A Waste of a Cambridge Education?


On Sunday my eldest daughter will be 21.

She’s thousands and thousands of miles away.

A teacher now. Or a teacherintraining.

I say to an acquaintance, when they enquire as to where my children are and what they are doing: “Melie? Oh, she’s teaching’.



A degree from Cambridge and she’s teaching? What a waste!

My eyes grew wide and my mouth fell open. Slack jawed no words came out and acquaintance minced off.

But I was furious. Furious at their comment.  And furious at myself for not finding the voice to defend my daughter’s choice.  One her dad and I championed.

But I have now: found my voice.

What – I have asked myself  time and time again since that throwaway observation was made – ought parents do to pass muster? To be Good Enough? Love our children, certainly, protect them, cherish them, hug them, read to them, make them eat broccoli, remember to take them to the dentist, nurture a sense of self worth.

Educate them.

Give them Roots. Grant them Wings. Education helps society soar.

If we learned how to prevent the spread of malaria with a onetime cure, how to eradicate poverty with the wave of a magic wand, how to fill bellies in the hungriest places on earth with the click of our fingers, nothing would sustain. Nothing can without education.

Ask an impoverished African child what he wants most in the world and he’ll tell you to go to school.

And when I dwell further on my daughter’s critic’s comment, I am staggered at the irony. Clearly they revered Cambridge. But where on earth do they think all the academics who teach there began their careers. In classrooms I imagine?

I know it was the way Amelia was taught , the teachers who inspired her, that helped get her to Cambridge in the first place.

amelia final exam over

Melie after last of her finals

And I hope she’ll help kids to follow in her footsteps.



And Another Thing …


Amelia’s dad comes home and reads this post. He asks who it was that considered Cambridge a waste given daughter’s career choice. I tell him. ‘Ah’, he observes, ‘the most competitive of parents … didn’t they bust a gut to get their son into  (and he names an elite British boarding school) …”.

Indeed they did.

Presumably so that they could boast about the Education they could afford to gift their offspring …

Ironies abound.


20 Responses to “A Waste of a Cambridge Education?”

  1. Addy Says:

    I hate it when people claim to know better and want to rain on your parade. I bet their child in their super-dooper boarding school with pushy parents will eventually drop out and sell The Big Issue. You have every reason to feel proud of your daughter and that Cambridge degree will open doors for her wherever she goes and whatever career she pursues.

  2. Ellie Says:

    What a gift for her students, to have such a well-educated teacher! 🙂

  3. Elaine - I used to be indecisive Says:

    Does your aquaintance mean to suggest that being a teacher is not a worthy job? A very well educated teacher can only be a bonus in the education system – and maybe even inspire and teach the children in the top notch British school??

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Yes Elaine, I think so: the implication being that teaching isn’t a worthy job. Which makes the irony so laughable.

  4. sustainablemum Says:

    Teachers have an enormous contribution to make to our societies. I really hope that your wonderful daughter does not become disillusioned with people like your acquaintance who seem to feel that teachers and teaching is such a lowly profession. It is about time we valued them, especially in the UK.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      I absolutely agree sustainablemum. Why do people think like that?! How could nurturing the minds and ambitions of the future generation be anything but hugely valuable?

  5. janelle Says:

    I am outraged! A teacher? A waste? Also so tired of all the snobbery surrounding Universities and schools. At the end of the day they make bugger all difference. Some of the world’s greatest philosophers, artists, inventors never even finished school, never mind university. Ouf. This has made me so cross! Having said that, some of our loveliest and best teachers here at Braeburn in Arusha came from Cambridge – maths boffins – are they are BRILLIANT and giving so much back to the world…I think your post is very watered down, Anthea! sending love and YAY for Melie! She’ll inspire so many for the better. XXX Janelle

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Janelle. Yes. a tempered post. Just wish I’d found the words when i needed to! lovely to see you at the weekend. but far too brief x

  6. nuttycow Says:

    Good on you RM – and good on her for such a difficult job to take on. I’m considering a career change that way now, actually… not an easy task or cop out by any means. 🙂

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Nutty. and good luck! I think it’s a great career. wish i’d been a teacher. and now i’m too far away from anywhere to teach 😦

  7. nuttycow Says:

    And PS – ADORE her tumblr. Keep up the good work A.

  8. Elizabeth GW Says:

    Teaching is one of the finest careers our daughter could have chosen. Not all societies undervalue it as much as (much of the) the Anglo-world… some even pay commensurate compensation!

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      I absolutely agree Elizabeth GW. A noble career and one that keeps one engaged and learning and growing. that’s certainly can’t be said for all career choices.

  9. Nan Says:

    Isn`t it sad that education is now equated with earning power/prestige/status and no longer seen as a personally rewarding journey. Teaching is so challenging (and rewarding) and also prods the teacher to continue to learn. What could be better for a bright girl?

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Well said Nan. I heartily agree. And it is very sad that it’s equated with earning power for the earning potential does not reflect what is delivered in return.

  10. Crafting Good Enough Company | Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] empathize. I have been there too. Not long ago. And I have years on Hat, years which ought to have lent me a voice when I really needed […]

  11. janerowena Says:

    Of all the professions, during the times of financial problems, teaching stays the safest job to be in, in the UK. As my husband is a maths teacher (in a good public school) from Cambridge, and my son is there now and also thinking of teaching, I think your acquaintances need educating!

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