The SMH’s obsession with people paying for education

What on earth was the SMH doing in reprinting this Guardian diatribe by Terry Eagleton against AC Grayling’s new humanities college, featuring star academics and an £18,000 a year price tag?

Eagleton has himself in such a state about it that he’s throwing every insult he can think of, without worrying too much whether they cohere smoothly. The college is condemned both for being disgustingly elitist and for overcharging for knowledge that could be acquired for the price of a cheap paperback:

Who would pay £18,000 a year to listen to this outdated Victorian rationalism when they could buy themselves a second-hand copy of John Stuart Mill?

Many newspapers have odd obsessions, and the SMH‘s odd obsession is with people paying for education. Though presumably many of its eastern suburbs and north shore readership would never dream of sending their kids to a government school, the SMH leaps on any opportunity to present private schools in a negative light. Private schools are wasteful status competition, in decline (that turned out to be wishful thinking), responsible for white flight, etc. etc. It was one of the most persistent critics of full-fee undergraduate places at Australian universities.

But using scarce opinion page space to condemn a small college 24 hours flying time away seems to take this obsession to ridiculous lengths.

6 Responses to “The SMH’s obsession with people paying for education

  • 1
    June 8th, 2011 21:35

    It is very curious. It’s actually cheaper than many great places in the US, but possibly better for teaching, since they have obviously got the best people in the world where possible, and not just those that are great at only science research (although whether they are just fly-in fly-out is another story).

  • 2
    June 8th, 2011 21:38

    I’m going to be cynical and say it’s guilt over their upper middle class backgrounds.

  • 3
    Jason Soon
    June 9th, 2011 07:32

    wow, who knew the day would come when ‘Victorian rationalist’ would become an insult. I thought Eagleton was supposed to be an atheist. I suppose he’s one of those wishy washy ones who can’t stop going on about the grandeur of religion

  • 4
    Rafe Champion
    June 9th, 2011 11:13

    Eagleton converted from Catholocism to Marxism and he emerged as one of the most powerful critics of Richard Dawkins in recent times.

  • 5
    June 9th, 2011 16:22

    Honestly, I’m not surprised. The education editor of the Herald, Anna Patty, has never run a positive article about private schools and probably never will.

  • 6
    June 12th, 2011 07:57

    To answer your question, I suspect that it is because the editors do a quick scan of the author’s name, the topic and the thrust of the argument, see that all conform to the requirements of an editorial line popular with the (declining) readership, and find some space for it.

    That the argument might be batshit insane is never considered.

    The problem thus lies with the training and judgment of the editors, which can ultimately be pinned to senior management.

    But that has been obvious at Fairfax for many years now.

    What I don’t understand is why the shareholders aren’t in revolt. Neither the board nor senior management have made the connection between the quality of the text on the opinion pages and the company’s share price. But you don’t have to be Wittgenstein to find the connection.