectly legitimate reasons why you would rather not. The great thing about reaching a certain level of maturity is the realisation that there is absolutely no need to blindly follow trends. At university, for instance, there are societies for everything under the sun. There are thousands of different people, from different places, different social backgrounds. The idea of halls- I’m not saying this always works out- is to blend together a number of  people who are distinct from each other. This forms a life lesson, not just about tolerance but also challenging the circumscribed way in which your schooldays taught you to think.

Education becomes increasingly interactive. 

Most people will remember having, at some point, been told off for talking in class. I sometimes wish these same people would attend one of my English Literature seminars. ‘How did everyone find the text?’, asks the tutor, to fifteen stoney-faced students, half of us hungover, and half of us just unwilling to tell her we hated it. The great thing about being at university, however, is that, for the most part, we all chose to be here, to be studying our respective degrees and to be forking out the extortionate fees. Hence, we are usually not fatally bored enough to have to conduct a superior discussion of our own. The other wonderful thing is that, once in a while, we are actually given the opportunity to contribute our insights. Our opinions matter, in fact, they become a basis for where the discussions go. As glorious as it is to be dictated to about different rock formations for hours on end, I would really rather hear from the rock itself. When education becomes a discourse, rather than a barrage of dull information that no one asked for…now that’s what I call teaching.

There is no obligation to move. 

Bubbling over with energy, fizzing violently, desperate to escape…no I am not talking about the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, I am talking about little kids. They do not stop. Somehow, they manage to make their stumpy legs carry them around for hours, supporting them through endless games of Tag and Hopscotch and then, once they return to class, they can’t bloody keep still. The reason it baffles me is because, unfortunately, I was never one of these kids. I was the chubby seven year old that ran away from her tennis lessons to sit and read in a quiet corner (incidentally, the tennis lessons would have probably been a shrewder idea). But I suspect I was not the only one who felt like this, and genuinely, I enjoy the adult prerogative to spend lunch breaks catching up with friends, with no incentive to move from my comfy armchair, except for that shout-out from the barista holding my soya chai hostage.

Everyone wants to be the smart, weird kid. 

Back in the good old days, everyone mocked the class loser – that studious, bespectacled guy who went round quoting ‘The Ancient Mariner’ and had a penchant for red trousers. Incidentally, does this sound like anyone you know? …Does it, in fact, sound like most people nowadays? With the growing realisation that intelligence and quirkiness are necessary in order to secure any kind of creative-based job, everyone rushed out to ‘find themselves’ and all returned with identical pairs of chinos. The growth in the hipster movement renewed a Wildean preoccupation with intellectualism for intellectualism’s sake and aestheticism for aestheticism’s sake. And whilst this movement- like any social stereotype- lends itself to satire, at least it promotes a cause which is a little more worthy than drinking through a hoover nozzle and ‘one night only’ dalliances. Plus, we have done our research since primary school, and learnt that the one-time-outcasts are the ones that will be making their first million whilst most of us will be independently paying off our own gas bill.

No one puts baby in the corner.

I got ‘sent to the corner’ during a seminar the other day for using obscenities most relevantly during a discussion of the set text. Of course, this isn’t taken seriously when you are 21, but it did take me back to those primary school days when it really was a fate worse than death. It was simple, back then. Some teachers represented a second maternal figure. Others were more like Satan in a pencil skirt. And as for the latter kind, you were often too afraid to even sharpen your yellow HB pencil in their presence, let alone show a bit of vigour and passion for their subject. Once you get to university, yes, it is a little disconcerting when you are first given the liberty to refer to your tutor as ‘Dwayne’ or whatever his Christian name happens to be. But the much larger consolation is that, whilst you accept you are not your tutor’s intellectual equal, at least you feel comfortable enough to look them in the eye. Suddenly, you’re an intelligent young individual. If you haven’t done your seminar prep then, then whilst you might have to reveal your ignorance during a one hour discussion of the plot inconsistencies in Defoe’s Moll Flanders, no one will make you read the bloody thing during a detention session.

Let’s not forget the glorious things that come with age. For me, these included the following: Dropping Geography. Learning to drive.  Breaking the 5″0 mark (just). Realising, as you’re- at last- admittedly legally into that crappy Watford nightclub, that you want to get out of it…immediately.  People often get nostalgic about their youth, especially as they reach the official adult age of 18 (I personally shut myself in a room and cried for half an hour). But, secure in my twenties, I can now enjoy the perks of getting older, and the all-important wisdom that comes with it.

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