Advanced Level Broadsheet Columnism: Section 1
Choose any one question. You have 45 minutes to complete and file your answer for sub-editing.
- How arrogant exactly is George W. Bush? Support your answer with half-remembered things you heard at a dinner party earlier in the week, stereotypes of American people, and two of the following clichés:
- “neo-conservative cabal”
- “cowboy bully”
- any phrase combing the words “Blair” and “poodle” or “lapdog”
- “crushing of dissent”
- “stole the election”
- “disaffected Arab youth”
- “fundamentalist Christian lobby”
Extra marks will be awarded for quoting Bush Jnr.’s malapropisms and for making pseudo-Freudian references to Bush Snr. Illustrate your essay with a cartoon depicting the President of the United States as a monkey.
- Men are shit. Discuss.
- Why are degrees in English Literature and Ancient History, as studied by your daughters Olivia and Celeste, inherently superior to degrees in Media Studies and Surfing, studied by lower-middle class youngsters with poorer ‘A’-Levels and vowels? Make your case around one or more of the following:
- Literary and historical studies have been around for a very long time, since the Golden Age of Universities when exams were hard, grants were free, and oiks couldn’t get in.
- Olivia and Celeste are not oiks.
- You have a third in English from Brasenose.
- They’re Mickey Mouse degrees, aren’t they?
- Oiks should be studying plumbing because the last time you had one round it cost you an arm and a leg. And they all drive BMWs now, don’t you know? It’s shocking—and at the same time as Celeste has had to work in Starbucks since she graduated!
- Think of a public figure who has recently been embarrassed by his or her sexual behaviour. Project onto him/her the character traits that led to your estrangement from your former spouse. On the basis of this imagined intimacy, give that public figure unsolicited advice. Ask your editor, “Will that do?”
- Extrapolate wildly from something that happened to you on the Tube this morning.
- Please write an essay entitled “Why I Can No Longer Vote Labour”.
On second thoughts, please don’t. No one gives a toss about your insignificant apostasy. Really. Most people who are actually going to put pencil to paper in a polling booth have seen the “value” of their houses go up 20% in the last year alone. Quite a few of them have used their little lottery wins to buy nice new Audi TTs. Their kids have got eyebrow-raisingly good exam results. The overtime money is rolling in. Few of them can remember what an unemployed person looks like (and the hundreds of thousands claiming sickness benefit are at home in front of the telly or driving minicabs). Most people own mobile phones with more processing power than the whole of the World had throughout the 1950s. England are playing cricket like they still have an empire. A DVD player costs so little it’s not worth stealing. In fact, people can’t even remember what it’s like to be burgled or what inflation is. They can, however, remember the unpleasantness of Michael Howard. And him and the ginger bloke from Have I Got News For You? are spineless opportunists flailing around in a sea of public indifference. You think the electorate are shallow, materialistic and care more about paying their mortgages than they do about the deaths of British servicemen overseas. Well, they have as much contempt for your opinion as you have for them. Guess who’s got the power?
In all answers marks will be deducted for the use of peer-reviewed scientific literature, sound statistical approaches, and failing to build your arguments on well-characterized logical errors.
[…] can be as real as the tired truths pressed up against your nose every day. Secondly, for the benefit of Jon, here’s a definition of oik oik n. member of the lower […]
Dear me, Damian, surely you know that the columnists you have in mind don’t pass copy to sub-editors. It goes straight to the presses or whatever they have nowadays. See the Daily Ablution or anyone who’s commented on Johann Hari in the past week for proof.
This is absolutely inspired. Brilliant.
Very funny. But is Q 3 supposed to imply that there’s nothing “Mickey Mouse” about degrees in surfing? Or am I being dense?
I’m a Uni-of-Life man myself, and I didn’t even get a Third! (All contributions to Duff’s Poor Children’s Beer Fund. I thank you!)
Thanks and hello, James.
“Is Q 3 supposed to imply that there’s nothing “Mickey Mouse” about degrees in surfing?”
Q3 is supposed to imply that writing that a degree in surfing is “Mickey Mouse” does not make it so. Further, that is the sort of unsupported assertion that studying any subject at any university should educate people out of making.
Sorry, PG — It’s not that saying it’s “Mickey Mouse” makes it so — it’s just that we can know a priori that the notion of a degree in surfing debases the idea of a university.
That the highest undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded by the oldest, most famous, and second best university in this country are in Divinity debases the idea of a university—or rather is truest to the idea of a university that prevailed in the age when universities were invented, when we tortured and killed humans over matters of metaphysics and magic.
What’s an oik? Extra marks awarded if the answer is in the form of a haiku.
The writings of eg St Thomas Aquinas (Divinity Faculty, University of Paris) certainly do not debase the idea of a university, whatever insane purposes they may later have been invoked to serve.
I’m calling foul on this one, PG. You have plagarised Question 1 from another site, because last Wednesday, a full day before your posting, a good friend of mine saw fit to answer this particular question verbally in a bar to such effect that he would have been awarded full marks plus a distinction. Problem was, nobody asked him the question, but he must have read it somewhere.
Jimmy Doyle: you might have added Roger Bacon, who taught at the second best university. The problems with Divinity/ Theology today could fill a book, but one is that none of its professors are remotely close to him.
Re the age when universities were invented: actually in the thirteenth century, when Oxford and Cambridge got started, heresy wasn’t a crime in England (though it was in some parts of the Continent, witness the Albigensian massacres). No-one was executed for heresy in England until the time of Henry IV (circa 1400). The real bloodbath came in the sixteenth century (both on the Continent and here). Apologies if this is pedantic.
Steve: I don’t find that pedantic at all. I’m still trying to figure out who would think that degrees in surfing are “Mickey Mouse” just because they wrote that this is so, as opposed to, eg, because surfing obviously has no academic component. As for the claim’s being “unsupported” — how much support could it need?
Every day I stand up in the Church of The Enlightenment and swear to reject Relativists and all of their works, but I can see no free-standing reason why, say, a Philosophy degree is, in and of itself, better than a degree in Surfing.
A university should pass on to its graduates:
• a scholarly understanding of parts of a systematically acquired body of knowledge,
• the intellectual tools needed to think critically about that knowledge and about other matters, and
• the skills needed to synthesize and present insights obtained through such study and reflection.
Not that I believe actual degrees in Surfing necessarily consist of such things, but I am sure an academically-minded expert could devise a syllabus in that subject which included systematically acquired knowledge from fluid dynamics, environmental science, geography, sports physiology, maritime engineering, and other rigorous disciplines.
Having attended lectures and tackled problems in fluid dynamics and exercise physiology at a couple of reasonable universities, I suspect that those two topics alone would be sufficiently challenging to justify three years of state-subsidised critical thinking. Straining to understand fluid dynamics, in particular, caused me actual physical pain. These topics are also, incidentally, both of huge economic importance and, literally, matters of life and death for many people. If the University of Bums-On-Seats chooses to slap a teenager-friendly label on such a solid programme of study in an effort to boost their business then that’s fine by me—as long as the course is independently monitored.
It is simply not good enough to say that everybody knows a priori, that Ancient History is a proper subject for academic study and Media Studies is not. Today there might be more bullshitters involved in teaching the latter than former, but that isn’t the issue. Besides, there are bullshit artists operating at the highest levels in even the most exacting fields of human investigation.
I never claimed that anyone could know a priori that Media Studies is not a proper subject for academic study. I did claim this about surfing. If someone put together a degree program in fluid dynamics, kinesiology, environmental science, geography etc and called it a degree in surfing to get bums on seats, that would not be a degree in surfing. It would be a degree in an ad hoc collection of individually respectable academic disciplines. The collection as a whole would have no academic rationale, and students would probably gain little more than a fragmentary understanding of the large number of disciples involved, but it probably wouldn’t be entirely worthless. A degree in surfing, as opposed to a degree some lecturers decided, fraudulently, to *call* a degree in surfing, would be, academically, worthless.
Brilliant, Damian, although I’m disappointed that there is no race-baiting category. Being from the South, my stereotype tells me that I’m an expert on the subject, although I generally have to wing it (shhh, don’t blow my sheet….errr….street cred).
Stand Back Chaps
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a relatively new blogger needs attention if his blog is to attract readers. How does he get it though…
In view of my aiater, men are shit. She was married to one of these things for nineteen years. He didn’t have a job for the last 4 years. When she came off the night shift of her nursing job, she found that he had shot himself thru the head in their bedroom, blood splattered everywhere/ Two years later, she met a man whom we didn’t like- we checked to see if he had a record which he did- larceny, bad checks, etc…..when we presented the rap sheet to her, she proceeded to leave the room, saying she already knew about it. They were married and of course he cleaned her out…they seperated, and she had to file for bankrupcy// Later on, she met a Christian man, totally nice, had a decent job, they went to church together…..and one month later he dumped her, saying he was going back to his old girlfriend…He used her for therapy. I even had met him and told him my sister has gone thru alot, and also at the age of 46 got diabetes type 1….. He nodded solemnly and I really thought he cared/ Men are shit in the South anyway/