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AC Grayling on the New College of Humanities: “We have to build institutions that merit endowments, so they can educate the best people”

AC GraylingSaturday’s Guardian has a long profile on the New College of Humanities (NCH), founded in 2011 by the well known Philosopher and Humanist AC Grayling.

The NCH has attracted controversy for its £18,000 per year fees (relatively high for the UK), and the heavyweight names it has attracted to lecture – including Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson and Steven Pinker. But AC Grayling insists that the NCH is an important response to the decline of Humanities (slipping off the syllabus in universities in the UK and elsewhere), and an attempt to champion a different approach to ‘mainstream’ university education – one that prioritises an intimate and interactive learning environment. Here’s more from Amelia Gentleman’s article:

“My own politics are on the left,” he says. “I am very sympathetic to the view that education is a great good, that it is the last opportunity that we have to level the playing field, and to move people along from positions of historically induced deprivation and disadvantage. I am absolutely 100% behind that idea, and yet to think that therefore we must not experiment, we mustn’t try something new, we cannot accept the fact that sometimes things cost money… The fact that I have the politics that I have doesn’t mean that I buy the cheapest cardboard shoes I can find. There is this piety about what a higher education institution should be like, so it is nice and clean-handed, and nobody is charging money at the point of contact. It is that attitude – which is a good old leftwing attitude, which I completely sympathise with – which is a barrier to doing anything new or fresh…. The long-term objective of this place, which is that we become a needs-blind institution, is in my humble opinion quite a noble idea. That is what we are trying to do, in the end.”

Click here to read the article.

Alain de Botton on why “Education is what makes us fully human”

As part of The New Statesman’s series ‘What makes us Human?’, philosopher Alain de Botton has written an article arguing that wisdom as well as skills can, and should, be taught. It is interesting to read Alain’s thoughts on these matters, particularly considering the School of Life that he founded as an alternative to the secular education system.

Taking the UK as his example, Alain notes that “education gets taken seriously in our society.” As a frequently discussed and highly debated topic among politicians and public figures, there is a nationwide drive to improve exam results in order to create better workers who will support the GDP of the country. Whilst this is, according to Alain, “a great ambition”, his belief is that “education should help us with the many ways in which we end up less than we can be.” In the article he lists the areas of emotional health which need to be addressed in schools in order to prepare pupils for the challenges of adult life.

The current problem that Alain notes is that our intellectual world does not allow us to question, let alone answer “the most serious questions of our deeper human nature.” To solve this, he believes that education should be focussed on passing wisdom down the generations. At the moment it is only religion which attempts to teach us the “art of living”, but education needs to follow suit.

Alain dreams of  schools where maths, science and geography are taught alongside subjects such as how to be a good partner and how to stay sane.  These are the areas which, Alain concludes are crucial to ensuring that this country “will be a flourishing and happy place.”

Click here to read the article in full

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