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February 23, 2004
Britain faces a week of university lecture chaos

My thanks to Andy Duncan of Samizdata for noticing that Britain's academics are, apparently, about to go on strike. Unless of course their employers back down in terror at their threat.

Now if I was a betting man, and had to guess the contingent of British society which still possessed the highest percentage of Marxoid buffoons, after the disastrous collapse of Marxism in Eastern Europe, I'm sure you wouldn't give me tremendous odds against it being University lecturers.

But what's really amusing is that they still think anyone at all, outside the ivory tower, cares enough about them to quake in their boots, at their threat of a three hour strike. Well, I've got some news for you dear Marxoid professors. The nation ain't going to be paralysed. Indeed, it's barely going to register at 0.001 on the Richter Scale. Worse than that, it's barely going to register at 0.001 on the Newcastle Brown Ale Scale, on your own campuses. Mine's a large one, and a deep-fried Pizza, please, stout yeoman of the bar.

Yeah. Ha ha. And indeed, if it's "humanities" lecturers and the like, then forget it. The nation will be able to endure being thus held to ransom indefinitely. But surely some university lecturers are actually doing valuable work, which their students appreciate and might actually miss. I can imagine some students and hence some universities actually wanting some lecturers to go back to work at once.

If this strike stimulates a national debate about which lecturers will actually be missed, and how much they will be missed, it will have done British higher education a great favour.

But as for those post-modernist literary wafflers, who have been telling themselves how essential they are for so long that some of them may even believe it, they are perhaps about to get a rude shock. Most people despise them, and would be happy for them to remain on strike for ever. Certainly I do and I would. I seriously doubt if they are so severely stupid as to expose themselves to this kind of public derision, but you never know your luck. Maybe some of them are that daft, and will make prize asses of themselves on Newsnight in the days to come. If I witness any such foolishnesses, I'll let you know.

More seriously, I think this is very good news. It signals that British universities are a-changing, and in a good way. Some lecturers are going to get paid more, and others less, and the lumpen mass of them is frightened.

As I say, good.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:01 PM
Category: Higher education

Hi Brian,

I should imagine any half-way decent lecturer, who would be able to hack it in a private University education system, and who is wanted by their students, and who is, even in my terms, a valuable person, perhaps say a chemical engineering lecturer, or a professor of physiology, or an artificial intelligence researcher, even a philosophy lecturer who students would pay with their own hard-earned cash to see, will be working normally throughout this week, and ignoring this 'industrial' action.

Excepting of course for any picket-line intimidation they may have to receive from their bonehead lecturer colleagues, and students, who they're forced to work alongside, because of the lack of any real alternative University provider to HMG, forcing them to stay at home and mark essays there, rather than walking through a wall of "We Will Remember Your Treachery" abuse.

But, like you say, it is interesting that the increasing 'marketisation' of University education is beginning to unsettle the lumpen mass of those who would fail to hack it, in a real higher education market.

Good. Let them be unsettled. Even better. Let them be fired! :-)


Comment by: Andy Duncan on February 23, 2004 04:33 PM

I happen to believe that there are plenty of "humanities" related subjects that are worth studying for the betterment of humanity, personally, and I think that some of these are still worth studying even if the numbers of students studying them are small. I include philosophy, and anthropology, and Latin, and a few other things. What is interesting is that the impact of government on the people who teach these sorts of university subjects has been just terrible. With all the screams of "make it relevant", scholarship in these sorts of fields has really been under siege. This is much less the case in the top private American universities, where the people in charge actually do have a better idea of the value of a traditional humanities education than do politicians and bureaucrats. (What we have is yet another instance of governments forcing us to pay to screw something up).

This is a separate issue from whether there are lots of truly useless things being studied and taught in certain humanities departments. Obviously a great good many academic programs have been ruined by pomo crap. It would be good to say goodbye to a lot of these people.

Comment by: Michael Jennings on February 23, 2004 08:14 PM

Wayhey! I'm not one of the lumpen mass.

First thing I knew about the strike was when I turned up at the department to get on with research as normal, and found that everyone else's nameplates had "out" rather than "in" next to them.

*self-righteous glow*

Comment by: anon on March 1, 2004 02:48 PM
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