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edmundjessie's Avatar Jump to comment 233 by edmundjessie

Comment 217 by Richard Dawkins

"But in any case, once again, how can it help your argument if you deliberately obscure it rather than striving to make it clear?"

There is a definite irony in the ultimate goal of practitioners of subjects whose ideas are very complex being to simplify things (in science, to their most fundamental laws/ the equations that describe them), while practitioners of subjects whose ideas are very simple (which i believe post-modernism at essence to be) feel compelled to complicate things to give the appearance of comparable profundity.

I think the contrast is fundamentally between subjects whose ideas have already largely been expressed and exhausted and subjects that still have a lot more to discover.

In this case, i would put the discipline i studied, History, squarely into the former bracket. The longer i studied it, the more i realised how deeply entrenched my tutors and their academic peers were in arguments of monumental insignificance, blown up out of all proportion as if they were arguing about the most powerful, history altering event conceivable. And the reason was because they had nothing of any real importance to add to their discipline.

In my opinion, the post-modernist approach has utterly infected and destroyed history and the humanities as academic subjects in general.

It took me until my second year to realise all my tutors wanted me to do was churn out the same mechanical essays describing the classical, revisionist, counter-revisionist and all the other post-modern conceptual framework approaches to history. I knew less about my subject than i did it's practitioners. By that point i was utterly disillusioned with academia as a whole.

If Graylings New College of the Humanities can escape these same pitfalls then, £18,000 or not, it will be doing a far better job than the majority of universities and become a worthy enterprise. I would like to stress to RD if he has any influence in the direction Grayling is taking this college to consider these points from a former disillusioned student of the humanities:

  1. Give your students freedom to approach their subject creatively, in the way they desire as much as possible, not to some proscribed formula. Have faith in your students.

  2. Teach the subject, not just approaches to the subject and the framework that has been built around them

  3. 'Critical theory' and post-modernism does not improve the study of your subject, it warps the study of your subject. It does not make the subject more lucid, it makes it more muddled. DO NOT let 'critical theory' infect your syllabus in the way it has already infected to a deep level other academic institutions across the whole of this country. I am not idealistic enough to think it can be totally extirpated, but if you have the power to ensure it is de-emphasised, then do everything you can to do so.

If this new college can do these things then the £18,000 will be insignificant in my opinion and i will fully support it. If it does NOT differentiate itself in this way then the £18,000 will appear to be an unjustifiable mark up apparently founded on an association with 'big name' academics.

I have no idea if this is the sort of direction, counter to the current academic flow in the humanities, that Grayling is intending but i hope so, as it will restore my faith in him and the other associated people i had so long respected for their reason and clarity of thought.


Wed, 15 Jun 2011 10:30:11 UTC | #638765