Thursday, 25 November 2010

Paul Uppal: a tedious, third-rate mind

In true education, anything that comes to our hand is as good as a book: the prank of a page- boy, the blunder of a servant, a bit of table talk - they are all part of the curriculum. (Montaigne)

I'm getting so bored by Uppal's ignorant chippiness. His latest contributions to the public gaiety are on education and empty shops.

In 1950s Kenya, my father received an education that covered the writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare as well as British history. Does the Secretary of State not find it ironic that many students in modern Britain are given a less comprehensive education in British history than many students in 1950s Kenya?
He really is laughable. Why does he think that the appropriate education for an Indian family in Kenya is 'Chaucer and Shakespeare as well as British history'? How about Kenyan history? Sikh culture? Not instead of perhaps, but alongside? Some literature written since 1611?

There's something uncomfortably cringeworthy about a child of Empire trotting out the arguments of Victorian English imperialists without any acknowledgement that the world's a more sophisticated place. (I'm not even convinced that Uppal's claim is more than impressionistic: it seems unlikely that Daddy read more than a tiny selection of the massive output by these authors). Does he really think that this constitutes 'comprehensive education'? How about maths, geography, science, languages and all the other skills? What a dumb comparison - completely unsubstantiated.

Unfortunately, Paul omits to mention his own education in the UK (and the general silence around his education is more than a little suspicious). Was it more comprehensive than his father's? I suspect it was… but that would ruin his little fantasy that generations of kids have been turned into Morlocks by Labour. I also suspect that he couldn't dredge up any Shakespeare or Chaucer - and that he doesn't know the names of any of their contemporaries either: they're just the tired old names dragged up by reactionaries like totems - not for nothing is dumbly excessive Shakespeare worship known as Bardolatry. It's boring and only demonstrates the intellectual vacuity of the speaker. Which bits of Chaucer would he like taught? The fart jokes? The bum-kissing? The students having sex with the miller's wife and daughter? The anti-clericalism? The pomposity of the upper classes? The cynicism about the rulers? Perhaps he'd like me to teach the kids all the sexually and socially subversive bits in Shakespeare? Or is he just ignorant?

My dad - who's a very clever man in many ways - is utterly resistant to most forms of culture. Whenever he says 'have you read X' as though X is the most important author in history, my reply is always 'Yes, I'm a professional literature teacher. Why is X mentioned in the Daily Telegraph?', because that's where he always gets this rubbish from.

So a note to Paul: having heard of these people isn't enough. You have to have read them, and their contemporaries, and understand their contexts before you can start throwing their names around. Otherwise you look like a saloon-bar philosopher.

What else has this pocket moron been on about? Well, I hate to shock you, but the man who owns £8million in commercial property is - yet again - begging for tax breaks on empty commercial property - while not accepting that these shops are empty because the economy's tanked, not because landlord's are paying too much tax on their speculative investments. The acorn never falls far from the tree.

I shall leave Mr. Uppal with a few more words from Michel Montaigne, whom I have read - in the original Renaissance French, despite 'suffering' a British state education:

I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly. 
Ignorance is the softest pillow on which a man can rest his head. 
Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know. 
Fortune, seeing that she could not make fools wise, has made them lucky. 
He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.

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