From the Guardian: "MPs have issued a damning verdict on the "uncoordinated" efforts by the UK's eight research councils to transfer knowledge from university labs to business and industry.
The councils are too focused on the academic "push" to explore new ideas and do not pay enough attention to the "pull" of the market and what industry actually wants, argues the report from the Commons science and technology committee."
Sigh. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest given the current Westminster psyche of the professional politician brigade that education is limited to creating fodder for industry and commerce i.e. training people for jobs. So it is no surpise at all that they assume research should be limited to producing things that sell.
Ok then. What jobs are most modern politicians trained to do and what do they produce that sells? Ok they're not worth hanging onto then. Targets, you know. They're no good for work, so we better send them for re-training; and they don't sell anything so we can shut down parliament and save vast amounts of public funds. Hey maybe we could invest the money in research that can be transferred to industry.
Maybe they could help to clean up (though maybe not given the exceedingly high bullshit to body mass ratio) in the labs doing publicly funded research - which when it is ready we can hand over to the pharmaceutical industry - on producing drugs for neglected diseases. Ah that's no good - the drug companies won't want those kinds of drugs because the people that need them can't afford to pay for them.
And God forbid that we sure explore new ideas. What a dangerous notion. Can't have the masses thinking for themselves, especially the smart ones (yup that encompasses most people). You never know where it might lead to.
Education is about facilitating the all round development of the individual, not about job training, though the latter can be a convenient, though minor, emergent property of the process. A much more important emergent property should be an enlightened society. Our responsibility is to learn what we can and do what we can to improve our world and pass it on to future generations. Education is at the heart of that process.
Update: Jonathan Rowe is disgusted for different but parallel reasons at the bastardisation of education into an opportunity to sell.
"BusRadio, a company in Massachusetts that is going to install special radio receivers in school buses, so it can fill the airspace in them with ads aimed at kids. School districts starved for funds will get a cut of the ad revenues. BusRadio will get a captive audience of impressionable kids that it can sell to corporate advertisers eager to get inside their minds. The compulsory school laws will become the means to corral these captive kids and deliver them to the sponsors."
He's written to the Governor of Massachusetts:
"usRadio, a company in Massachusetts that is going to install special radio receivers in school buses, so it can fill the airspace in them with ads aimed at kids. School districts starved for funds will get a cut of the ad revenues. BusRadio will get a captive audience of impressionable kids that it can sell to corporate advertisers eager to get inside their minds. The compulsory school laws will become the means to corral these captive kids and deliver them to the sponsors."
And here's Michael Bérubé on academic freedom:
"THE PRINCIPLE OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM stipulates that “teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties”; it insists that professors should have intellectual autonomy from legislatures, trustees, alumni, parents, and ecclesiastical authorities with regard to their teaching and research. In this respect it is one of the legacies of the Enlightenment, which sought—successfully, in those nations most influenced by the Enlightenment—to free scientists and humanists from the dictates of church and state. And it is precisely that autonomy from legislative and religious oversight that helped to fuel the extraordinary scientific and intellectual efflorescence in the West over the past two centuries; it has also served as one of the cornerstones of the free and open society"