Slouching towards Poppleton
“We have been very much influenced by recent developments at China’s top-rated Tsinghua University,” claimed Louise Bimpson, our Creative Corporate Director of Talent and Organisational Development, as she outlined the details of an important addition to our university’s procedures for appointing new members of academic staff.
Ms Bimpson told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that nobody was now allowed to graduate at Tsinghua University unless they could demonstrate an ability to swim at least 50 metres. Such an ability was regarded by Qiu Yong, the institution’s president, as a “key survival skill”.
“What we intend to do at Poppleton,” said Ms Bimpson, “is to stay true to the spirit of the Tsinghua initiative by requesting that all those who seek an academic post at Poppleton demonstrate their suitability for appointment by crawling along the lawn outside the vice-chancellor’s mansion for a minimum of half a mile.
“On the face of it, this may seem a somewhat harsh requirement but research shows that a capacity for sustained crawling is the one attribute – survival skill if you must – that very much separates our academic sheep from our academic goats.”
Ms Bimpson described Ponting’s suggestion that the crawling test may well be complemented by a bout of competitive forelock tugging as “singularly unhelpful”.
Your starter for 10
Although our university was one of the first to congratulate Balliol College, Oxford, on its victory in the final round of University Challenge, some concern has been expressed by one of our senior academics about the reasons that may lie behind Poppleton’s modest showing in such televised demonstrations of student prowess.
Professor Gordon Lapping, Head of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, said that not all was “gloom and doom” in this respect. He vividly recalled Roger Spoons, the second-year Poppleton BSc homeopathy student, who had only failed to gain a “coveted” Pointless trophy because of his choice of “buggery” as the pointless answer to a question about the seven deadly sins.
But in Professor Lapping’s opinion, his own media students were specifically discriminated against in University Challenge because of the programme’s bias towards factual knowledge.
“Any serious student of media,” Professor Lapping contended, “knows only too well that facts are ‘believed’ rather than ‘known’, and that a belief in the truth of a single fact is, in the words of one leading epistemologist, ‘usually the result of wilful blindness which ignores the complexity of reality in favour of the warm comfort of rote recitation’.”
Had he any other criticisms?
“Oh, yes. It is also a serious mistake to promote University Challenge as a test of intelligence when it is in reality a test of memory.”
But surely memory was also a capacity worth celebrating?
“Absolutely. There is no sadder academic figure than the forgetful old professor.”
And had Professor Lapping managed to convey these concerns to University Challenge?
And had he received any response?
“Not as yet. But there’s no doubt a very good explanation. Let’s face it, a man such as Bamber Gascoigne must have an awful lot on his plate.”