THE SUNDAY ESSAY
TOWARDS AN ERUDITE ARTISANRY
The late Mr MutleyTheDog, who passed away last week, cruelly, sadly, fearfully young, whimsied that he was vexed by his blog always being upside down; I know what he meant; we, schooled with books, are accustomed to a narrative starting at the top and going downwards, in this new world of electronic, non-tactile tribalism our ongoing stories, our ledgers and logs of complaint and celebration, are told and written-up arse-backwards,in the visual sense they are contra-narrativeal; the past, the beginning of the monologue, or the dialogue, vanishes down the screen from sight and everyday, almost, is the Day One, a daily In The Beginning Was......only regular readers au fait with the continuum. Visitors, scanning the odd post, would be entitled to presume that this was a place of redneck, queerbashing racism; that's how it is, when you do things backwards.
The natural world, now, the globe, is blanketed, enclosed, by a gauze of communication, each extra million tweets or blogs thickening, not dispelling the fog between us, each ill-framed rant as important as the next, the odd gem overlooked in a bazaar of banality; a rush to publish today, consigning yesterday's crafted, polished thought swiftly to the cyber archive, ne'er to be seen again.
But there was an interesting exchange here the other day which continues today, on the post LABOUR IN NEW LEADER SHOCK, in which mr jgm2, mr mongoose and ms agatha debate the purpose of education . We have educators among our cohort, their thoughts, in the New Gove Age of Education are sought. Quick, before you miss it.
I mentioned in another post that out of curiosity I have been looking at poor, old Jocky Neil's This Week mailbox and at his DP blog, where his last entry was a lamentation on the loss of the grammar schools - he went to an ordinary one, I to one of the best, so-called, he is extremely rich and I am not even a bit rich, only by comparison with the very poorest, in Ethiopia - and revealed the interesting statistic that forty per cent of the unwholesomes in the coalition went to independent schools and from this he deduced, poor, ancient, wrinkled lamb, that the age of meritocracy - he means himself - was over; our leaders, he seemed to say, were better educated, now, than us, missing, in his half-pissed, over-exposed way, the point that it isn't education which Eton and Oxford provide, far from it, but connections.
Consider, historically the majority of our prime ministers, cabinet ministers and senior civil servants have been Eton and Oxbridge alumni. We have lived, for centuries, under their expert whip hands, at war, hungry, overtaxed, unemployed, sick; abused, hectored, surveilled, registered; preached-at and stolen from, in a cycle of apparently uncheckable boom and bust, in which all suffer, save those who cause it.
Apologias for this absurd state of affairs abound, just pop down the road to Col von Fawkes's PizzaHouseof Blood, the cyber equivalent of the Sun, and read about his share portfolio, how, just by being a damn clever pisshead, he can cream-off some tax-free surplus value from the labour of others. And ain't that great; too drunk, too vain to see that his extolling of Greed is actually, rather than being an anti-politics position, just a boorish, right-wing rant, a daily servant to the status quo he claims to abhorr.
At the Filth-O-Graph, bloated Simon Heffer rages at the prospect of increased capital gains tax, as though in a demanding, ageing post-industrial, densely populated nation like ours, taxation was the work of Satan, public services extant only for the feckless and the workshy and lazy. The fucking imbecile, Heffer, on behalf of the Oxbridge crew, chides us that ours is the politics of envy, that we should approve of the rich paying little or no tax, even as we toil to make them richer than ever; yet on the idle rich, even the famous socialist firebrand, and doubtless HefferHero, Winston Spencer Churchill, had this to say, a hundred years ago:
'Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains -- and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labor and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.'
For landowner we may substitute any number of snooty situations, starting with banker or aristocrat or Red Braces bastard fuckpig. And we must, in HefferWorld, always blame and berate the public sector worker for daring to take up a job as a nurse or a teacher or a binman, rather than doing something worthwhile, like peddling bile and malice and gossip, the obnoxious piece of shit; how dare they, chant the Filth-O-Graphees, these people have no shame, do they, their wickedness scarce alleviated by the fact that though trousering their few quid, they are, actually, helping to enrich the idle, the land monopolist nouvelle; the rich man at his castle, the poor man at his gate ?
On the broader historical stage, finely-tuned Oxbridge minds led us to the Napoleonic Wars, the Veldt, the Somme, Dunkirk, Auschwitz; Malaya; Port Stanley, Andersonstown and the Bogside; Srebrenica, Fallujah and Helmand, properly clever people might have seen these things coming and intercepted or avoided them but no shame attaches to the Oxbridge authors - actual or proxy - of slaughter and mayhem, for they are our betters, allus 'ave bin.
Twentieth century Oxbridge intellects set the accelerants for the ongoing Middle East conflagration, the betrayal of Lawrence's Arabia, the Zionist expansion and terror, the support of the Shah which led to the headchopping Ayotollah bastards, the Suez disaster, the support of Uncle Sam's support for Sadam Hussein, all jewels in the crown of the Oxbridge establishment, everything they touch turns to revolutionary shit. Pakistan, Malaya, Ulster, thirty fucking years of murder and mayhem and torture, presided over by these same arseholes; even Cyprus, fucking Cyprus. Spies, arsebandit espionage, Blunt, Philby, Burgess, Maclean, all Cambridge. What on Earth is the point of Trident, when some Cantabrian at the Foreign Office will be, as we speak, disclosing it's codes and deployments in some furtive Ivan, Chink or Arab manlove tryst? Cambridge University - David Frost, Monty Python and BrownHat Treason. Jesus, the nerve of some people. Never mind the Oxford English Dictionary, what about the Oxford Book Of Catstrophic Ineptitude, A Self-Portrait?
Consider, despite the poverty lessons of the industrial nineteenth and twentieth centuries, our standard of living remains shackled to an eighteenth century, unflinchingly capitalistic model, offering us only Earthcrime and Usury in equal, toxic measure, this is the best that Oxbridge, the Sorbonne, Heidelberg and the Ivy League can manage, Ruin, regular as clockwork.
Whilst saving every penny for retirement, we must go into debt to consume more and more trash, that the idle rich may have more and more of the good stuff; this - Growth - is all she wrote, growth is all there is, it makes the world go round, growth and only growth, it can't be denied. And every twenty years or so so we Grow into Ruin. Clever stuff. Genius.
As science and technology make astounding, clever-monkey leaps, the dead hand of generations of public school/Oxbridge boys and girls steers us, ever, to the rocks; greed, privilege, the mutuality of pseudo-elitism, the inbred shit floating, self-delightedly, to the top, Johnson, Cameron, Goldsmith, bouyed-up by an education so superior that none could find the hole in their arses, count the change in their pockets, so superior that CallHimDave shits, effortlessly in our faces from his cycle, his limo creeping behind, carrying his work clothes, as he shamelessly fakes a set of eco-credentials; less well-educated people would retire in lifelong shame at the exposure of such crass duplicity; Eton, though, gives a fellow stomach for the fight against Decency, what; play up, play up and play the game, Aye, right. Bastards. And who can forget Johnson senior, saying that his son, Boris the cokehead philanderer, was entitled to be Mayor of London because of all the money he had lavished on his education, donchaknow?
This exercise in privilege - it's not elitism, in, say, mr the dyer's garden's terms, these people aren't the best, just the richest, no warrior poets, here - is little if anything to do with education as I understand it, as mr mongoose and ms agatha understand it, this is to do with positioning one's children so that they are eligible for more, closer to more, conditioned to expect more; Oxbridge, Eton, Harrow and the rest don't simply educate, they perpetuate the bullying of the many, by the few, encrusting our discourse, every generation, with cant, incompetence, narcissism and stupidity. Shitholes filled with pious, over-indulged, useless, inbred, greedy fucking bastards. I'd demolish them; no, I would.
This sounds a bit Chairman Mao, I know, a bit Red Guard Cultural Revolution, sounds Philistine. Ah, but what about all the ree-surch they do. Fuck the ree-surch, there's plenty of ree-surch, there's Hubble and the Hadron Collider and there's lots of other joints doing ree-surch, how much fucking ree-surch do we need ? Why don't we ree-surch a way to give every kid in the world a drink of clean water? Too complex an issue for our gifted ones; war, now, or slump, that's the stuff. Throw the ree-surchers out in the street, let them ree-surch homelessness, and teenage alcoholism, do something useful.
Former prime minister Snot, bog-trotting, sermonising his way into the supposed sophistication of Information Technology promised high-speed broadband for all. Fat chance, when they cannot run a railroad, or an airline, or an examination system, or a battle-equipped army, or a care system for the elderly, or a foreign policy, or a worthwhile justice system, just one swerving from one punitive mantra to another. The water pipes are leaking, the sewers are antiquated, the roads are potholed and inadequate, the hospitals are filthy deathcamps, centres of greedy, criminal incompetence, the teachers can't frame a grammatical sentence and the cops'll shoot you soon as look at you. And as the preposterous, shirtsleeved, Ivy League Obama poses and rhetorises, archly, embarrassingly desperate to salvage his limping, spurious popularity, our blue chip companies spray filth all over the ocean, the shores and the bayou, their stooges insisting that it's no big deal. This is what happens when we mistake rehearsed cleverness for wisdom, First Class Degrees in Victor Bogdanov Studies for competence; we arrive in a world of David Mitchell and Steven Fry for joint prime ministers, reductio ad absurdum, as they would say. Universal, high-speed broadband, we'd need to be conquered by some efficient, well-educated Hermans for that to happen, our overstructure is far too stupid.
No use blaming Blair and Brown and NewLabour alone; the Thatcher regime of Red BracesGood, Overalls Bad, was one of the shittiest and shabbiest in modern history, larded with Oxbridge rubbish, as Peter I Have A LIttle Song Lilley and Malcolm Lower Your Voice To A Shout Rifkind now graphically remind us, braying and slithering again on govament benches. Unemployment a price worth paying; no such thing as society; rejoice, we are a grandmother, mad as a longtailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs; Oxford, that's Oxford for you, the impudence of the outrageously stupid.
Both our sets of vaguely partisan demagogues have been richly colonised from Oxbridge and independent schools and crucially their immoveable Mandarinate consists almost exclusively of useless, good for fuck all, never done a day's proper work wankers, oily bastards and useless, self-serving piece of shit, peerage-hungry arseholes, first-this and permanent-that, not fit to run a carbootsale; festooned with the glittering prizes, usually a first or even a double first in classics, or PPE, whatever they are, and thus issued with a lifetime, business class ticket to the GreatShittingOnThePublicLatrineOfState, or Westminster, as it is known to all and sundry and especially, currently, to the lovestruck Oxbridge midget, Mr Laws. Will his ticket-to-shit remain valid, will it be cancelled, or suspended, or will one of his fellow-Oxbridgees advise him that he best just mind his pees and cues? Alas, we learn that the horrid little turd must leave his shitmission unaccomplished and spend more time with his partner who is not his partner; he has done no wrong, of course, just doesn't want to distract from the national ruinous purpose, to which all of his ilk are committed. Cameron and Clegg, his masters, beneficiaries of the most expensive education, within days of hijacking Power, revealed as clodhopping, maladroit nincompoops, as ignorant of personalities and human foibles as they are of policies; if I had paid for their education I would want my money back.
And another reason I'd want my money back is that this pair of clowns, as well as having nothing to say, save self-answering questions - they do not declaim, much less orate, they interview themselves, as though they had some as yet undiagnosed form of Advanced Absorbed Paxmanism, Am I saying this? well there's two questions there. Am I relaxed about that? Absolutely - don't know how to say it. Two of the purportedly best-educated layabouts in the land estranged from pronunciation and grammar, gonna-ing, wanna-ing, struggaling, the govament are-ing, meeting-with-ing, the-reason-why-ing; malapropism, solecism, split infinitives, double negatives, non-sequiteurs, tautologisms; cases, tenses, articles, all completely misunderstood. Money down the drain; this pair, so enthusiastic about raising educational standards, would not, judged by their spoken English, pass an eleven-plus examination. It wasn't about education, their schooling. Oh, they would have been coached to pass exams but the insipid, leaden, lacklustre laziness and coarse ignorance of their speech - surely an adroit politician's greatest tool, greatest pleasure - is proof of their and their teachers' failure. If Clegg and Cameron are an advertisement for private education they prove, vividly and incontestably, that their parents money bought not an education, merely a series of connections to the powerful, an entree to the demi-monde of high-level, mutual self-interest. Not that I give a flying fuck for any of them but David Davies woukd have romped home in the recent election; the effete waster, Cameron, casts about, now, for reason to be cheerful part one, inventing a New Politics to justify his miserable failure in the Old. These are not the doings of an educated person, this is, shameful grubby opportunism, spivvery masquerading as statesmanship. Flashman, proper public school.
No, the correct approach to education is not to assume that a degree is essential for this is a mediaeval mindset, anybody can get a degree, all you need is for your parents to have money - look at Prince Charles, he's got one and he can't even dress himself - or the ability to process and retain usually abstract information. for artful regurgitation in a fixed time period. The right approach is to teach, from infancy, alongside the Kings and Queens of England, the Zen of Work, teach them how to do things, make things, maintain things, make stuff that works; teach the stupid little fuckers about raw materials; teach them that it was tools, hammers, planes and saws and, before them, shaped bits of flint, clubs and sharpened sticks, which amplified our meagre strengths and made us fearless, kept us warm and sheltered and fed, it was tools which brought us here, not a knowledge of politics, philosophy and economics, the most dismal and devious field of study, emblematic of the parasitism of leadership. Oh, Jocasta took a first, up at Oxford, in PPE, good for fuck all, she is; she'll have to be kept, by the rest of us. Teach them about the properties of and the extraction of and the preparation of raw materials; teach them to estimate and measure and sketch; teach them to plant and prune, to dig and harvest and store; teach them to dig foundations and pour concrete; show them how things work.
One of Blair's many gimmicky betrayals was the insistence that fifty per cent go to newly -invented unversities or as ms agathat has it;
But that is not enough for me. There is no reason that people do not study both plumbing and poetry, the vocational/academic divide merely shores-up the posture of those who, unable to work by hand and eye deride those who can, for their inability to translate Homer. As if, with shit and icy water and
toilet roll and used tampons pouring down your stairs, you would rather hear about Odysseus than gratefully welcome a plumber. And there is more to it than utility over diversion, the artisan must, often, devise, imagine a solution, and then, having imagined it, perform it, his is a blend of that rare intelligence (at the top of the blog) knowing what to do when you don't know what to do with a physical ability to apply the remedy using the necessary tools, skillfully - providing he has the necessary tools for many eventualities and that they are in a fit-for-purpose condition, you can't cut and paste a new ballcock from the internet, you have to actually know what you are doing, the why and the how and you have to be able to do it, contorted in a confined space; the plumberpath is not eased by some dodgy professor, almost a family retainer, overmarking the dreary drivel before him, flirting in tutorials.
It is onto the disciplined, practical knowledge of trade and craft which esoteria should be grafted or, better, both should be learned in tandem; not a barrier to Hamlet or Rembrandt or The Epic of fucking Gilgamesh, the overalls and the Swarfega are the mortarboard and gown of reality.
Mr ptb told a harrowing and depressingly familiar story of student-to-teacher brutality in academe and such behaviours grow common, from primary school onwards, we have rehearsed it at, here, at length; horrid little shits, ill-parented, often Thatcher's grandchildren, still paying the price worth paying, made feral, that's the word, in order for her privately educated fuckpig son, Viscount Mark, to ponce money from his Ma's connections and stooge around the world cack-handedly staging insurrections; betraying his old, public school friends when the deal goes down, the useless fucking bastard. Best not whisper it around Harrow School but Thatcher is actually more of a disappointment, a poorer return on investment than mr ptb's thug-assailant.
But these kids are straightjacketed into study they consider irrelevant and which is largely irrelevant to them, unreal, there is no physical connection, no end product, their grandfathers built trains and boats and planes, they might, if they are lucky, flip hamburgers, alongside an English graduate. Even among the orderly, learning has been revolutionised by the Internet, people no longer learn by understanding and remembering, they simply know how and from where to acquire information, how and from where, actually, to acquire friends, in bizarre numbers, this is a techno-knack not as useful as it first appears; our very brain circuitry is adapting to the New Learning but there is no real interaction, how can there be? The process of manufacture, though, is engaging of mind, hand and eye, even a completed birdbox delights its young creator as though it were a sparkling suspension bridge across Time, which is what it is.
In the same commentary, mr mongoose rightly delights in the fact that he, like Kinnock, is the first in a thousand generations to go to university, acknowledging that a university place, any university place, confers advantage and status. Relax, said Professor Whitehead - I remember - to his new intake of undergrads, you are here as a reward for your wit and industry, relax and enjoy yourselves. And let the unrewarded lay the bricks and dig the drains, his unspoken corrolary. I wish, I wish, I wish in vain that I could lay bricks. And I know that, if he can't, mr mongoose, also, would so wish.
Rather than properly examining the structural failure of education, Mr Michael Spit-Gove and his acolytes now want to refine the existing, redundant educational landscape, to involve stupid parents in securing a competitive advantage for their stupid children, not enough that educational examination certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on, there is now to be managerial and curricular involvement from pushy, greedy, aspirational fuckwits - or concerned parents - the same to be rigourously applied by professionals who don't know that hopefully is an adverb, and don't care. More of the same, only worse. Schools, which by disadvantaged intake are wickedly deemed to be failing, will suffer further neglect and dereliction under coalition plans to empower - get the votes of - the so-called middle class, instead of wading-in and assisting struggling schools, to the benefit of all, the New Briton, made stupid and selfish by examplars in Royalty, politics, showbiz and skymadeupnewsandfilth, now demands that he be allowed to set up his own school. Not a word from the slimy mouth of Spit-Gove about real reform - redressing the stinking system whereby the kids of the rich get all the best jobs, just for the asking.
And it will be more of the same but worse. In these new plans there is no suggestion of novelty or innovation, just another sausage-machining towards five good shit GCSEs, three good shit A levels and a meaningless shit degree, and a soul-destroying career, in some shit branch of GlobaCorp.
Education, like justice, transport, health, policing and defence is properly the business of the state and not of the wannabe enclave, it is certainly not a vehicle for generating profits for dodgy private companies, under the ludicrous mission statement of Choice. People who don't want to live in a state should fuck off and live somewhere else, the state is the only mechanism by which this many people can live together in close proximity and relative safety. But education needs to move along. I am not widely travelled but I hear that in other parts tradesmen and women are considered worthwhile citizens, not necessary-evil untermenschen.
A dismantling of the differential between so-called academic and so-called vocational studies - and pupils - is the only way to properly engage, properly educate our children; an equalising of opportunity - the abolition of rich kids' schools and the redistribution of their staffs, buildings and resources - may result in an improvement in teaching standards; a practical, integrated, holistic curriculum both practical and academic, mutually interpenetrating, cannot but increase our numbers of engineers, scientists, mechanics and other skilled tradesmen, cannot but enhance the skills of the lawyer and the doctor and the administrator, broaden the palette of the artist, the range and invention of the composer; we must develop generations of curious, confident, well-read,cultured inventive people, as happy in the art gallery as the workshop, adept in both. We don't need saparating, rich from poor, academic from vocational; we need, in schools, and lifelong, a new, unified Arts and Crafts and Trades and Sciences movements, an integrated baccalaureat of thought and skill, and we need it to be open to all.
Oxbridge produces mor villainy than virtue, examine the behaviour od the repulsive Laws, even though he was doing wrong, he insists, he was doing it for personal reasons, so it was, actually, not wrong at all, but right, this amoral self-serving claptrap chorused up and down cyber fleetstreet, a huge personal tragedy, such an able intelligent, lying, thieving, cowardly Oxbridge wanker. The product of a great education.
And as for Heffer and Co, spiteful, selfish, tiny-minded, petulant unimaginative gabshites, well, let them look around, sobeerly and critically, at the fruits of Oxbridge, of King Edwards Foundation Grammar Schools, of Harrow and Eton and Westminster, let them behold their works, and despair.