Toby Young’s appointment to the new British universities ‘Watchdog’ committee, widely criticised by academics, students and on the Left, is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s selection of people for high office on no other grounds than their ideological views.
Young, of course, is a right-wing polemicist with scarcely any experience in academia apart from having attended university, and once landed a brief ‘tutorial assistant’ job at Harvard. (I had tutorial assistants at Yale; I wouldn’t class them as ‘academics’ yet.) Well, OK, universities shouldn’t be run by university people alone, any more than – say – the armed forces should by run by generals; but a bit of professional experience is useful. The reasons for Young’s choice are, firstly, that he has been an active supporter of the Tories’ semi-privatising agenda for primary and secondary education for years; and secondly, the present government’s obsession with the mildly left-wing orientation of most university-educated young people today, reflected in both the Referendum’s and the last General Election’s voting patterns, which it attributes to the socialist propaganda they’re receiving from their lecturers. Others might infer something else from the fact that educated people are more likely to be leftish and pro-European than thickos; but not the likes of the Johnsons, Gove (‘we’ve had enough of experts’) and Farage.
Young is of a piece with this. He describes himself as a free market liberal, and has come out against ‘diversity’ in education, against providing ramps for disabled students (‘political correctness’), in favour of the eugenic testing of children, and with views about working-class students and women which sound profoundly reactionary, and the last of which one would think should have immediately disqualified him in this ‘Me-too’ age. Here’s a piece on him from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/02/doubts-cast-on-dfe-claims-of-toby-youngs-qualifications-for-watchdog-post. He even looks the part:
That may be unfair – to hold a fellow’s appearance against him; except that this is the image (or one very like it) that he chooses to head his op-eds with.
But his appointment is also indicative of another recent trend. I’ve remarked before on how many leading present-day politicians have started their careers as polemicists: that is, as young journalists for Right-wing newspapers. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2017/07/19/boris-the-harlot/.) They’ve formed their opinions, that is, without having done any research or had much experience of ‘life’, and on the basis of theories, or prejudices, that haven’t been properly tested. He lives in – is constrained by – a world of Rightist dogma. That’s different from being the true ‘intellectual’ that op-ed journalists often tend to present themselves as.
His late father – the distinguished Michael Young, a solid social researcher, of Open University and ‘Meritocracy’ fame – must be turning in his grave.
PS. Here’s some of the dirt on him, including deleted tweets.