The special ones

A good guest post by Darel Hall on the University of Canterbury website. Darel blogs:

This year’s Christchurch students will be known as the special ones.  They will endure more, give more, and change student society more than any group of students for a generation.

Not every student will return to the University of Canterbury or the other tertiary institutions in and around Christchurch.  Some will need to be somewhere else this year. And perhaps a few parents will want their children to be elsewhere for a while.  How I would react is a question I have thought about a lot as I have two girls, a way off university age yet.  They come first, so if there were a question about their ability to cope or of reasonable safety, I would have some difficulty with them returning to Canterbury.

We thought the 2010 students were marvellous, and they were.  They mucked in and dealt with constrained exam times with equanimity.  They felt a justified pride in this.  And their example created the impetus for this year’s group.  Many of the 2010 group, of course, are part of the 2011 group; many of the 2010 students are the 2011 student leaders.

This year, 2011, will be harder.  This year’s students face a whole year blighted by a poor academic start to the year, reduced services, fear of aftershocks – and for some it is a cumulative process before the fear comes – and a broken city. …

And so the 2011 cohort can be the special ones.  They will grow and mature more in one year than some people do in a decade.  They will suffer short term adversity and gain forever for it.  They will really know what matters and what doesn’t because they will experience it firsthand.  That experience will be present in their academic studies and their future work lives.  They will never be naked because that knowledge will be a cloak they wear their whole lives, a cloak that can not be removed.

University education, tertiary education, education full stop should transform people.  The special ones will live it.  It is the worst of times but I am looking forward to what the special ones will create out of it.

Perhaps it is hyperbole, perhaps it is wishful thinking, perhaps not, but I believe that the 2011 students may just change student society for a generation.  Their sacrifice and contribution can create an example that students throughout New Zealand will want to emulate.  Their younger siblings in secondary and primary education will be proud of them.  These future student cohorts will have to decide what they do with the example they are left with; they will not have the option of just ignoring it.   That is why I suggest this group of students will be known as the special ones.

What a great post.

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