Opinion

Editors’ Voices

COVID-19 has revealed how little students matter in the UKElizabeth Reynard

At Oxford, we’re lucky to receive the quality of education we do – whether you’re a seasoned lecture-attender, serial library believer, or somewhere in between. Every student at Oxford also receives two-on-one tutoring, as well as classes or seminars, where we are able to talk to, learn from, and spend time with the leading academics in their field. To cut a long story short: however intense our degree, it is rare that we would argue we’ve been under-taught, especially in comparison to other universities. While we have online tutorials, increased online library access, and grants to support learning, other students have not received anywhere near that amount of support. Instead, many have been left to their own academic devices – and this after some university students were left wondering if they would have to repeat a year after their teaching was so disrupted by strikes.

Despite this, UK students are still paying their full student loan – plus interest – and look towards a future where it will be us who have to support the financial fallout from this crisis. There are so many groups of people that need support at this time, and none of this would ever be simple. However, the lack of (publicised) government support for university students and understanding of the debt that can stay with us for much of our careers has once again reiterated how low we are on that list of priorities.

Toxic masculinity- Edward Jiang (guest editor)

The constant reinforcement of the ‘ideal male’ being strong, brave, and less expressive has furthered the stereotypical impressions of men, especially teenage boys. In time, ’toxic masculinity’ has stigmatised and limited the freedom of boys to express negative emotions. Macroscopic impacts of such stereotypes include the lack of public and jurisprudential attention to violent assaults on men. 

As a society we should not assume that boys or girls have fixed traits, but should be aware of the individuality and the complexity of human psychology. The binary method of education could be detrimental to the mental health of children from a young age and could continue to impact boy’s behaviour into adulthood. Through this, ‘toxic masculinity’ and beliefs that “men need to be tough” would also be introduced to later generations. This is how ‘toxic masculinity’ has become ingrained into our civilisation.

By choosing a more appropriate manner of education that understands each child’s individuality as well as appreciating sophistication of the fluidity in gender, parents can help to create a better world with less stigmatised gender stereotypes. Maybe then will the issue of gender equality have a chance to be ultimately adjusted. 

No, a democracy can’t force journalists to be ‘positive’ about a pandemicOliver Shaw

Recent extensive criticism of the British press has centred on the idea that journalists have been ‘negative’ about the government’s coronavirus strategy.

Last week, TV’s Lord Sugar tweeted a widely circulated post that urged journalists to start “supporting the Government” and ask “questions that will provide positive and reassuring answers for all of us”. Such criticisms should frighten us, and completely miss the point about the role of the press in a democracy. Good journalism should hold power to account, especially when lives depend on it. It is not the job of the media to spread cheer or provide entertainment; sometimes the press must report upsetting news, and we always have the right to switch it off.

Newspapers are free to choose whether they support or oppose our government and we are all free to choose where we source our news. Plenty of publications have, in fact, been very kind to the government. But to demand that all journalists repeat the same ‘positive’ line is surely akin to totalitarianism, not to mention insulting to all those who have lost loved ones and want answers now.

It is hard to imagine what the likes of Lord Sugar envisage when they tell leading journalists like Laura Kuenssberg and Beth Rigby to offer “more positive support”. Do they expect them to give a round of applause to the minister at the daily press briefing? Indeed, major questions remain about testing, PPE, the crisis in care homes and confusing lockdown messaging. And we must keep asking why Britain’s death toll, at 32,000, is the worst in Europe.

YouGov polling shows that trust in the media has held up, but these criticisms are still alarming. It is never the job of the press to celebrate the government or provide cheer. Now more than ever, we need accountability, scrutiny and the difficult truth. 

It has taken a pandemic to make the arts accessibleMolly Archer-Zeff

Throughout history, the arts have been seen as a past time of the upper tiers of society. Of course, this has not been the case for all forms of art, Shakespeare’s plays are some of the most famous examples that theatre can be accessible for everyone. However, classical music, art, and much of theatre were generally viewed as ‘bourgeois’ pastimes, a luxury that a select few could afford. Today art is becoming increasingly accessible, particularly due to museums and art galleries across the nation switching to free entry in 2001. However, we must not be lulled into a false sense of success. According to The Stage magazine, the cost of the best West End theatre seats tripled in the space of a decade. Making art also remains expensive, with the costly prices of music lessons being unaffordable for many, limiting the artistic talent pool. 

Although the financial strains of lockdown have created an anxiousness about the future of theatres, it has also contributed to equalising the arts. A new host of artistic opportunities have become available online for free or very low costs. Online workshops, concerts, and performances have flooded the internet. The National Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, and The Shows Must Go On! have provided free video footage of past performances and even Andrew Lloyd Webber himself has been active in providing costless entertainment. Perhaps for the first time, we are beginning to see the arts truly opening their doors for all, regardless of income or background.