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Sunday, September 12, 2004

David, please be more Frank

Some sleight of hand from David Aaronovitch in today's Observer. Reviewing Frank Furedi's Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, the 'columnist of the year' conflates Furedi's opposition to 'social inclusion' policies with opposition to political democracy. Or as the subhead puts it "A study attacks today's intellectuals for being too willing to dumb down. Rubbish, it's just a new style of democracy." Furedi clearly favours democratic politics.
Aaronovitch's slippery argument shows that the sooner we start treating politics and culture as distinct the better. Yes to universal suffrage, in the spirit of Tom Paine (the man they could not contain). But there are some things worth leaving to the experts, at least until one has built up sufficient expertise to supersede them. The broad case for intellectuals striking out instead of cowering from the press can also be seen in Dane S. Claussen's new book, which is a good account of the symptoms, if not the causes, of present day malaise in US higher education.


Blogger Graham B said...

I've since done a brief review of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone on; text as follows:
Already this book has caused something of a row, with several of its critics suggesting that the author wants to return to a mythical past or golden age. Nothing could be further from the truth: this is very much a volume concerned with the future and the importance of fighting for ideas and standards in the present. Rather than it being a litany of 'grumpy old men'-style complaints about modern life, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? analyses and explains why contemporary trends, rather than democratising public institutions, in fact short-change us all with a mixture of flattery and self-deception. These are strong charges, but unfortunately they are demonstrated time and again by the kind of writers now penning the hostile reviews. An example from this terse text that neatly summarises what's going on: Furedi is surprised that some students at his university are completing their degree courses having never read a book. He mentions this in an article for a national newspaper. The next day a senior administrator from his work is on the phone to do some telling off. The problem, however, is not that Furedi has aired the university's dirty laundry in public, but that he is privileging book-based learning and not seeing that there are dozens of other ways to study, apparently. Get with the programme! Here is higher education using an elaborate rationale to avoid pushing its students to read: exactly the kind of problem this book is meant to address.

1:59 am  
Blogger Graham B said...

Cut & paste the link below into your browser window for the International Herald Tribune's review of this book:

11:43 pm  

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