Let’s All Go To Evil University

June 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm (Education, intellectuals, Max Dunbar, students)

I’m in favour of free education at the point of use, including tertiary education. However I am a little bemused at the mad beserker reaction to A C Grayling’s decision to open a tiny and very expensive private humanities college.

If you haven’t heard about this, the college will be based in Bloomsbury, with fees of £18,000pa and some kind of scholarship programme.

From far left reaction you would have thought that Lord Voldemort himself had risen from his Horcruxes to set up a Slytherin Academy of Pure Evil (with Dark Arts BTec).

Here’s an example of what I mean. A couple of nights ago Grayling spoke at a discussion about arts funding cuts held at Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross. According to Index on Censorship, which covered the event, Grayling ‘had behaved impeccably in the debate, and had even offered to stay on afterwards to discuss objections to his college.’ Protestors had other ideas:

Not content with calling out ‘You have no right to speak’ and ‘You should be defending public education not deserting it’, towards the end of the discussion one protestor let off a smoke bomb that filled the room with acrid red fumes, forcing the bookshop to evacuate the 100 or so people attending the event.

With this one gesture the activists against Grayling guaranteed that their objections would not be taken seriously. They may as well have danced into the bookshop in waistcoats and doubloons, banging drums, waving feather boas on sticks, and going ‘Flip flip flip’. It is silliness du jour.

Terry Eagleton complains that Grayling is setting a precedent for ‘a system of US-type private liberal arts colleges’ that will ‘relegate an already impoverished state university system to second-class status.’ But I suspect that there is more to the outrage than the fair principle of defending the public against the private. Eagleton, after all, delivered Yale’s Dwight H Terry lecture and Yale’s press published his pro-faith drivel.

No, there is an ideological thing going on here. Grayling and Richard Dawkins, another lecturer at Evil University, are hated by Eagleton, and similar far left academics, because they stand up to the religious right. Eagleton’s big objection to Evil University is apparently that there will be no theology department, and that Tariq Ali will not be able to get a job there. More:

Grayling peddles a Just So version of English history, breathtaking in its crudity and complacency, in which freedom has been on the rise for centuries and has only recently run into trouble. Dawkins touts a simple-minded, off-the-peg version of Enlightenment in which people in the west have all been getting nicer and nicer, and would have ended up as civilised as an Oxford high table were it not for a nasty bunch of religious fundamentalists.

Would there be the same shrieks of pious rage, I wonder, if a similar university was set up, charging the same rates, but staffed by religious/totalitarian sympathisers of Eagleton’s kind, many of whom have long been riding high on the theocratic petrodollar? I doubt it.

In education what matters is what works. For me the two big requirements of a school, college or university should be that a) it should give bright people from low incomes a chance to shine and b) it should not be a tool for doctrinaires and brainwashers of any kind.

Grayling and his friends deserve a fair hearing, if Saif Gaddafi and some Christian used car salesman get one.

Update: Two interesting and reasonable blog articles on this, one from the lawyer Charon QC, another from the American academic Sarah Churchwell. Plus, update on reactions and developments from the New Humanist.

Welcome to Professor Dawkins Neocon Imperalist University, where we play Quidditch with the heads of postmodernist academics.

12 Comments

  1. Dagmar Zacharias Bodenberg said,

    They may as well have danced into the bookshop in waistcoats and doubloons, banging drums, waving feather boas on sticks, and going ‘Flip flip flip’.

    I’d be up for this. Is there a situationists’ grouplet in London (i.e. Hackney) at the moment that could set a date?

  2. Egg on your face said,

    So a private university charging £18,000 per year is fine because your mate Dawkins is involved in it.

  3. tyresome points said,

    Yeah, because the AWL consists of people who would work that little bit harder to be able to give Grayling eighteen fecking grand a year. Such class you all have, and how much do ordinary workers hate their kids?

  4. maxdunbar said,

    I’m not at all convinced this is a good idea, mainly because of the rates. What I think is what I said, that the project deserves a fair hearing. And come on – if this was the Chomsky School of Obsfucation, founded by a grant from the Libyan kleptocracy and featuring John Game and Terry Eagleton as star lecturers, I don’t think there would be anything near thjis level of hysteria.

  5. James Bloodworth said,

    “Terry Eagleton complains that Grayling is setting a precedent for ‘a system of US-type private liberal arts colleges’ that will ‘relegate an already impoverished state university system to second-class status.’ But I suspect that there is more to the outrage than the fair principle of defending the public against the private.”

    It doesn’t really matter that Eagleton is a bit of a tit, this is still true.

    “And come on – if this was the Chomsky School of Obsfucation, founded by a grant from the Libyan kleptocracy and featuring John Game and Terry Eagleton as star lecturers, I don’t think there would be anything near thjis level of hysteria.”

    Again, the objection to a private university for the wealthy that charges 18,000 a year still stands, despite the fact that some unpleasant people also may think so. How about we just oppose the private university and Eagletone?

    • maxdunbar said,

      These are reasonable points, like I say, I’m not married to this Evil University thing

  6. James Bloodworth said,

    *Eagleton

  7. sackcloth and ashes said,

    ‘if this was the Chomsky School of Obsfucation, founded by a grant from the Libyan kleptocracy and featuring John Game and Terry Eagleton as star lecturers, I don’t think there would be anything near thjis level of hysteria’.

    The intake would also be pretty disappointing as well.

  8. SteveH said,

    What hysteria? If some fucking Muslim clerics decided to open a school preaching hatred to the West the fucking gutter press would be having a cardiac arrest. So what are you on about?

    As for your shit about schools giving bright people for low income backgrounds a chance to shine. What pie in the sky shit is this. You have to tackle that inequality and its root causes not tailor a school system around inequality you dumb fuck.

    • maxdunbar said,

      There are plenty of faith schools, many of which fill people with hate and stupidity, and no one says a damn word. Half the academics in London took Gaddafi’s money, and no one says a damn word.

      This is where the line’s drawn!

  9. Clive said,

    The project does not ‘deserve a fair hearing’. It is an outrageous affront to the principle of free education, not to mention egalitarianism in education. Did they expect there *not* to be protests?

    Opposition to this is not ‘hysteria’, Max.

    Of course there are other outrages. And plenty of establishments already exist which charge huge fees (eg film schools). But this is different, because it proposes to be a ‘normal’ university (as opposed to a specialist place, like a film school).

  10. Jim Denham said,

    Grayling, Dawkins, etc, have let the principle of state education down, they’ve let rationalism down, they’ve let themselves down…but worst of all… they’ve let pro-religion tossers like Eagleton have a pop at atheism.

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