Tuesday, December 21, 2010

History -- and everything academic -- is useless

So says Charlie Brooker in the Guardian, talking about British tuition increases. He's staking out the "tough love" position. An excerpt:

Take history. There's already far too much of it. In fact, mankind is generating a "past mountain", which grows 24 hours in size every single day. No one can be expected to keep all of that in their head. There simply isn't room. Even award-winning historians will be lost for words if you unexpectedly leap out in front of them and demand they list everything that happened on, say, 6 July 1919, before the special quiz music ends, especially if they thought they were alone in the house.

So instead of studying the whole of human history, why not focus on a concentrated period, such as the most exciting five minutes of the second world war? That way you just get the fun bits with the machine guns and everything, and there's none of that boring exploration of the "consequences" or the "causes" or "how we can stop it happening again"....

Rather than providing frivolous courses in artsy-fartsy-thinky-winky subjects with no obvious revenue stream, our educational institutions could save a lot of time and unnecessary expense by only providing courses that train students for jobs we're definitely going to need in the brilliant future we're steadily carving for ourselves. What's the point in learning botany? We all know there won't be plantlife. Apart from maybe the odd triffid, or whatever sort of moss can withstand a dirty bomb. So why bother learning about it? There's no money to be made.
Instead, let's focus on giving young people the skills society will be crying out for in the years or months to come. Practical vocations such as water-cannon operator, wasteland scavenger, penguin coffin logger, Thunderdome umpire, dissident strangler, henchperson and pie ingredient.
Come to think of it, even those courses are going to be costly, and the eventual wages so insultingly low it'll take them three lifetimes to repay the loans.

Thanks to Guy Halsall for the link.

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