A better work ethic

November 15, 1996

The front-page report, "Bosses to call the shots" (THES, October 18) drives more nails in the coffin of academic and intellectual independence from the ideology of the free market.

Populist measures to divert already grossly deficient university funding to increasing "courses which prepare people for work", might carry a demotic ring in advance of an election, but unless these courses also critically examine the nature and meanings of work, its ecological, social, political, and cultural impact, they cannot alleviate the ills of society.

By making people slaves to an already oppressive, unthinking, and bullying work ethic, now wrecking the environment, family and social relationships, and spawning mindless overproduction and reduplication, such policies only exacerbate our problems, or, worse, lead to breakdown.

It is significant that the very subjects that top the list of examining our human condition - philosophy and the social sciences - are the most vilified. Inevitably, government and the ruling ideology mould education and culture in their own image. With misguided, half-educated, simple-minded rulers - no matter how well meaning - fewer people become equipped and in a position to think outside the prevailing mindset. In such circumstances, there is, to quote the novelist Trollope, "no villainy to which education cannot eventually reconcile us".

Sadly, with their virtual sell-out to the status quo, New Labour inspire nil confidence that they will reverse the trend nor the bleak prospect of a complete take-over of mind and body by accountants, managers and commerce, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

David Rodway 11 Cumberland Street, London SW1.

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