19 Aug

Is the social engineer here?

When you notice two items side by side, do you get the urge to join them together?

A report on the BBC’s Today Programme this morning told us that Tony Blair’s 1999 ambition – “Educashun, Educashun, Educashun,” remember – to have 50% of all youngsters attend university has been achieved. But the reporter confessed that this is not quite the roaring success it appears to be. For many graduates are going into jobs which don’t require a university degree.

This item was followed immediately by the announcement that the number of houses being built in Britain is a lot lower than the country’s needs. The main reason given for this was that building companies can’t find the carpenters, electricians and other skilled tradesmen they require.

I’m not normally fond of Americanisms, but their pithy phrase, “Go figure” seems apt here.

For when we’ve gone and figured, we understand that youngsters who might, better advised, have been inclined to learn a trade, instead found themselves saddled with a government loan in order to waste three years “reading” Golf Studies with Tourism or, as it might be Applied Social Policy and Hairdressing.

Quite apart from the important point that our higher education system is not producing the numbers of people to do the work that the country requires, Blair’s impudent piece of social engineering guarantees that many young people are not fulfilling their vocations, exercising their aptitudes and settling into suitable and rewarding work.

Square pegs and round holes. Lives are being spoilt – and all for Blair’s arrogant obsession.

We are now told, of course, that universities shouldn’t be elitist. What should they be, then mediocritist?

For centuries the university was a place where that minority of people interested in such things – and who perhaps experienced a calling to study them – devoted themselves to philosophy, theology, literature and the theoretical sciences. Most people were neither interested in these subjects nor called to study them. Fine – there are many other noble and respectable ways of spending one’s life. You could be an electrical engineer, a plumber, a joiner or any one of a hundred different trades.

Proficiency in a trade such as engineering or carpentry is not inferior to theoretical activity; only it is different. Wittgenstein was an engineer. Jesus was a carpenter.

Now we are living in the mess caused by Blair’s perverse desire to send half our youngsters to waste their time in universities

And what, pray, is Tony Blair? Is he an intellectual? Is he a practical man? No, he is that most arrogant and destructive of creatures: a social engineer.  

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