A friend of mine was recently told by his economics tutor that “you used to be able to get a First in PPE if you were clever. Now, it’s more about how much you work”And this is not just whimsical nostalgia. Higher education is very different to how it was forty years ago. Very small and socially stratified institutions have given way to an enormous enterprise employing millions of people.This was partly on the back of government and partly the organic growth of voluntary education. It is propelled by the now almost universal idea of education as a social mobiliser. This mobility business is global, and relentlessly competitive for students, teachers and knowledge.This phenomenal growth has caused ever greater specialisation in modern academia. Chair in Byzantine Studies at the University of Indiana has become a realistic possibility. And with every extra post, the corpus of work in any particular subject ‘to be understood’ grows.So specialisation becomes more and more necessary. It is self-propelling. Despite the merging of many disciplines, combinations have become solidified very quickly. The result: The Journal of Historical Anthropology.Especially in the arts and the social sciences, we are constantly reminded of our academic niche. ‘Recent scholarship states’, ‘the latest paper’ and the Harvard reference system litter our work. They are the new rhetoric, the marks of learning.The quantity of knowledge needed within this self-referential system keeps disciplines contained. They are enshrined by the PhD qualification. By far the majority of interpretive work has been done in the last forty years, corresponding exactly with the expansion of higher education. “That’s not my period” syndrome is getting worse and worse.This specialisation is compounded by greater careerism in academia than ever before. This is the inevitable result of its enormous expansion. Career ladders are mapped out. Undergraduateshave to be ‘experts’ in a particular field to get onto a graduate program, which will, in turn, lead to the next stage, be it a doctorate or tenure.This careerism is confirmed by the lack of interaction between academia and the wider world. And the culture of specialisation grows. What’s wrong with this division of labour? It’s Adam Smith’s pin factory meets the University.We are more productive, and furthermore, people want to specialise. The division does not alienate us from our labour. On the contrary, I believe that unwieldy specialization and careeristindustriousness of bloated higher education threatens free thinking and a constructive atmosphere of general learning.It is impossible to stop specialization at higher levels of education, but it is important to maintain undergraduate study as unfettered as possible. You must be in constant dialogue with new ideas – it is the only way to achieve great thinking in young people.Their ideas can be honed later. Undergraduate education was traditionally seen as the antidote to more focused research as the rigid mores of academia did not apply. However, the tide of specialisation has seeped into undergraduate educational culture.Undergraduates are just inferior graduates – we cannot escape the enormous weight of established scholarship and we are drawn into the cult of specialisation as the foundation of the academic process. Most undergraduate degrees now include some sort of compulsory thesis. This specialisation must inevitably come at the expense of exploring wider fields.Undergraduate generalism must be shored up against the scale of mass academic specialization.I cannot help thinking that this academic specialisation and careerism is directly linked to the idea of meritocratic education. Implicit in confining academic disciplines is the possibility of testing ability.Undergraduate education is increasingly seen in functional terms, both within the academic sphere and outside. University activities, from a thesis on cultural imperialism to debating at the Union, are just a step towards greater things. Oxford was a sheltered and exclusive place before mass higher education.Greats covered everything from history to logic, and it was common to change subjects. Sure, we are no longer all gentlemen of means who can indulge in leisurely study but we have lost the benefits of the old intellectual breadth. The current system does not encourage us to follow general interests outside our academic remit.We work harder within specialisms that are increasingly dictated by the confines of professional academia. Especially in this age of overpowering mediocre specialisation, we must recover something of that generalism if we are to maintain our superiority.Anthony Cardona is a former President of European Affairs SocietyARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005
For the past three years, New Orleans stalwarts Dumpstaphunk have traveled from The Big Easy to The Big Apple on the night before Thanksgiving to help New Yorker’s ring in the holiday season with a night of bass-heavy funk tunes, fun tribute sets, and amazing special guests. In 2014, Ivan Neville, Tony Hall and company hit B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square with special guests Eric Krasno and Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. In 2015, they brought Phunksgiving to Port Chester’s beloved venue, The Capitol Theatre, and they invited Cyril Neville, Fishbone, and Dust Rays featuring Capt’n Kirk from The Roots to the party. Last year, the band moved to the friendly confines of American Beauty and delivered a set of 1970s funk classics, with Kraz and Taz both showing up for their second Phunksgiving, while former Dumpstaphunk drummer and The Nth Power founder Nikki Glaspie also lent her talents to the stage for a few tunes.Dumpstaphunk Celebrates Phunksgiving With 70’s Covers, Special Guests, & More [Photos/Video]This year, the holiday tradition will continue in Brooklyn. On Tuesday, November 21st, Dumpstaphunk will bring Phunksgiving to Brooklyn Bowl for a funk throwdown with special guests Southern Avenue, the high-energy upstarts currently taking the live music scene by storm. If previous years of Phunksgiving are any indication, the band certainly has a few tricks up their sleeves as well. After all, you never know who might show up at Phunksgiving!– SHOW INFO –Show: Live For Live Music & Brooklyn Bowl Present The 4th Annual Phunksgiving With Dumpstaphunk w/ Special Guest Southern AvenueVenue: Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249)Date: Tuesday, November 21st, 2017Tickets: $20 – On Sale HereEnter To Win A Pair Of Tickets!