Grannies, graduates and gut reactions

June 28, 1996

I was fascinated to read that research (THES, June 14) suggests that a major reason for the increase in asthma cases could be that we protect our children too much from exposure to germs, thus depressing their immune system. My son is eight now but I well remember my mother's amusement at the sterilisation regime kept up beyond his first year in order to comply with the best advice, and her comment that it would be good for him to catch something. The words from my ante-natal classes rang loud in my head, "Grannies are wonderful but don't pay too much attention to ill-informed opinions and old wives' tales".

Moving on to the current debate about "graduateness" I was struck by the irreverent definition passed to me at a recent meeting - "A graduate is someone who has a degree isn't it?" Pre-mass higher education, that is probably as much as anyone wanted to know. Credence came from rarity and mystery. The need to define graduateness becomes apparent when we are producing so many and employers, government and others want to know what they are getting for their money. I wonder if the acquisition of common sense has been articulated as one of the essential components.

Which brings me back to my mother who is not a graduate but, at 75, can still enjoy a traditional Sunday roast of beef and put salt on her potatoes. She says we know too much these days. Perhaps. I am inclined to think however that knowing a lot (but not everything) undermines our ability to make the simple judgements required to take life in its stride.

Anyway, if anyone is considering their shortlist for honorary doctorates I would like to nominate my mum.

Lesley Munro, Fulwood, Preston

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