Does ” Oxbridge-on-Thames” provide a test of the social power of new atheism?
Here, we noted that AC Graying was beginning to take heat, alongside Richard Dawkins, for refusing to debate American Christian apologist William Lane Craig, as other new atheists have done. He’s in the news again, as the organizer of a private, very expensive private New College of the Humanities (18,000 quid a year), where Richard Dawkins will have a key role:
What Grayling has done is caricature the British university. He has cartooned it as no longer an academic community but a high-end luxury consumable for the middle classes, operating roughly half a year, with dons coming and going at will, handing down wisdom in between television and book tours. Just when state universities have been freed by the coalition to triple their income per student (initially at public expense) to £9,000, Grayling has mischievously doubled that to £18,000.
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Other teachers signed up include Sir David Cannadine, a history lecturer at Princeton; Ronald Dworkin QC, a leading constitutional lawyer teaching at University College London and New York University; and Steve Jones, a leading geneticist. Lawrence Krauss, professor of earth and space exploration and physics at Arizona state university, who has advised Barack Obama on science policy, will teach cosmology.
– Simon Jenkins, “AC Grayling has caricatured British universities. No wonder they’re fuming” (The Guardian, 09 June 2011 )
The College may prove a useful gauge of the social fashionableness of new atheism: Will well-to-do parents buy their company for their children at those prices? Will social advancement result?
Jenkins sounds unclear as to whether he approves of the venture, apart from showing up the establishment for what it is:
The proposed emphasis on developing a student’s critical, logical and life skills is admirable, as is the determination to draw on London’s cultural vitality. That said, I would still be amazed if the venture succeeds.
Grayling would have been better advised to take over an existing college with charitable status. Universities are still constitutionally independent. It is their long addiction to public subsidy that has made them Whitehall poodles. Grayling could have declined government money and taken control of his own fees and salaries. Oxford and Cambridge could do that tomorrow if they had the guts. Someone has now shown them the way. But the tangled rage Grayling has evoked cannot have strengthened their courage.
Some wonder how open-minded the college will be, given featured participants, but then close-mindedness has long been a concern at redbricks at well, as organizations like Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) can attest. So others rephrase the question: Will the new College add emphatic anti-theism to the existing roster of oppressions at universities?
Rube: People who can bring in that kind of money don’t need to debate anybody.