The article questioning how an anti-intellectual Leave campaign won makes some important points, but it only emphasises a tendency that prevails in UK public culture, namely the devaluation of knowledge, going hand in hand with the destruction of higher education (“Academics take stock after Brexiteer victory over ‘the experts’”, News, 1 July).
In the bigger picture, this devaluation is accompanied by a preference of the presentation and appearance of arguments over their substance. Academics may still enjoy trust, but this applies only to a minority of the people, while a majority is deeply alienated from the values of education and knowledge.
What is fundamentally needed is a (re)emphasis of the difference between “opinion” and “knowledge” for a public to resist the power of demagogy that we have witnessed in the referendum campaigns. But we find ourselves in a deeply divided society along the lines of education and value systems. This throws up a lot of questions to do with the rebuilding of social cohesion, trust and public morality.
I am afraid that without a profound and widespread campaign for the values of education and knowledge, there are no good prospects for the UK. The achievements of an open, democratic society, whose main condition is education, not “transferable skills”, are much more fragile than many would have thought and do not allow for gambling.