Why Poets Make the Best Trade Negotiators
Senior EU Trade Negotiator John Clarke demonstrates the value of a good cultural education
The war on woke is being waged – not on the playing fields of Eton (definitely not!) – but on university campuses across the land. The opening salvo came last year courtesy of Nadhim Zahawi the former (and inaptly titled) Secretary of State for Education, who in an interview proposed abolishing university courses that he considered not economically useful. Presumably History, English, Psychology, Classics, Serbo-Croat studies, Aramaic and so on. His call to arms has been enthusiastically repeated this year, with a host of Tory ministers and MPs piling in to advocate the suppression of “useless” degrees, presumably ones that might attract more left-leaning “woke” students.
My initial reaction to Zahawi was disdain. What became of ars gratia artis – art for art’s sake? Surely education is an end in itself? But his words then led me to reflect on my own degree. I graduated in English literature from UCL in 1980. Was that degree “useless”? Or has it contributed to professional success or personal happiness? And what of my contemporaries at UCL – the poet Blake Morrison, Steve Knight of Peaky Blinders fame, the novelist Rachel Wright, the sculptress Clare Abbatt, Steve Ellis the great translator of Dante, the legal supremo Jonathan Rich (who dated Rachel by the way), Caroline Slocock, the go-to political commentator and early biographer of Thatcher… and others? Did they also make a mistake choosing English and not, say, marketing or commercial law or engineering?
I think not.
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