Why should you nominate a new Fellow?

Posted by rsl11 at Dec 30, 2020 11:00 PM |
Meet one of our Fellows, Professor Bryan Cheyette, and learn more about the Fellowship scheme and our new Fellows Award.

"My academic career began inauspiciously. I failed the 11 plus and ended up, after much soul-searching from my parents, at the best secondary modern school in Leicester (as it was a one-time comprehensive). But it did not send any of its students to university or even to a six-form college. I would have had a different path if not for an exceptional English teacher, Stephen Charlton, who taught four of us after hours. English Literature was not on the curriculum, so he taught it anyway using Palgrave’s Golden Treasury (1861). This Victorian path to self-improvement did the trick. Instead of thinking of myself as one of a 1001 institutionalised failures, I was able to attend a six-form college and study English literature at A level.

I did not realise it at the time, but I had been converted into a zealous educationalist. A significant number of 11 plus failures are over-achievers. Out of the four Palgrave-readers, one is a pro-vice chancellor, one a mining engineer, and one (the disappointment) climbed the greasy pole in a local bank. We are all autodidacts which means that we never stop learning and never stop trying to overcome our formative sense of failure. I was raised in a Jewish household and while this identity has always been important to me, I am primarily a teacher and learner. It is what drives me to understand the world to this day.

Being awarded a Fellowship at The English Association has been the highlight of my career. At the time I was told that it was the beginning of a process of diversifying the fellows and my colleagues who appoint new fellows have taken this as their mandate. Looking at me you might ask, with some justification, how a middle-aged white man can speak of diversity. My life-experience as not quite “white”, living with antisemitism and classism, gives me some justification but, I agree, that is not enough. We need more people of colour as fellows and, above all, teaching in our universities and schools. We also need a genuine dialogue with the aim of challenging the privilege of whiteness and class networking in our education institutions.

To this end the Fellowship Committee is aiming to support younger colleagues as First Fellows. The EA is looking to lead with a robust anti-racist policy which will empower those who are decolonizing the curriculum. For me, an EA fellowship was a wonderful antidote to being cast as a second-class citizen. Those awarding fellowships aim to extend this vaccination programme (if you will excuse the metaphor) so that none of us need feel second-class again. Please propose a fellow today. Here’s how."

Professor Bryan Cheyette, FEA, University of Reading

Nominate someone for the Fellows Award (deadline 23 April 2021)

Nominate someone for a Fellowship (deadline 23 April 2021)

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