The rise and rise of the school-run is a familiar story. In the 60s and 70s my own virtuous generation used to get ourselves to school on foot, by bus or bike. Now the kids get driven there in the 4 by 4, Ford Fiesta or whatever. Whatever the reasons (parental anxiety about murderous traffic and/or wandering paedophiles), the results are obvious in the shape of pollution and overweight/underexercised kids. Not to mention the fact that the average 10 year-old has lost the only half hour or so of independence that they used to enjoy during the day.
What people don’t realise is that the same phenomenon extends to universities too. When I was a student we used to go from home to college by train or bus, sending our assorted possessions in a large trunk – dozens of which you would see piled up at the Porters’ Lodge. (There was a British Rail service, I seem to remember, called “Passenger Luggage in Advance”, which I don’t imagine exists any longer.)
Now, most of them seem to get brought and picked up by their doting or long-suffering parents, in cars stuffed to the gills with clutter (and I confess that, wearing my parental hat, I do this too). Part of the reason may be practical. When we came home at Christmas and Easter, we used to stuff our things in cupboard and hop on the train. Certainly at Cambridge many colleges, with an eye on conference business, insist that the undergraduates – unless they can prove that they really do live on the other side of the planet – remove all their possessions every vacation.
But it’s not just practical (after all, there’s still the trunk option). Mums and Dads seem to appear much more often around college than their traditional single epiphany at graduation.