Purpose as well as privilege 1

August 14, 2008

Mary Evans's opinion piece about the politics of education ("Stranger than fiction: Harry Potter and the Order of the Entitled", 31 July) makes a few worthwhile points on the failure of new Labour's fantasies about the power of education to address social, financial and cultural inequalities.

But among the reasons is the claim that a group of southeast Londoners visiting the University of Cambridge couldn't connect its Hogwartsian architecture with their real lives and values. Well, perhaps not - but were these sixth-formers given only a tourists' view of the older colleges? Did they visit the laboratories, libraries and lecture halls, the new accommodation blocks beyond the old courts, or the social and sports facilities?

Looking at these, preferably while in use, should have conveyed a sense of purpose alongside the signs of privilege, and might have made the place seem more useful, and more like other universities they are likely to encounter, though if they don't like architectural grandeur perhaps they should keep away from their local institution, Greenwich.

Andrew Blake, University of East London.

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