A long long time ago in a universe far far away, academia served as a lifeboat for certain individuals who though they were seriously creative thinkers, wouldn’t survive for more than five minutes in the real world. Academia itself was a niche and they were an endangered species safely barnacled within it, protected by their own colleagues, especially when they were having one of what was euphemistically referred to as their episodes. They hid them. A bitta love, a few cuddles, keep them safe.
You see, their colleagues, whom you’d categorise as extremely bright sparks in their own right, were still wise enough to know that the more God gave out with the right hand, the more he took away from other areas of you with the left one. Nobody gets all the gifts, and there’s always a price to be paid for the few ones you might be fortunate enough to receive.
Mostly you protected the blessed ones from the world, sometimes the world from them and more usually them from themselves, not only because you felt they’d deliver some interesting goodies in the end but because it was simply the decent thing to do. Days gone by I suppose.
Like Maud, when they were good, they were very very good, but when they were bad, they were horrid.
That tolerant attitude trickled down to set the tone for how undergraduates, who are still children after all, were to be viewed for a number of centuries. Their occasional outrageous behaviour was to a certain amount indulged and to some extent encouraged, because for most of them a spell at university was their first sojourn outside the parental nest and by common understanding, the fresher year was a write-off in terms of marks counting towards your degree as young people off the leash for the first time in their life learnt how to drink, have sex or simply grow up. You can rearrange those three activities in any order you like, just as they do in a chaotic fashion.
Given what used to be termed a liberal approach to education, and I use that word liberal in its original and best sense, it was one big free-for-all, with ideas jostling from every point on the compass for centre stage. Nothing was unthinkable, nothing was unmentionable, nothing was off the table and all the loves could dare speak their name. Within sensible parameters, your dissertation was marked on how cogently it was argued, rather than if the conclusions contained therein were actually in alignment with some rigid consensus or in agreement with your tutor’s views. All the guardians knew it was a glass bead game and it was the quality of the moves which were important.
It wasn’t a perfect system but it was fit to purpose, namely exposing young bright minds to ideas and more especially viewpoints they’d never encountered before, and never would in their natural habitat of Nantucket. If you’d gone to university for nothing more than just to emerge after three years clutching a degree in your sweaty hand, you’d missed the qualitative point completely.
It was a nice musty Gormenghast environment that actually produced some very creative thinking and the odd usable idea until the politicians and the academic apparatchiks themselves decided to abandon the dreaming spires for the moneychangers in the temple. Not only did it become an election promise that little Jimmy, who even on the most Christian view by his doting granny wouldn’t be one of life’s deeper thinkers, was going to university, but that it was only fair.
Once the politicians set a metric of how many kids were going to do the third level tango, the problem for the industrial educational establishment became how the hell does one with any semblance of decorum get an intellectually-challenged but some voter’s golden haired boy like Jimmy into the appropriate statistic. The answer of course was to do the dreaded dropping of standards, which everyone rants on about but I won’t go there because if you ain’t seen it yet, you never will. All that was very saleable to electorates because it plays to the everyone has to be equal principle which as we all know cannot be refuted even when it’s patently in your face wrong.
However, all stable systems when disturbed are like a spinning gyroscope you’ve poked with your finger in that they tend to regain a dynamic equilibrium, but not necessarily the one it was in before you interfered with it. Chaos rules and Heisenberg, as always, has the last laugh.
Millions of kids started going to sixth-form colleges or polytechnics which with a magic star-spangled Disney tap of the educational Fairy Godmother’s sword on their shoulder were told to arise Sir University, which would somehow make the degrees they were handing out to anyone and everyone like sweeties more credible. Everybody naturally piled their kids in because we all want them to have that cachet, but as always the question came down to who’s going to pay for this largesse?
Given the resultant explosion in the number of students, it certainly wasn’t going to be the politicians because that would involve the unpopular move of raising taxes, so the best thing to do was to get the kids to pay for it themselves by automatically brokering a loan for them with some old pal usurers from the temple.
Everyone was happy with the accommodation, except the kids who actually weren’t aware what the fuck was going on, which was that they were being introduced to the first easy step into being debt slaves.
Tuition fees not only tripled but went ten-fold, never mind the extra loans you took on just to feed yourself. Any kid who wants to do the full three years is now looking at a debt equivalent to the average person’s salary for five years, and that’s before they’ve even secured that first elusive job. It’s no wonder that only one third of them ever graduate from any course that could be called academic. As the “graduates” rolled off the mass-production educational conveyor belt, the graduate entry schemes into business were scrapped because commerce is all about the bottom line, not some bullshit about employing a load of politically correct mediocrities at premium rates. Believe it or not, businessmen are not stoopid.
The darker side of the disaster kicked in as well – the clever kids began to realise a degree would not only saddle them with huge amounts of debt, but there was also no longer any guarantee of a job even if you lasted the course. The best young minds, who should have been heading in that direction, just voted with their feet, went out into the world and got a job.
I am a product of the blue collar world. That was the true betrayal of so much that people such as I and my parents had fought heart and soul for. Higher education has now gone back to being the exclusive milieu of the rich, the well to do upper middles or the smarter examples of the welfare class sharpies who really know how to wank the system.
As the able ones were weeded out by the system, the talentless worked it for all it was worth and not only came out of it clutching a piece of paper that no longer had any real value but gradually became the people actually running what had by now become the dark satanic mills of higher education. It was the final victory of mediocrity. Hail, hail, hosanna in excelsis.
Satan Mekratrig and his fellow fallen seraphim are now in charge of Heaven. No more laying about the burning marl casting baleful looks around, they now owned the bitch’s ass and would shape its buttocks to their comfortable egalitarian ends. From now on, there would always be an official position on anything – and one and only one position by the way, or else your ass was about to become grass as well. Gradually, any dissent from the official position was punished and compliance to it rewarded by tossing the children a sprat, as if to a performing seal every time it acted as you demanded it should do. Leap, fish, leap, leap, fish, fish. Slap, slap. Leap, fish and keep on leaping.
They now leap on demand when there isn’t even the prospect of a fucking fish in sight.
That sort of basic conditioning has by now been going on for nearly two decades and we’re so often listening to the witless cyborgs produced by it who are under the delusion they’ve had an education. I read a dissertation recently which earned a First and was appalled. Truly, madly and desperately appalled. It was like reading a dreary and rather uninspired grocery list.
All is consensus, nothing is conviction. In place of some understanding or genuine insight, we now have nothing more than convention, a bit of safe politically sexy posturing. In place of some gutsy conviction intellectualism, we now have oily Uriah Heep conformity and all the marginally smarter bunnies in the system know that’s exactly the successful game to play nowadays, and they’re of course right. Just do your porridge and get out of there with that employable degree box tickable on your résumé.
All balance has been lost, there is no dissent allowed over anything. It’s a monolith, a one party state, a one think, one viewpoint, one permissible opinion, a North Korea of the free intellect and since there’s no credible opposition surviving within the institution to somehow regain some equilibrium, the list to port now threatens to capsize the whole damn ship.
You can read this piece as some condemnation of the supposed universality of higher education by some curmudgeonly elitist old fart or even worse, a reactionary afflicted with a good old days complex. Why not go the whole hog and say I think the youth of today are not a patch on us – they’re shite.
None of that is true. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the dog’s bollocks generation.
The cream will always float to the top, and it doesn’t have to be in any academic environment either. They’re in a new world that we’d be strangers in. I can’t express the pleasure I felt this week upon hearing about the local newspaper bumming on about one of my son’s friends who was always a good band member, but who not only made it through selection but had by the votes of his fellow troopers been awarded a distinction which has an official name but everyone calls the soldier’s soldier award.
Recognition doesn’t get any better, believe you me. Nobody gets to vote for that one except your comrades who’ve all earned that right after surviving being put through exactly the same gruelling six months of hell. All honour to him. I couldn’t be more proud of him and he’s not my son.
Compared to him and so many other fine young men and women of the non-privileged and refusing to play the victimhood card provenance, the smug arseholette with the self-inflicted porcine ring through her nose pictured above is nothing more than a self-indulgent, cruiser-weight, pseudo-intellectual pushing thirty and hiding behind the crumbling remains of multiculturalism. Yeah, kill all the white people. Yeah. Kill ’em all.
Welcome to the age of the truly brainless, and happy hunting. They’re going to be easy, help yourself everybody, there’s no fighter escort, because it’s now like that flight stabilised Heinkel one eleven cruising along with lots of people putting bullets into it but there’s no longer anyone left alive in the thing. The act of mercy would be a waste of munition.
You’d be surprised at what a few spitfires and hurricanes with the right children inside them can do.
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