Civilisation: A class of wealthy, all-white males, studying the traditional arts of law, history, economics, literature and philosophy. A well-rounded pupil, ready to enter the highly attuned games of politics and living-off-the-inheritance. Some compassion, of course – stirring in an approximate 30% of students who may be seen as the ‘other’ (poor, non-white, women, etc).
Or at least that’s what Grayling imagines of civilisation, as part of his and 13 other colleagues’ vision to build a New College of Humanities, charging £18,000 a year, and established as a private university. Meanwhile, its students will be gaining University of London certificates and remain a part of University of London Union.
The irony lies deeper than that. When the University of London was founded (now University College London), it was founded on the principles of accessibility and to challenge the narrow-minded elitism of Oxford & Cambridge. No matter what religion you were, no matter what colour skin you had and no matter your upbringing, if you were educated, there was a place for you. The dream was Bentham’s – an education for all men.
Grayling and his colleagues are setting us back, spiralling back through a time wormhole, back to the elitism of Oxbridge, yesteryear. His system is not picking the brightest, but the richest and the lucky few that somehow managed to play the state education system well enough to gain a decent result. This is the same story of Oxbridge before it opened its doors.
This is not a College for Humanities – for history is about learning from the mistakes of the past; philosophy is about challenging the very depths of everything to make sense of all; law is about creating a just legal system; literature is about the whole human experience, especially that of the marginalised; and economics is a system as much about creating a fairer world as it is about understanding human methods/values of exchange.
None of these models of education fit Grayling’s new college. Privatisation has culled the stray but important theories of humanities, narrowing education to its wills and demands rather than to the will and needs of the people that hold education departments together.
Given the so-called knowledge of the average American, do we really want to be replicating their models? Do we really want to forget 100 years of improvement, diversity and widening participation through our state education?
If no, please:
- call 0800 955 0212 to complain
- emailing one of the Fellows: Dawkins action here.