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First, abolish the universities.

By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.

BACK IN THE 1970s when the political and social revolution that had started in Paris had attenuated itself into the hedonism of booze, dope, sexual misconduct and bad fashion sense (in Leeds, at least), sharpened with economic mayhem and IRA terrorism, you could still be guaranteed a decent education at a British university. The rot of cultural Marxism had not properly taken hold either among the academics or the management. If it had then I was not aware of it in English literature.

A notable exception at the time was Terry Eagleton, of course, a fellow at Wadham College Oxford, Marxist and self-declared “barbarian in the citadel” of higher learning. I first came across him as a reviewer in Stand Magazine, to which I was a subscriber and where I was later an editor. His reviews were good. His politics weren’t. At the time, surprisingly, and contrary to usual sequence of such things, I was apolitical, although in a somewhat conservative way (the turn left into idiocy came afterwards). I recall mocking Eagleton for his self-justifying hypocrisy at taking the shilling at one of the most elite institutions in the country, to which my tutor replied “that’s a little unkind, Michael”.

My tutor could afford to be so understanding, so English about it then. Nowadays, I see it as an unforeseeable mistake. Because since that time hordes of Marxists have followed Eagleton and infested every corner of the humanities. What started out as a joke became a reality – he really was the barbarian in the citadel. He helped open the gates to the rest.

Hardly a week seems to pass without some tale of PC idiocy emerging from the universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford has now been given the legal green light to forcibly retire academics at 68 in order to promote “inter-generational fairness and improvements in diversity”—ie, get rid of those useless, old white fuddy-duddies and replace them with young, vibrant, BAME apparatchiks, preferably female. Charles Moore has drawn our attention to the suggestions of an associate professor in mediaeval history at Oxford that Notre Dame should not be rebuilt but be left in ruins to stand as a symbol of climate change, environmental decay and colonialism. Why stop there, asks Moore, why not just “set fire to the medieval, western, environmental rapist otherwise known as Oxford University, and then give lectures about its iniquity among its smouldering ruins?”

In metaphorical terms that is exactly what humanities academics have been busy doing for a couple of decades already. Whereas the Taliban and Islamic State blew up and smashed pre-Islamic monuments and sculpture, so our contemporary dons engage in an educational trashing of the culture which they should be preserving and passing on to new generations.

As Jordan Peterson noted a few years ago, the humanities in North America have become training schools for left wing political activists. He singled out courses in women’s studies and gender studies as the most egregious examples of the problem. The same has happened here in Britain. Peterson’s solution was to defund universities and let them fend for themselves. Why, he argued, should taxpayers fund institutions dedicated to undermining the fabric of their own society?

The same proposal has just been voiced by none other than Sir Roger Scruton. At a conference (“Europe at a Crossroads”) he said we seem to have “lost control of the universities” and that we are confronted by two options to correct the situation. One is to start new universities, which would be an expensive and difficult business. The other, which is more radical, is to defund the existing ones and get rid of them altogether:

“That is to say, make sure their sources of funding dry up,” Sir Roger continued.

“They are essentially state-sponsored institutions. Withdrawing the grants that they enjoy would bring them right down to the level to which they are actually approaching, and I think that might be something that we should think about.

He is talking specifically about the humanities here; science and technology departments could remain.

It may seem churlish for someone like myself who benefited from an earlier system that allowed him to go to university free of charge and who survived the last years of his working life teaching at a university to advocate the abolition of non-STEM departments but as time goes on it’s an option I become more sympathetic to.

It couldn’t possibly happen, of course. The politicians are too heavily invested in the scam to extricate themselves even if they understood what is going on, as are the media classes; not to mention the numerous towns and cities that benefit financially from the presence of thousands of students, administrators and associated staff. Academia may not yet be in the smouldering ruins envisaged by Charles Moore but the arsonists will carry on burning down every bit of its traditional value till they can eventually stand there amid the debris, lecturing us on our own destructiveness and still expecting us to stump up for the privilege.


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.

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