Wednesday, July 29, 2015

John Pugh defends the study of philosophy

There has been some grumbling of Twitter about the appointment of John Pugh as the Liberal Democrats' education spokesperson on education.

I too hope that he will not take us back to the days when our education policy consisted solely of Phil Willis complaining that every new initiative would lead to a "two-tier service".

This is because, then as now, we already have a two-tier system: between the state and private sectors - and frequently within the state system too, policed by house prices. The question is what we do about this, not how we can defend the status quo.

But, being a philosophy graduate myself, I was encouraged to find a 2009 article by John, written at a time when Liverpool University was proposing the closure of its philosophy and politics departments.

He wrote:
As philosophers would say, studying has both intrinsic and instrumental value, and this is true of all intellectual academic disciplines. Yet this is increasingly being forgotten. 
The past 10-20 years have seen the rise of philistinism and technocratic short-sightedness. The forces controlling education have increasingly forgotten that intellectual learning is valuable and important for its own sake, and not simply to the extent it boosts economic productivity. Ironically, those forces have simultaneously failed to see that the intellectual skills acquired from academic study are amongst the very best methods of equipping people with the capacity to be productive.

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