No, read enough of it to grasp the complaint:
So remembered Joseph Greenwood, a cloth cutter in a West Yorkshire mill, about how, in 1860, he helped set up Culloden College, one of hundreds of working-class mutual improvement societies in 19th-century Britain. “We had no men of position or education connected with us,” he added, “but several of the students who had made special study of some particular subject were appointed teachers, so that the teacher of one class might be a pupil in another.”
Greenwood’s story is one of many told by Jonathan Rose in his classic The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, a magnificent history of the struggles of working people to educate themselves, from early autodidactism to the Workers’ Educational Association. For those within this tradition the significance of education was not simply in providing the means to a better job but in allowing for new ways of thinking.
“Books to me became symbols of social revolution,” observed James Clunie, a house painter who became the Labour MP for Dunfermline in the 1950s. “The miner was no longer the ‘hewer of wood and the drawer of water’ but became… a leader in his own right, advocate, writer, the equal of men.” By the time that Rose published his book in 2001, that tradition had largely ebbed away. And, in the two decades since, so has the sense of education as a means of expanding one’s mind.
Last week, Roehampton University, in south-west London, confirmed that it is going to fire and rehire half its academic workforce and sack at least 65. Nineteen courses, including classics and anthropology, are likely to be closed. It wants to concentrate more on “career-focused” learning.
It is the latest in a series of cuts to the humanities made by British universities, from history and languages at Aston to English literature at Sheffield Hallam. These cuts mark a transformation in the role of universities that is rooted in three trends: the introduction of the market into higher education; a view of students as consumers; and an instrumental attitude to knowledge.
D’ye see the problem here? Back when education was a proper free market – no restrictions upon market entry – it was better than when it became institutionalised, largely taken over by the state. Therefore it’s wrong that education should become more free market.
But then of course people who can think don’t write for The Observer, do they?