Rod Liddle is a journalist and commentator on a range of subjects. He is not afraid to tackle some sensitive areas and his greatest joy is to shock, or, as he would have it, to say it like it is.
Uni’s not for me was therefore interested to come across his latest gripe, written for the Spectator magazine Being Rod Liddle, it has a nice uncontroversial title: How do we treat thickos at university? Pretend they’re clever.
Liddle was incensed to learn that the marks you can achieve in exams can be boosted with an Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) – previously known as a Statement of Special Education needs.
These, Liddle says, are handed out for a “host of real or fictional disabilities that mean you aren’t very good at academic work”.
Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are the main reasons cited for having an EHCP. Liddle says dyslexia “usually means just thick, ADHD usually means vicious feral halfwit.” (I warned you, he does not hold back!)
His point, though however provocatively made, is that these diagnoses are now so widespread as to be meaningless – and that they are really part of a delusional complicity in the education system as a whole – namely, the continuing practice of levelling; bringing academic standards down so that more people can pass the exam. Or, put another way, fewer people “fail”.
This delusion, he says, does nobody any favours. We should accept that some people are blessed with a better aptitude for academic work than others – it’s the old grammar school argument.
UNFM readers will be particularly interested in the next bit as he rails against the “fallacy [that] underpins the insistence that everyone has the right to go to university, no matter how dense they might be.”
As I can’t put it any better, I’m not going to try with the next bit of his argument:
He continues; “We now have legions of young people with third-class degrees in gender or urban studies from what were once noble polytechnics, cowering under a mountain of debt and with not the remotest prospect of finding work. Young people who expected to find highly remunerative and agreeable work because they have been to a ‘university’ and are therefore ‘clever’. But an awful lot of them are not clever in an academic sense at all, and would have been much better served by an apprenticeship, an NVQ, or work at the shop floor.”
“Remove the snobbish stigma from vocational training as an alternative to ‘uni’, and we might begin to edge towards an educational system which met the hugely diverse needs of our population — rather than being a fantasy world where everybody is assumed to have equal ability.”
We at Uni’s not for me prefer not to use words like “thicko” or “halfwit” – mostly because we don’t know any. Although we do know some people who have been made to feel inadequate because they weren’t very good at passing exams. The good news is that many of them have been given a much better start in their work life by making the positive decision not to blindly follow the rest of their peer group to university. If you’re reading this and would like to share your experiences – or express your opinions, please get in touch.