Debate: does Oxford breed arrogance?

first_imgIt is often bandied about that Oxford students are unusually likely to suffer from depression. Some blame the increased academic pressure or the more isolated environment. Well here is a better explanation: it is because we are constantly surrounded by arseholes.Oxford students are overwhelmingly an unbearably condescending and conceited bunch. This is no surprise; we have a system that intentionally breeds these qualities. Oxford life consists of bizarre traditions and an unusual teaching method that exist almost exclusively to promote the notion that Oxford is somehow radically different and more important than other universities. Oxbridge exceptionalism is everywhere.We delight in calling things strange, cryptic names like ‘prelims’, ‘pidges’ or ‘sconces’ to remind our foolish non-Oxford friends that they only got 2As and a B at A level and hence don’t get to have their own words for things. Students sitting exams are forced into oddly proportioned pieces of black cloth with dangly bits, because it is not enough that they be tortured but also humiliated at the same time.These self-conscious attempts to separate ourselves from the many other places in the UK where youths get bed-shittingly drunk and write essays are a clear attempt to grip on with aching fingertips to a past in which Oxford was truly exceptional. They serve no academic purpose and no function to do with student welfare beyond being an odd combination of ‘mild-annoyance’ and ‘way to feel special’. However, they are not nearly as nauseating as the distinctions that are academic in nature.You see, Oxford is confident in the abilities of its students. But it is confident in their abilities in the way that a mother who kicks her son’s teacher in the balls after he gives him a C is embarrassingly, unjustifiably confident. Oxford students don’t just study history they are ‘historians’, they aren’t mere geography students they are ‘geographers’, they aren’t English students they are the greatest playwright/actor/director born this side of 1990 and you should totally go see the awesome, life-affirming new meta- drama they’re promoting at the BT. “NO!” -Monish Kulkarni In PPE, a subject said to be preponderated by the kind of people who would use an unnecessarily long word like ‘preponderated’ when a shorter one would do, an academic arrogance and ludicrous disregard for the depths of the fields we encounter is embedded in the very syllabus. A student, having never before studied the vast, sprawling research on International Relations is expected, with half a week’s notice, to produce 2000 words weighing up the merits of several leading theories in the subject. It seems to be a given that after a night out vomiting all over Park End a teenager should be able to settle a centuries-long debate that – before last Tuesday – they didn’t even know existed.Putting out the Oxford arrogance would involve dramatic changes to some of the university’s long-established practices. The best that can be done in the mean-time is to take every- one down a peg. So, to clarify: you’re all a bunch of stupid, oily, hairy-tongued, fart-canisters. There, that ought to help. “Yes!” -Ben Deaner The word “Oxford” conjures up an absolute cornucopia of ideas, but a breeding ground for arrogance is unequivocally not one of them. Okay, so it’s easy to buy into the stereotypes; you know the ones – the egotistic Buller trashing yet another restaurant, the smarmy undergraduate smugly clutching his scholar’s gown, or the quintessential toff talking his way into a cushy job in an Ox- bridge-dominated City firm. But like most stereotypes, the “arrogant Oxonian” is purely the figment of some desperate journalist’s wild imagination.Far from breeding arrogance, Oxford is actually pretty good at giving you a healthy dose of humility. For starters, I can safely say the vast majority of Oxford students are not out trashing restaurants every other day. In reality, when you’re bombarded every week with an endless tower of reading lists, a world-class academic as your tutor and a group of friends who are annoyingly just as smart as you, arrogance isn’t really a feeling too high on the emotional register. And let’s not forget the pressure to “be something” once you’ve left here. Everyone from your mum to your cat expect you to cure cancer or become a billionaire – or both. If that wasn’t enough, you begin to think of the people who have gone here before. Names like William Gladstone and T.E. Lawrence have all studied amongst the dreaming spires, and are all likely to have been more brilliant, intelligent and successful than you will ever be. It’s not the most optimistic of thoughts. With all the pressure and commitments, you have to be pretty darn good to get arrogant at a place like this.“So what does Oxford actually give me?”, I hear you cry. The answer isn’t just a mountain of student debt and a slightly questionable pair of red chinos, but rather, a real sense of confidence. Not arrogance, but confidence. Yes, we’ve all probably been stressed over an essay crisis, or been on the receiving end of the disdain of a particularly disgruntled tutor. All this is exactly why we can’t really be arrogant. Yet, when we survive those tutes, or ace those problem sheets in the ridiculously short time frame that Oxford demands, we do feel an en- titled sense of confidence and satisfaction. A frequent comment from the mouths of Oxford alumni is how coping and surviving their undergraduate essay crises now makes their cur- rent work feel normal and manageable – quite simply, they are used to the sheer volume of work and stress thanks to their time at Oxford.So let’s discard those outdated images of Oxford as the bastion of arrogance and smarminess. Yes I’m sure there are Bullers running around somewhere and the odd self-centred Blue, but for most of us, surviving Oxford breeds confidence, not arrogance.last_img read more