A piece from the IPA Review, Feb 1988, posted in John Roskam’s weekly newsletter. The 20 universities refers to the pre-Dawkins era.
‘The Closing of the Australian Mind?’
[Australia has] one of the least diversified higher education systems of any major western democracy; her 20 universities are administered largely in the same manner, using comparable salary scales, similar career structures, and with most other internal administrative and academic arrangements standardized or modified in consultation with the central authorities. It is only a gentle exaggeration to say that Australia has one huge university with 20 campuses strewn over her vast territory.
It is now possible for an intelligent and diligent Australian student to enter university almost totally ignorant of the European cultural antecedents of his own thoughts, the temper of his time, or the formative experience of his country.
The phrase `totally ignorant’ is not used frivolously. I have had the sobering experience of encountering clever students, triumphant holders of HSC credentials, who believed that `Eureka’ was the Aboriginal name for the site of the stockade; had never heard of Pericles, Cervantes or Balzac; did not know what the Book of Job was or where it could be found; knew something about Hamlet (‘It’s a play, isn’t it?’), but not about Homer, Figaro, Faust, Don Juan or Othello.
These students can proceed to complete with brilliance any number of degree courses on a diversity of specialisms, none of which will do anything to rectify the awesome deficiency. They can thus be disgorged into the world armed with impeccable professional knowledge and accreditation, ready in due course to advise governments, opine about higher morality, teach in schools and universities, intervene in the administration of institutions, and otherwise influence the lives of others in important ways.
Successful on the surface, but in reality, incomplete human beings, all the more pitiful and dangerous because ignorant even of their crippling disability.
UPDATE. Conversation with Heather MacDonald, culture warrior.