Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It Doesn't Smell Like Teen Spirit in Oxford

            The fieldtrip to Oxford didn’t disappoint –the university is breathtaking to look at and is prominently a lot different from our SDSU home. The first thing that caught the interest of my anthropogenic eye was the architecture: an incredible combination of classical, pre-medieval, and gothic styles. These implied a great value for traditional education, especially with the prominent use of classical motifs in the buildings –the Greek-styled busts, the pillars, the Latin writings, and such. It’s understood from these motifs used throughout the university that the students are well-educated on the topics of Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, or Socrates. This is probably the reason that most evidently separates British from American education systems: a larger focus on academics as opposed to extra-curricular activities.
The classics are alive and well in Oxford University. The Greek-styled motifs found throughout the institution serve to remind the anthropogenic viewer about the institution's devotion towards academics. [Photography Credits: Google]
            One of the things mentioned by Makey during our stay in Oxford was the lack of fraternities and sororities in British institutions of higher learning. Back home in SDSU, the students are overwhelmed by flyers and people everywhere urging them to join a fraternity or become involved with a club or with sports. Many students accept, with the hopes that becoming involved in extra-curricular activities will give them an advantage in job interviews. On the other hand, according to the Oxford admissions director Mike Nicholson, “students are better off devoting more time to academics than trying to [improve] their personal statements through charity work.” (x) This implies that the British education system truly values academics more than anything else- -which reflects on the architectural style of the university too. 
Back home, SDSU is home to Peterson gym, the Aquaplex, multiple fields to play any sport you can imagine, and even a place to see the school team play. Even the layout of our school reflects on the total opposite from Oxford’s aim –SDSU focuses on providing the student with a variety of extra-curricular activities in addition to the academics. However, this doesn’t necessarily implies that British schools don’t allow their students to participate in sports or other activities, as a matter of fact, college sports such as rugby or soccer are vastly popular in the country (x). The key difference is that the British education system, as Nicholson pointed out, doesn’t expect their students to be well-rounded on multiple skills. In reality, the University of Oxford has claimed multiple times that what they look at the most when reviewing applications is that the student succeeds academically. Once the students are up for the interview, the university looks for passion in their field and a hard working individual (x), again, this implies more value on academics than on the extracurricular activities American students are forced to participate in.
In addition, the amount of socialization offered at these two types of universities differs greatly. In Oxford, most students work independently on their work. As Makey pointed out, they sparingly meet with a professor that hands them assignments; however, they are expected to do most of the research on their own. In a way, this provides an advantage to fulfill the mind of a curious student and to help them branch out their knowledge of their particular subject of interest. It also works on their favor because it allows them to focus more on what they want to do -for example, they research topics dealing with their career as opposed to subjects dealing with general courses. Many might argue that a major throwback of this system is that it deprives students of necessary socialization skills. However, much of that socialization doesn’t have to essentially come from the classroom. The students can still socialize outside of class, and if they wish, they can carry on conversations about academics with students they meet at libraries or museums. 
Free admission to museums and libraries is one of the ways that British students can get their socializing skills without distracting themselves from their academics. Also, notice that the architecture of the British Museum [Photograph Credits: Wikipedia] also implies higher appraisal on the knowledge of the classics. 

In the US, however, socialization is one of the key practices taught in the classroom through group projects as well as indirectly outside the classroom through the extra-curricular activities. However, from an Oxford scholar point of view, they might see these sporting events and fraternities as distractions from academics. In conclusion, the SDSU scholar differs greatly from the Oxford scholar in how one is more expected to participate in extra-curricular activities, as well as in the amount of socialization one gets over the other. 

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