Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, has always been a favourite of mine alongside Epicurus and Socrates. One of his lasting pronouncements was “Only the educated are free”, a phrase we originally used as the motto of our new primary education charity in Nepal back in 2007.
We chose to set up an education based aid organisation in Nepal in retirement because of our own personal backgrounds and having both been highly educated in Britain, both emerging with PhDs in Chemistry.
In the 1960s and 1970s working class people were underrepresented in universities, and then …. a well known statistic from the time, only the top 2% of honours graduates got doctorates. So reaching this level from our respective backgrounds was due to good luck and some “bloody hard graft”, something we often look back on with astonishment AND pride.
Our postgraduate research was conducted at the University of Strathclyde, The Royal College, Glasgow; Formed in 1887, University status was only granted in 1964 and this was the first of Britain’s new science and technology focused universities. It was almost scary to arrive there, surrounded by famous scientists of the time, experts in analytical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, pioneers in mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance, and all with an intensity and drive to “push back the frontiers of science” NOT just to get a degree! I remember sitting in the main library with friends who were in a different faculty and studying Psychology, Sociology or English …… the softer degrees …… all they seemed to do was to read books and write essays! Quite different for chemistry postgrads, we were always thinking, creating, experimenting, elation when something worked, despair when something failed, sharing reports and approaches with colleagues and our professor ….. no time for political protests, safe space meetings, no-platforming of people we disagreed with, no rewriting of history, no Mickey Mouse degree…. and absolutely no thought of suing the university if we couldn’t get a job after graduating!
Now, you might find this last sentence confusing or a sudden leap from my beginning, but all of these things ARE happening in British universities today.
“Anglia Ruskin business strategy graduate Pok Wong accuses her university of slipping her a “Mickey Mouse” degree because she has been unable to find a job! Further up the education tree, even Oxford University has been sued over failing to satisfy a history student’s demands and not providing him with the glittering future he felt he deserved.”
I am NOT making this up!
“And there is no doubt that the lowering of standards to ease as many students as possible into university has done terrible things to the humanities. Essays in history, literature and social sciences are often little more than rants about how evil capitalism, neo-liberalism and white people are, and pleas to do more about climate change and transphobia with a quotation from Michel Foucault or Slavoj Zizek. The Left may have given up on the economy, but it is still firmly entrenched in education.”
The Left have utterly contaminated our higher education system with their “no platforming” which prevents people whose views they disagree with from speaking, campaigning to “rewrite history” with protests to remove statues such as those of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford, all of which reduces the quality of their own learning and certainly reduces the prospects of an employer recruiting them.