Friday, May 27, 2011

At last, a real role model for young women!

A remarkable piece in the 'Times' today by a schoolgirl called Aneesah Siddiqui.

Ms Siddiqui is 15 years old and a pupil at Elizabeth Garret Anderson School in North London, and she was one of the young women invited to go to Oxford University and meet Michelle Obama.

She says; '...before Wednesday, Oxford University was totally beyond my aspirations. I knew about its elite status, but I believed that, because of the expense, I would never get there...'

Mrs Obama has shown this young woman how wrong she was.

Michelle Obama captivated her young audience, speaking not with the voice of the wife of the most powerful man in the world, but as a high-achieving black woman from Chicago, who thinks that to be intellectually smart is to be cool, who believes that to aspire to the best that is within you is the way to achieve, and who believes that anyone can acquire the glittering prizes if they want them enough.

Ms Siddiqui says this; '...I finally met my role model...when she was delivering her speech, I was transfixed...I couldn't believe she cared so much about my school in Islington...'

This young woman has experienced her Damascene moment. '...As I asked my question, she made me feel so confident that I forget there were cameras in the room...she made me forget my fears...She said we were all future leaders and must start now...'

We should be truly grateful to Mrs Obama that she has this ability to connect so closely with young women standing on the verge of choosing their future direction in this world. This woman has managed to find a way to finally provide a real role model for young teenagers who could so easily be swayed in other directions and away from the hard path of acquiring education through real scholarship.

This is the real point - education is not easy to acquire, it involves hours of long, hard private study, and the time spent in the classroom should only be a beginning, an initial chance to observe a structure on which to build a greater edifice of self-imposed learning. Education for its own sake is worth investing in, Ms Siddiqui has already decided to choose the hardest 'A' levels she can undertake, maths, physics and biology, and what's more, she has inspired an existing student to mentor her in her university application.

We need more women like Michelle Obama. Our children are surrounded by distractions that hold out the poisoned apple of the lure of celebrity with its tawdry moral values and its cheapened distorted images. It makes such a change to hear a woman throw down the challenge of the path of education, instead of peddling trashy stories of ' mental torment because I have big boobs...' or "... 'I spend my waking hours thinking of Pete', says Jordan..."

This kind of junk, which overflows off the shelves of our newsagents, and fills the front pages of every web search engine with up-to-the-minute exposeƩs about Cheryl Cole, merely cheapens the world of young women and offers nothing in the way of motivating them to aspire to higher opportunities. These publications exploit their readers who do not realise that they are being encouraged into dumbing down, rather than searching for the best that is within them. There must still be more teachers and lecturers out there who have not forgotten what real study can do for a young enquiring mind!

One thing is certain. Mrs Obama has enthused a whole class of young women from an Islington school. She has fired up the imagination of Ms Aneesh Siddiqui, and her enthusiasm will not be tamed. Listen to her last words ;

'...Before I met Mrs Obama I thought that I would have an ordinary job. But now I want to be something that really makes a difference in the world...If I hadn't met Michelle Obama, you would probably have never heard (of me). But now - just watch this space..!'

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