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← [Update - comments by AC Grayling] British academics launch £18,000 college in London

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Cartomancer

There are two arguments I could just about entertain as to why this project might have some positive value in social and educational terms. I consider it only good practise to rehearse them, given that my heartfelt opposition stems as much from emotional as rational considerations.

First, there's the "working with what we have" argument. It may be terribly naive of me to presume that anything like my preferred, fair, just, socially equal, higher education system will occur in Britain in the next hundred years, and certainly not while those evil Tory bastards still have their suppurating paws on the levers of power. In such a climate, one might argue, is it not better to work with the grain and do some good, rather than spitting into the wind and hoping for reforms that will clearly never happen? Surely the top 10% of the wealth bracket has its share of very bright students, and even if they do have to fight 36 times as hard, so does the bottom 90%. Surely offering at least some of them the chance to experience this newly formulated curriculum, imperfect and unjust though the selection and funding system must necessarily be in the current economic climate, is doing some good in the world? Surely giving at least some section of the population a high quality education where they might not have got it before is better than doing nothing at all?

Which brings us on to the second "trojan horse" type argument, which is to say that this new style humanities curriculum is what the project is really all about, and rather than being an end in itself the New College of the Humanities is merely a test-bed that will hopefully become a beacon to prove that this new way of doing things has tremendous benefits. In ten years, perhaps professor Grayling will be able to point to what has happened there and make a serious case that this kind of teaching should be adopted far more widely. Perhaps a new institution is the only way this could have been effected? Perhaps trying to do it at Oxford or Cambridge or UCL or York or somewhere would have been too difficult, given their already entrenched curricula and institutional frameworks?

I can respect such arguments and the people who make them, although I personally do not see how these proposed benefits could make up for the further entrenchment of plutocratic segregation in our society and the slow creep of corporatised financialism into the education sector. Then again I am very left-wing in my political leanings, and have picked up a considerable personal animus against the British public (i.e. fee-paying) school system and its products from my time at Oxford. So I am undoubtedly biased.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:16:00 UTC | #634290