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Bonfire of the Humanities - The Ex-Communicator

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June 6th, 2011


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06:27 pm - Bonfire of the Humanities
I was saying before that I think basing access to education on parental income rather than intellectual ability and achievement demeans education itself. I think it demeans it in two ways. It is bad that the highest awards are not given to the most competent students, of course, but more damagingly, this lowers the status of competence itself. If student ability is not the deciding factor in determining progress, then competence becomes something of secondary consideration (almost by definition).

I think that the establishment of private universities such as AC Grayling's New College for the Humanities is a symptom of a degradation of the idea of education.

Here is Terry Eagleton in the Guardian:
British universities, plundered of resources by the bankers and financiers they educated, are not best served by a bunch of prima donnas jumping ship and creaming off the bright and loaded. It is as though a group of medics in a hard-pressed public hospital were to down scalpels and slink off to start a lucrative private clinic. Grayling and his friends are taking advantage of a crumbling university system to rake off money from the rich. As such, they are betraying all those academics who have been fighting the cuts for the sake of their students.

Plus why is Stephen Pinker the Philosophy tutor? He doesn't even have a degree in Philosophy. It just makes me think they are picking 'famous people' to attract money. Like paying to go to a dinner with celebrity speakers.

I also have a prediction which is that Pinker, Dawkins, Grayling and Peter Singer will spend 0.01% of their time teaching at this place, while creaming in the ££££s off the poor saps who have paid to rub shoulders with them.

Imagine me going 'ha ha' in an annoying voice.

(28 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
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University of the Smug.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and Niall Ferguson, whom I always want to kick

From Crooked Timber: 'a lot of the press commentary appears to have inadvertently implied that these academic megastars will be doing the teaching. But, sharp cookies will have noted, none of them appear to have resigned from their existing posts or given any notice that they intend to do so'
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I think I did read somewhere today that Grayling had now resigned from Birkbeck, but oh, these greedy greedy people, pretending they are striking a blow for liberty.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
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It sounds to me like he's been kicked out of Birkbeck. Bald announcement that 'he will be leaving us immediately'. But obviously I don't know for sure.
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From:matildabj
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
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Some of the comments to the Guardian article are interesting. The typical right-wing view that people should be free to spend their money on education if they want to and that it's nobody else's business but their own. I just hope this sinks into obscurity and will never be seen as an elite institution for high-flyers.

I'm struggling to put into words how I feel about this. Not anger, just utter, utter dismay.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
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I think these guys have made a misstep, akin to when BBC stars move to ITV for more money. I think what they have done is quite a bit worse than moving to ITV (in itself a blameless move) and think how careers have been damaged by that. The British public are funny.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
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I think the British public isn't the target market.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
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For sure, but I mean their public face will suffer, which is significant to media players. Though perhaps no effect outside the UK.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
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I'm not so sure. Lots of people on Twitter sighing longingly and wishing they could attend.

I'll be fascinated to see whether Stephen Fry participates in any way.
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From:gair
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
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And why are they only employing scientists and economists at the New College for the Fucking Humanities? The whole thing is just, oh, I am leaving the country anyway.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
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Let's set up our own university. Do you want to be the Master or the Doctor?
[User Picture]
From:gair
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
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Oh, God, it would be the university of fucking awesome. THE UNIVERSITY OF GALLIFREY.

Can we take turns being the Master and the Doctor? Like, on alternate days?
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
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YES.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
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You'll like this

"Although NCH is a humanities institution, the idea of bridging the CP Snow gap as much as possible - and in particular to bring extended examples of serious, disciplined, evidence-and-reason-based scientific styles of thinking into the humanities curriculum - seems to me tremendously important. It is great that Richard and our other science colleagues are involved with NCH in this way, and I hope we reinvigorate the attempts sporadically made in the past at other institutions to demand of humanities students that they get a good acquaintance with scientific ideas."

ETA - should have said that's a quote from Grayling

Edited at 2011-06-06 06:21 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:hano
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
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On one level, if someone's stupid enough to pay £18K a year to be taught by Niall Ferguson that's their problem.
That said, anyone involved with this should be ashamed of themselves, hopefully sufficient to go jump off the nearest cliff. I cannot begin to express just how angry those bastards have made me.
Terry Eagleton does a much more eloquent demolition job here
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
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Yes, they should give them a certificate that says 'More Money Than Sense'. But then I guess for many jobs, that's an asset.
[User Picture]
From:hano
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
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d'oh, just realised you'd already linked to the Eagleton.
Thing is it's not going to be just the students who are being ripped off, it's their parents as well. I wouldn't mind so much, if the more money than sense brigade were being scammed to fund the rest of the system, but no, it's going to line a few pockets. I wonder if the academics involved realise just how much damage they're doing to what's left of their reputations? Probably not
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From:steepholm
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
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I only wish Eagleton hadn't said:

Somehow it's hard to imagine these guys rolling in at 9am and teaching for 12 to 15 hours a week, which is what you do in the real Oxbridge.

This is not likely to produce the intended "Now that's what I call a week's work!" reaction in many readers.
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From:steepholm
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
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They seem to have confused 'gifted' with 'loaded'.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Ironically I think there must come a challenge to conventional academic education, which targets those who are actually gifted and somehow develops them, but when will it come.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
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Jack of Kent has a good post on this:

A C Grayling's Folly
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
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The widespread and consistent reaction I am seeing makes me think this will collapse. Dawkins in particular is no fool, and he's still got a few years in him, he won't wreck it all for this. Once he jumps it's just a matter of time.
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From:happytune
Date:June 6th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
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This is SC's view - that the whole enterprise is doomed to failure, particularly because the grandstand lectures will be interspersed with who-knows-what kind of 'teaching assistant' and as a result is not a sustainable 'high-end education' model. He doesn't think that the loose, and possibly temporary, attachment of these famous folks will be enough to build a brand that truly tempts the most able young people in the way that Oxbridge /ought/ to (debates about admissions aside for the moment).

But like altariel, I think that the UK is not the target market - it ain't situated in Bloomsbury for nothing...My own sense of despair is rooted in how quickly this sort of effort has come into being since the coalition came into power. It used to be that Buckingham was a sort of freaky fringe 'thing' - I worry that this will now become mainstream.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
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this article in the Guardian supports SC's intuition. It can't provide what it promises at the prices quoted.
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From:espresso_addict
Date:June 6th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
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It stinks that the University of London is going to award their degrees and share libraries & other facilities with 'em.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
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That's strange isn't it? I am not sure how it is going to work out, and a lot of people seem to be backtracking right now.
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From:gfk88
Date:June 7th, 2011 07:56 am (UTC)
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I don't really understand what the problem is. I've never heard of most of these celebrity academics, but if they are such wankers then surely they won't be missed. And if their rich punters are so deluded, then they won't be missed either. Just let them get on with it. The degrees they award will only have value if we choose to accord it to them.

The real point is that this sort of venture wouldn't even be considered if we were funding the public education system properly.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 7th, 2011 08:16 am (UTC)
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Yes, my main point is that it is a symptom of decadence

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