Saturday, December 18, 2010

Layer 405 . . . Ivory Towers, Universities, Tuition Fees, Eagleton's Eye, Enlightenment, Academia and the Status Quo

Professor Terry Eagleton wrote an interesting piece in the Guardian yesterday, which attracted some excellent comments, as well as the usual less enlightened stuff. Lots of trolls, neanderthals and loonies too, needless to say.

The death of universities

Academia has become a servant of the status quo. Its malaise runs so much deeper than tuition fees

The gist of his piece is that we need the humanities to be taught in universities because the study of the humanities can make us better people who can help create a better world.

But think about it. You can set up ivory towers and call them universities, and you can fill them with people who think about and talk about human values, but that doesn't mean those people will actually become fully evolved humans with a lifelong mission to pursue enlightenment and a build a better world for all of us.

Better for us to have universities than not to have them, but all the coalition is doing is extending New Labour's ideology of seeing universities as places where people fundamentally pursue selfish ends in terms of gaining academic awards that are meal tickets and passports to highly paid careers in the professions and the civil service. According to this utilitarian vision those who gain the passports ought to be prepared to pay the full cost of their gain - and there appears to be a kind of 'fairness' in that idea, especially if you also offer free university courses to those who come from the least well-off backgrounds.

If we really wish to build better and more egalitarian societies, and produce more enlightened individuals, we'd do well to rethink entirely how to go about it. Universities should still play a role, but the rethinking ought to start with questioning the whole purpose and aims of education, and how those aims are best achieved from the youngest ages and throughout life.

As things stand, if anyone really cares to open their mind and pursue their own learning agendas with a view to becoming a more enlightened individual they'd be better off visiting a good library, getting themselves access to the Internet, and linking up with others who have similar ideas. There's probably more chance of finding such like-minded souls outside of universities than inside them.

Well said ArthurHughClough, mwhouse, anax, remusp, sweetdelight, Mortlach, NapoleonKaramazov, HappyHistorian, and others.

We should get together one of these days. Maybe start our own party. Maybe the Guardian could arrange a seminar with Prof Eagleton. I'd chip in for refreshments.

Nice coincidence that this piece appeared the day after a blog about how young people might go about educating themselves, about ultimate values and purposes, and about Taoist philosophy - Layer 404.

Looking back, there's been a lot of blogs recently about education, enlightenment and related issues . . .

As I said to a friend recently, it's not that the politicians are thinking about education, as such. All they think about is what so-called education and academia can to for 'Britain's competitiveness'. Morons. As if Britain isn't better served by people who are enlightened, spiritually intelligent and creative, as well as having a great breadth of knowledge and critical thinking skills. Do our schools, colleges and universities cater for any of that? Really?

And as my friend said to me, they don't really think about education. They reckon that education is about preparing for adult life. Learning is about accessing careers. Thinking is not on the agenda. Enlightenment? They've even misinterpreted that into industrialisation and capitalism.

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