Knowledge gaps

April 27, 2017

As an educator, I have a lot of sympathy for Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s lament about the sorry state of general knowledge (“Sorry, they haven’t a clue”, Opinion, 13 April); however, my (postmodernist?) mind cannot miss the irony of praising critical scepticism while blaming postmodern theories for replacing knowledge with information. Such theories advocate critical scepticism with regard to “grand narratives”, exactly, one could argue, what Fernández-Armesto calls the “glib certainties that his parents and teachers paraded”.

Also, I was startled to discover that “we have extirpated every other kind of discrimination” and “are at work to eliminate prejudice against stupidity”, which the next paragraph implicitly equates with vocational competence. Sadly, we are far from having extirpated any kind of discrimination, and arguing against all kinds of discrimination is not a form of political correctness gone mad, as Fernández-Armesto seems to imply. Moreover, proclaiming that “erudition is elitist” and “ignorance is egalitarian” is not helpful; it corroborates the “grand narrative” that universities are bastions of the elites while mistakenly portraying the ideal of egalitarianism as the root cause of the problems.

Finally, I could not but LOL (laugh out loud) at the statement that “in classical Athens the internet would have been full of philosophy” – such an idealised and cartoonish representation of classical times is really what gives erudition a bad name.

Anna Notaro
@Notanna1
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze