Universities have a privileged position in Britain. The development and testing of Covid vaccines in part justifies this. The scientists worldwide who were behind this showed that they are worth funding because what they do is not merely clever, but useful.
While many businesses have failed in Britain due to lockdown and social distancing, universities were allowed to transport students up and down the country and across the world even when this was completely unnecessary in most subjects. Students have mostly been learning virtually on campus anyway and they could have done so just as well at home. But universities would have gone bust if halls of residence were empty and students might not have bothered to go at all if they had been kept from campus. But why should universities be given special treatment over Debenhams or the local pub?
Governments can legitimately point to the usefulness to society of a university that helps develop a medicine or a new method of building bridges. But it is not the whole university that does this, but rather a small part. Many university departments produce work that is not merely useless, but rather harmful.
I had a look recently at the books and journal articles produced by Arts and Social Science faculties at various British universities. Some academic journals have publicly available statistics for how many people have read an article. What I discovered was that a typical journal article was frequently read by hardly anyone. If only thirty people read your article, some of them accidentally stumbling across it, some of them search engine bots, it’s unclear what the purpose of your writing it was. Yet these writers and these journals are paid for by universities at enormous cost. Why pay people to write words that almost no one wants to read? You might as well pay them to dig holes and fill them in again.
Academics must continually publish books and journal articles in order to remain employed. There is in theory quality control because much of this work is peer reviewed. But the problem is that the peers are all remarkably similar. They nearly all hold the same leftish views. They nearly all subscribe to the latest woke ideology and they nearly all think that certain views are not merely wrong but ruled out in advance.
Conservative common-sense views that disagree with woke ideology such as I write will not be published in academic journals. If a person wrote a reasoned critique of feminist theory, it would not be published in a feminist journal. Someone who wants to keep their job has to pretend to hold views that they don’t. It is necessary to play the game, stick to the rules and hide.
When I began studying at university political ideology was a non-issue in philosophy and theology. Students were expected to read and understand difficult books and journal articles and to use reason to critique them. The topics that people wrote about had nothing whatsoever to do with race, disability, sex, sexuality and transgenderism or any of the other woke categories. These were simply nonissues or at best fringe issues. The topics studied were broadly similar to those that had been studied for centuries.
I was encouraged as a student to write clearly and to justify each point I made with a rational argument. I could write anything I pleased so long as I could justify it. Nothing was forbidden. Nothing at all.
The first thing that changed was that Arts and Social Science subjects became political. Whereas previously someone’s political views had been unknown and irrelevant, they began to become central. The fringe woke topics began to take over subjects so that they became not merely an aspect of each subject, but the whole subject. The result is that many subjects are now obsessed with race, sex, sexuality gender transgender etc.
The addition of these topics plus a jargon that goes with them has made much of academic writing unreadable. It is unclear what the argument is because it cannot be seen through sentences filled with jargon and terms that are impossible to define. Like Humpty Dumpty Postmodernism means what I want it to mean.
The students who follow academic courses dominated by woke ideology are not taught to write clearly and to use reasoned argument. Rather they are taught to follow the party line and condemn anyone who doesn’t.
In the Soviet Union some good work was done in subjects that did not involve Marxist Leninist ideology such as mathematics or even archaeology, but whatever could be interpreted politically was worthless because it was forbidden to disagree with the Party. But this situation has exactly been mirrored in modern British universities. It’s not the ideology that makes the work worthless, it’s that only one view is allowed. Without a Conservative critique left-wing thought ceases to be interesting, because it doesn’t even have to argue with anyone. Left-wing thinking becomes lazy and then wonders why it convinces no one outside university precisely because it has forbidden debate. Eventually after seventy years or so it collapses.
What you get after four years of woke education is an employee seeking to be offended by everything and treating jokes as micro-aggressions. He hasn’t learned anything useful, but rather lots that is harmful. He can’t think for himself because everything he has been taught has told him he must agree with someone else. He is educationally worse than when he was eighteen.
While certain university departments such as science and medicine remain useful, there is always the danger that they become infected by those that are not. If you can have feminist philosophy, why not feminist physics? If homosexuality becomes an important theological topic, what is to stop it becoming a crucial aspect of engineering?
We have already seen how transgenderism took over the medical establishment. The danger is that the woke ideology that has essentially destroyed the Arts and Social sciences is allowed to spread still further.
This year we have learned how wokeism can spread far more than anyone could possibly have thought possible. When taking the knee began it was seen by many Americans as an extreme and unpatriotic response to the National Anthem. But in a remarkably short time there has been huge social pressure to comply with knee taking and any dissent is condemned.
Ideas that would have been considered bizarre by every academic thirty years ago are now obligatory. The problem is not so much now, but thirty years from now.
What will we be forced to believe in 2050? Here are some predictions that may seem ludicrous, but much of what is now mainstream was ludicrous in 1985.
- White people will be forced to apologise to black people and pay them alimony because of slavery.
- There will be no such thing as sex or gender, but only a spectrum of sexual identities.
- It will be possible to “change” not merely sex, but race and species.
- Homosexuals will demand the right to surgery that enables them to have children.
- It will be illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds that he has fewer qualifications or less intelligence than someone else by denying him a job, because this is ableist.
- Women’s sport will cease to exist.
- It will be forbidden to say I gave birth to a boy or a girl. Parents will have to wait for the child to decide where it is on the gender spectrum.
- It will be illegal for someone to discriminate while dating or marrying on the grounds of genitalia.
- Although race will be abolished because we can be any race we please, everything we say or do will still be considered racist.
- We will have to ask people not merely which pronouns they prefer but what race and species they are and whether they wish to be described as tall, short, fat or thin. It will be illegal to describe someone in a way ze dislikes.
Only parts of universities deserve the privileged position given them, because only parts are turning out educated students who go on to do useful work. The Arts and Social sciences are not merely useless, they are positively harmful. Where Arts subjects formerly taught students to reason, to write and to think, they now merely teach a leftish woke conformism which damages the student and society as a whole.
To send arts and social science students up and down the country infecting themselves and others is unjustified in terms of the utility of what they study. What they study puts them into debt that they will never pay back because whatever their subject is called it is teaching them merely to be unemployable. Worse that that these subjects spread their woke disease gradually but inexorably to the rest of society and may in time infect those university departments that are still doing things that are useful.