Without likening myself to ‘a voice of one crying in the wilderness’ I feel I might ask with some relevance: “Why have not our authorities cottoned on, got a steer on, why so many of their failings in politics, government, public administration, are not ‘unfortunate’ or ‘accidental’ in a sense that they might not have been seen coming or else might not reasonably have been avoided?”
I myself am old now; and like many old persons I see the past as having had a better grip on its policy and practice in public affairs and in the administration of the authority of government. And so I admit it is difficult for me to see clearly whether or what is my own perhaps nostalgic bias; and what might actually be substantive in today’s apparent rodeos of loose incompetence.
I can say with some certainty that despite extensive government deregulation of business rules and of terms of activity which it applies ubiquitously to all traders; which has been policy now for decades and which had aimed at and still aims at easing the passage of transactions buying selling making money for businesspeople; I can say that it is very sure that as the State has withdrawn its regulation of business; so business itself has stepped in and stepped up and has fitted us up – I use the term with all its pejorative meaning – loading innumerable fardels and burdens for the consumer to bear on her back, and in its own stead.
Where for instance once an employer would bear the costs of training specialist apprentices, assistants, and so on, and would put the callow youth out in the field with an experienced hand whose often parental-like care was to train up his charges to that high standard which he himself had achieved, initiating the young cubs trusted to his care: whereas the commonplace procedure nowadays appears to depend much more on the callow cub having to shell out of his own inexperienced and so shallow pockets cash to study to obtain his own certificates of competence; certificates which are only a part of his heavy pre-requirement equipment he presently needs to get hold of for him to be able to apply for a lowly and first experience of actual paid work in his chosen trade.
The onus on the inexperienced youngster to show ready ability has thus fallen rather more heavily upon her as the candidate herself, than traditionally it had done, at least at that time when I was once callow and raw. The willingness of employers to shoulder the weight of costs and diligence for training an upcoming generation to excellence has declined considerably; and for the young training now must usually be got where it can be obtained by those young who would want to learn skills in a trade.
In tandem with this displacement of the youth training phenomenon, has been seen the changing role of schools and of FE colleges and even alas of Universities, over the years in which my life has been spent. Utterly gone are the, now discredited, alas, although not justly so, approaches to learning which one might tar with pitch nowadays by labelling them by the epithet ‘academic’. All that ‘useless’ junk I learned in history, geography, science, maths and so on at school, which to a tee was in every way unconnected with anything else likely to happen to me after I left school excepting in the field of learning – and learning for its own sake; this all has been jettisoned and learning as it is being done now has to be learning able to be directly applied, vis, its teacher must establish that knowing it has clear concrete uses, and furthermore, directly applicable uses, just like a can opener or a toaster has.
That old fashioned concept of offering our children a ‘liberal education’ is now foreign and alien to our schools and to our teachers; teachers whom I might add mostly have their pedagogic penchants firmly constrained to those of The Department of Education and to its curricula and to its finely tuned micromanagement. Theory of Education has become a department of child and adult psychology, as if there were a blueprint concerning how and what one should impress upon a young mind an understanding or as the Victorians called it ‘sweetness and light’. A ‘liberal education’ then has died the death everywhere today in our nation, excepting in our Public Schools and in our top half dozen ‘Super’ Universities (Oxbridge, Edinburgh, London etc) whose clientele even now is mostly drawn of that draft which trickles from our Public Schools, just as it has always been.
Our ‘economy class’ Universities to a man in the first place were honoured with a promotion from Polytechnics and Higher Education Colleges to the standing of Universities; and thereafter, like an Indian- American bringing gifts, as the popular idiom has it, the persons who promoted them then took away their urgency for intellectual rigour by way of a dilution of breadth and depth, of searching and stretching students, and by providing instead milk and water faculties with soured milk courses providing no desserts.
Thus our education of our children and young adults has become an ‘organ’, as the Bolsheviks used that term, in the service of industry and business; and this servile function of our educators, and of their ‘system’ today, is not something being hidden in a corner, as is the madwoman in the attic shoved away and never acknowledged nor spoken of; and as it ought to be for shame and sorrow’s sake; but this fine aim and high achievement is openly and with adulations paraded as being ‘good, all good’ and right and proper.
This tendency of our educational efforts to have become dismal and low achieving lowbrow hack stuff – I am not a snob, our youth’s brains are as good as ever they were in any previous age, but they are denied, and are spoon fed dogmas and decrees about what is learning, what is relevant, what is fruitful, what is essential, and vital in our knowledge – this hack stuff is now, excepting for the exceptions I listed above, become ubiquitous in our nation. And there is indeed, if the word can be marshalled for use here with any dignity, a philosophy behind this approach to the nation’s knowledge requirement and acquisition, that learning and its individual pupils’ ability to realise themselves as human spirits. This philosophy (not the apposite term I am afraid) is science-led and reduces down in actualities and often in outlooks, and very much so, to a dogmatic and often evangelical materialist determinism.
To unpack these terms: The allowance of a possibility of the existence of, and so to validate a study of, metaphysical postulations, such items as spirit, transcendent value, freewill, and so of autonomy of action, and of ultimate ends and prime actors; all bearing upon being and existence; this allowance is wholly closed down and its speculations all foregone.
The result, or maybe the cause, of this illiberal closing down of thought, is most usually a dogmatic insistence on a deterministic universe in which men and women are capable of mastering and harnessing, more or less, a complete (scientific) knowledge of everything in it. This is a wish rather than a theory, or even an hypothesis – the term ‘hypothesis’ being a metaphysical expression itself – and just as there are no strictly empirical grounds in consideration of metaphysical postulants, there are no grounds in empirical considerations which on the other hand are able to exclude with a surety metaphysical postulants.
Materialism is the bedfellow of determinism; a consequence of it and a support to it in the schema of things which our cognoscenti promulgate. In short nothing is immaterial, nil is not matter; and all phenomena, whether observed, or postulated to be existent from having made observations, or else as yet unexplained, are wholly aspects of matter at bottom; and not ‘abstracted essences’ or else not, in traditional terms, ‘supernatural’ immaterialities. Materialism supports determinism because science depends heavily, almost absolutely, upon ‘cause and effect’ as a presumed phenomena for its explanatory power; and items which are beyond material, should it be entertained that these might exist, would not be able to be explained readily in terms of material ‘cause and effect’, and so by science’.
Politically-speaking I see this dogmatism of the science crowd and the dilution of education and so the effective removal of near all ‘liberal education’ in our nation; all of which outlook and policy has occurred and grown ever more rigid and powerful in my lifetime, I see this as being nothing less than a coupe d’état, a power grab; and one such in the honourable line of The Reformation: The Enlightenment; The Enclosure of Commons; The Industrial Revolution; The October Revolution in Russia; The Legacy of and the Present US Foreign Policy; and so on.
The alliance of science with industry and particularly with technology manufacturers and traders, but yet nonetheless with all who supply unhealthy excesses of goods and services to a vast consumer penal colony of shoppers like you and me; this is the devil’s bargain of our times. I think that either these elites feel they have us now where they want us to be, or else have believed their own propaganda; and so either way these top dogs who run the world, run a world which they for the most part have created its present zeitgeist, its current ambiences. Materialist determinism suits excellently well as a philosophy for making money, and so for aggregating ever more power and influence; and so keeping the ducks all lined up, and the bricks all in a pile, so that this status quo, this stasis quo, can continue – to only their benefits -as they see things, is the sad consequence.
Yes I do believe we are prisoners within our own lives, and that these trends and their impressions, howsoever they have come about, lay hold on our minds and volitions, on our tastes and beliefs, on our reasoning and its powers and our choices; so as to have us follow our leaders into a black hole of their own choosing. This black hole we see the beginnings of its makings right now.
The numbers and enormity of the mishaps piling out of our policymakers works and their applications, and arising in a milliard other areas of practical life today; the ‘cock-ups’ and the remiss behaviours and understandings being seen these days to be emerging; from so many public officials and representatives, administrators and legislators of affairs, cannot be anything but a clear manifestation of the crash course which we have laid out for ourselves to be our desired trajectory for living life.
The upshot of our ‘betters’ effectively having debarred liberal education from among the mass of people; the upshot of them having instead decreed by stealths that all things that are to be held up as valuable for learning should have without fail material and direct applications, and be so tied rigidly to material effects and their outcomes; all this has closed down scope for thought, and mental freedom, and so actual freedom, and has culled the scope of study and of studies, narrowed the understanding and the reach of many, many otherwise fine minds, just like one acid tweet in the right (wrong) place at the right (wrong) time is able to flood a whole population with anger and fear of the foreigner, or of an immanent virus, or of a dipping stockmarket, or of the mere cancellation of train or plane journeys – these latter working almost as powerfully as inclement weathers are able to do.
We are being blow around like chaff in the wind because our ballasts have been taken away from us; our judgements are shallow and immediate, and alas too often vengeful and petulant; even in our public and foremost responses from high places. Few believe anymore in the existence of objectivity; of giving due respect; and of taking due consideration; of honouring even one’s enemies when they behave admirably; and next will crash down loyalty, to our neighbours and to others, then to our governors, and then toleration will wither and at the same time our living standards will fall even further; since these immaterial things are not without their eventual effects in their loss and absence, nor else in their presence, metaphysical items though they be.
In all this is our decline, as a culture, as a nation. Our intellectual trajectory is third world; we are willing ourselves to become a place where those options we have closed down so fully and so rigidly, are not able to be enjoyed, and are considered to be the luxuries of advanced economies.
I say nothing about God; except that he watches and disposes.