So the Arts and Humanities Research Council claims to have voluntarily added the "Big Society" to its research themes ("Delete 'Big Society': email protest presses AHRC to drop Tory mantra", 7 April). That illustrates the danger with taking the government's money. It can lead to taking the government seriously.
But the role of academia is precisely not to take too seriously the kind of government we must now expect. If a guffaw of derisive dismissal doesn't go up from academe when callow nonsense such as the Big Society is proposed for public attention, where will it go up from? Civil society? - too compromised, in so far as it actually exists. The media? - largely trivialised where not simply prostituted. The opposition? - too obviously grinding axes (and in any case, we all remember the Third Way).
With our politicians so laughable, academia must discharge its vital role as the intellectual conscience of the nation by actually and audibly laughing.
John Foster, Cumbria