Back to School

Jenny Diski

It has been my habit, since I was very young, to keep easy sentiment, nostalgia, optimism even, in a secure box, and to forget where I left the key. This isn’t a confession, as it might seem to be in these emotionally overindulgent days. It’s simply a strategy; I’m a non-believer in the recuperative power of easily expressed instinctive feeling. Even so, I teared up at Michelle Obama tearing up, as she said, speaking to a group of girls at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson comprehensive school in Islington: ‘All of you are jewels. When I look at a performance like this, it just reminds me that there are diamonds like this all over the world.’ She told them that they were the women who would ‘build the world as it should be,’ and included education in her idea of health. She even dared to suggest that being clever and learning aren’t things to be mocked: ‘I never cut class. I loved getting A’s, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart was cooller than anything in the world.’

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