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Head Boy's Blog 24th April 2017

    26 April 2017

Privilege is something that can easily be taken for granted, especially when we are born and raised in a society that would have been unimaginable to a peasant in the 14th century. Still today, many people only imagine the sort of life we have here at Sherfield, where it doesn't seem ridiculous to complain about the absence of quinoa from the salad bar. It always pays to take a step back and look objectively at our modern luxury.

As of now, I am in a position of great privilege: the Head Boy of a successful school in a quintessentially English Village and historic stately home; a chance to be in private education and an offer from Oxford University. However, it has not always been that way for my predecessors. I would like to think I come from an average background: I was educated down the road at Great Binfields, a state junior school; my mother was a single parent for most of my childhood and whilst my father had previously worked in high paid jobs, his passion for outdoor activities encouraged him to seek enjoyment over material gain. I was never poor, but certainly not wealthy.

My good fortune comes from my grandfather. He has a fantastic mind, as well as an eye for business, and his work on mass spectrometry granted him his fortunes. My paternal grandfather loves his family deeply, and he has maintained a strong relationship with my mother despite the absence of his son from our lives. He has always been one of my strongest supporters; without his aid I wouldn't be attending this school. His hard work, dedication and talent gave him access to a new privileged world, and he passed some of hose down to me. However, as I have explained, I do not come from a rich household.

It would be grossly untrue for me to say I've never taken what I have now for granted, but due to my background, I always keep in my mind that much of what I have is not from my own labour. That doesn't mean that all of my privileges are given and not earned. I have put in hundreds of hours of study to be at a level where I could be considered for Oxford.

What I am very aware of, however, is that I have had help along the way. At school and at home, I have had more support than I ever could have asked for, and I cannot describe the gratitude I feel for that. Moreover, I live in the U.K., a country where I have the infrastructure to aspire and an assurance of safety, regardless of what I wear, who I marry or what I do for a job. Liberty. A lot of people around the world can't say that. Christians in Syria are persecuted for their faith, gay men in Uganda face the death penalty for their love and there are children working in factories in Vietnam, fingers bleeding and backs aching, who supply us with next season's look.

When we are born into the world at different starts, it is difficult to judge what we have earned and what has been given to us. However, it is not fair to ridicule those who have inherited privilege. Should we really take those privileges away when they have done nothing wrong. At our weekly business breakfast last week Mr Fisher shared the following wisdom: “It is not what you are given that should be judged, it is what you do with what you have that counts.”

I don't think a single person reading this will have the answers to the world’s problems; they are not the sort of problems one person can solve. What is important is that we ask these questions to ourselves, and use them to reflect on our positions in life. Here at Sherfield, we have it pretty good, and it is something that we should all keep in mind. I have been asked to provide our quote for the coming week. I have chosen a proverb whose origin remains clouded, but is generally accepted as a western absorption of many African idioms. The proverb is "it takes a village to raise a child" The phrase was popularised by Hillary Clinton in the titular book she released as First Lady. I feel that it strongly reflects my experiences in life, and the great privilege I have experienced result from the village of people I have had supporting me.

Thomas Jenkins, Head Boy 2016 -17

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    Privilege is something that can easily be taken for granted, especially when we are born and raised in a society that would have been unimaginable to ...

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