I’m excited to bring you a lunchtime update on my previous post. I’ve just got round to reading Terry Eagleton’s splendidly splenetic article about Grayling’s private university in Tuesday’s Guardian. There (at the foot, appropriately, of column two), is today’s word – hyphenated! But it’s also on a line break, so it’s ambiguous. The online version settles it – and is worth quoting for its own sake:
If education is to be treated as a commodity, then we should stop pussyfooting around. I already ask my students at the start of a session whether they can afford my £50 insights into Wuthering Heights, or whether they will settle for a few mediocre ideas at £10 a piece.
He’s clearly underselling himself: today’s edition of the paper reveals that Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen (currently in the news for matters from which we shall avert our gaze) is the non-executive chairman of a company, AB Produce plc, selling pre-washed vegetables. ‘The register of members’ financial interests records that he is paid £7,773 monthly for six hours work.’ I make that £1295.50 an hour, which is probably rather more than Terry Eagleton gets, even (as Simon Jenkins points out in an equally acerbic piece in the paper) ‘as “excellence in English distinguished visitor” to America’s private Notre Dame Catholic university. There he gives three weeks’ teaching per semester for an undisclosed sum.’ Jenkins tuns the knife in the man he dubs ‘the Kropotkin of our age’ (Jenkins must have had a luxury education too), saying ‘moral consistency has never been a Marxist strong suit’. It’s a safe bet that this is a lot more than the hourly rate of AB Produce’s vegetable washers. Why, it would take him a mere 42 hours to pay for a whole degree at Grayling’s New College of the Humanities!
There’s nothing academics like more, of course, than a good scrap with their colleagues. So immediately underneath Jenkins’ article today, Giles Fraser, formerly lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford and now Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, writes about yesterday’s blog post topic, Archbishop of opposition. With the skill of a true philosopher, the Reverend Doctor manages to spear both Ian Duncan Smith and A C Grayling with one blow:
The “quiet resurgence of the seductive language of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor” needs a proper kicking. Perhaps our atheist intellectuals are too busy setting up their private universities to get stuck into the fight.
Still, as the old saying goes, fine words wash no parsnips.