25 April 2010

The death-spiral of learning

The Mail features an article on 'Ten of the greatest battlefield tactic' by Rob Johnson, who it seems is a lecturer in the History of War at Oxford. The article is a puff for How to Win on the Battlefield, a book he has co-authored with John France, another obscure academic, and Michael Whitby, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Warwick.

If the article is a fair trailer, the book is superficial, churnalistic drivel and one can only speculate how on earth it got published. From a parochial military historian's point of view, what galls me is that it should have been written by a trio of academics with the time and resources to have written something intellectually challenging, had their aspirations run to it.

It may be, however, that they are simply banal individuals who could not have written anything better. We do appear to have reached a point where the only stretching of the intellect across the entire bloated educational sector is at the primary level. Possibly this is because those drawn to teaching are themselves so narrow-minded and possessed of so little learning that they can only engage the interest of small children.

Now that teachers are either afraid of being seen as 'elitist' (the few), or are themselves no longer educated people (the majority), it seems a strong possibility that the formal transmission of learning and culture across the generations may have entered a final death-spiral. What will take its place is hard to predict, but it is already quite evident that its social effect is to reinforce the already immense advantages of birth.

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