Against Wilful Stupidity

How amazing is Marko Attila Hoare. He’s even right about nine-grand tuition fees. His post is not just a takedown of the policy but an attack on anti-intellectualism in general: on a culture that equates stupidity with integrity, and intelligence and creativity with naivety and pretension. Read the whole thing.

As a child studying at Holland Park Comprehensive School in London in the 1980s, I naively believed that hard work and talent should be rewarded, and that a university education would be my reward for studying hard. I was one of those who actually worked at school and did my homework. And it wasn’t always easy, with classes constantly being disrupted by loudmouthed morons who despised education, viewed school as oppression and teachers as the enemy. They dossed around for five years and left school with minimal or no qualifications, after having made the learning experience as difficult as possible for the rest of us. So difficult was it to work in such an environment, that I found I could study more in one hour of poorly attended optional after-school maths class – where there was no noise and disruption – than in three hours of regular classes.

Welcome to England: the European nation that most despises schools, universities, teachers and students, and that most celebrates stupidity and vulgarity. As encapsulated in the moron’s refrain to the student  – ‘I’d rather have a degree from the university of life’. The subtext being that education corrupts and divorces students from the real world, and that there is a greater nobility in ignorance, prejudice and underachievement. The binge-drinking yobs and football hooligans are the ones with the real integrity, not the poncey students with their poncey books.

How, you may ask, did a nation that thinks like this produce some of the world’s greatest institutions of learning, including the world famous Cambridge and Oxford, but also excellent universities and colleges like Imperial College, York, the London School of Economics, Warwick and others ? In fact, it’s a question of two sides of the same coin. There was a traditional belief that university education should be the preserve of the privileged few, while the masses should have no access to it. Unjust as it was, this system did at least have the merit of producing treasures like Cambridge and Oxford. A more enlightened ruling class would have sought to preserve this treasure and maximise the chances of students from all social backgrounds of benefiting from it.

Instead, for the last twenty years or so, our politicians – both Labour and Conservative – seem to have been following an inverted form of Flaubert’s dictum, and to believe that the point of democracy is to lower the ruling class to the level of stupidity attained by the masses.

There are two strong points here.

1) Most people don’t mind funding public services that they may never or rarely need – for example, people are happy to fund the NHS through tax even though they may never get sick, to fund the police even though they may never be the victim of a crime, even to fund welfare though they may never be out of work. The same should apply for higher education.

2) If you consider yourself leftwing, the indulgence of philistinism is a bad move – even if it’s wrapped in prolier-than-thou rhetoric.

Also check out Marko’s report on a recent demo, and watch in disgust as he lifts the Daily Mail rock.

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2 Responses to “Against Wilful Stupidity”

  1. saeed Says:

    @ max

    i know this is a bit random but i see your a fan of irvine welsh…if your a fan of this guy then you should read some iceberg slim…makes weslh seem like mills and boon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/14/iceberg-slim-pimp-irvine-welsh

  2. Jenny Says:

    A-ha! Finally, you, Mark, and Richard Seymour actually agree on something.

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