The government has got into all sorts of bother over its decision to axe university courses with “low intellectual content”, says Terry Eagleton in UnHerd. How on earth will we survive with no more “PhDs in astrology or ballroom dancing”? If you ask me, ministers aren’t going far enough. Plenty of so-called respectable degrees could be ditched with “no discernible loss” to the nation. Take history, which is basically just a “chronicle of hacking and gouging”. Students are already “pretty fragile”, and learning about the extermination of Native Americans and the like will only “deepen their anxiety”. We need “forward-looking citizens”, not depressive types overwhelmed by the nightmare in our rear-view mirror.
The same goes for literature, which is no longer full of the happy endings favoured by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. The canon now comprises depressing works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, which ends with the protagonist walking home in the rain after his young partner dies in his arms. “Rather than turning you hopefully towards the practical world, it plunges you morbidly into your own innards.” Besides, you don’t need to be a student to enjoy plays or novels – some people enjoy a pint, “but they don’t need to take a degree in it”. Geography is pointless given we’ve left the EU; modern languages too, for that matter. So let’s stop pretending some academic courses are “garbage” while others are worthwhile. “Just cut the whole bloody lot of them.”