Wednesday 10 November 2010

How Many Ways To Kill A Cat?

In the 1950’s when motoring became possible for all buying new cars in the face of current credit restrictions was very difficult. Consequently many bought cars that were old. Often an ancient heap was the only choice a student of the period might be able to afford.

Mine, a 1934 Austin 7, had a worn clutch, shiny tyre treads, brakes that might or might not work, unreliable steering and gears that were not synchromesh. This meant as well as all the other operations you had to “double declutch” on every gear change.

The lights also were prone to fail so I kept a couple of cycle lamps and wire to fix them to the front whenever needed. The MOT tests introduced in the 1960’s brought this age of the freedom of the road to an end with a clamour of complaint.

There were a number of similar vehicles in the area, some better, some worse but in our innocence we called them “accidents waiting to happen”. For many we did not have to wait long. I sold mine when reliable transport was needed and I “invested” in a Vespa 125 Scooter. It was much more restricted but at least functional.

Looking around our public services, systems of government, legislation and all the procedures and guidelines, I see again a great many accidents waiting to happen and it seems that most of them are happening at once. For the tax system see the 10 November item The Anatomy of a Service Delivery Disaster on:

Whatever you may think about The Coalition or the policies or personalities of those at the head and their performance it is difficult not to believe that they are on a loser. Given the nature of the political class we are afflicted with it is possible that their personal interests and ambitions will ensure that we are all the losers

There are too many major problems and unpleasant consequences in train for them, or anyone, to cope with. The row over university fees, costs, provision and future is a classic of its kind. The mess is so bad that possibly it can never be fixed.

It has been coming a long while largely because key decisions that should have been made in the last fifty years never were. There are too many to list here, make your own, but if on the back of an envelope make it an A3 one.

The reality has been that when an academic hullaballoo starts over financing or expansion governments have thrown money in the direction of the loudest noises.

I have argued before that it is possible to have situations where “There is no right decision” only a choice between inconvenient or unpleasant alternatives. It would be possible to go into a long and intricate debate about the history of the present crisis in higher education and all the injustices of how one generation has benefited at the cost of another.

It will not be any use and in fact would simply obscure what the problems of the immediate present are never mind those of the several possible futures that we might or perhaps not enjoy. The latter seems the more likely.

One crucial blunder has been to allow a university system to develop whose institutions, with few exceptions, depend on immediate revenue funding from the state, sponsors with their own agendas and student fees.

As the liabilities both for the institutions and the potential students now seem to greatly exceed revenue or realisable assets we have the serious potential for a “crash” situation.

During the financial troubles at the turn of the 1830’s in 1831 Benjamin Fitt of the Priory Farm, Selborne, Hampshire (see Gilbert White “The Natural History of Selborne") issued a summons against the President and Fellows of Magdalen College of Oxford to have them gaoled at Winchester over issues concerning leases and rents. The year before his family connections and their friends had burned down their local workhouse.

Schrodinger of The Cat question of quantum indeterminacy was a Fellow at Magdalen for a time.

So in 2010 does Captain Swing ride again or is it just another academic car crash?

1 comment:

  1. Elitism through merit, was the only way a sensible system can operate. Sadly privilege and money are mistaken for aptitude and quality.