Captives of the moral crusaders

November 12, 1999

As Ofsted inspectors prod primary schoolrooms for "evidence of awe and wonder", law teachers such as L. W. Blake reduce university research to a publicly subsidised service provider for narrowly defined "creators and importers of wealth" (Letters, THES, November 5) and philosophers such as Mary Warnock add reasoned voice to the episcopal crusade for moral re-armament ("Consoled by faith, prodded by reason", THES, November 5), it does seem that the educational enterprise at all levels is fast becoming captive to the new puritan social engineering project.

Whenever elementary scholarship, advanced science and civic moral culture have become too closely harnessed to the ideological interests of temporary incumbents of state office elsewhere and in other periods, defenders of the open society have justifiably regarded it all with scepticism. Realworldist rhetoric in favour of selected "movers and shakers" when mixed with millennialist fears regarding moral decay and social degeneration from a notional consensus is a heady, seductive concoction. But it remains a highly dangerous formula for freedom of thought and conscience.

William Keenan, Senior lecturer in sociology Nottingham Trent University.

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