The country undoubtedly needs more computer scientists, medics and engineers – but as a society surely not at the expense of the humanities, whose essence is captured in the name. A society that has forgotten its history, is ignorant of its poetry and most of whose citizens have no understanding of foreign languages or culture is withering. An organisation staffed only by those with instrumental skills will have little sense of its purpose or social place, which is the ultimate guarantor of success. The best scientists know they need their humanity colleagues – in a firm as much as a college.
It is not blinkered university humanities lecturers who are to blame for this intensifying bias – as suggested in a recent article in the Economist. They are committed scholars ready to do whatever they can to make their subjects relevant and accessible. But students will only value the humanities if society values them. And that means nurturing the organisations that have a sufficiently long-term sense of themselves and their purpose to be able to recruit from across the academic disciplines.
That in turn requires a vision of the good society – one reason why increasingly I have come to characterise Brexit as a cultural civil war. There is no prospect that Brexit can improve the deal for our young, economically or culturally. Public finances and organisations alike will be under more pressure. The language of very rightwing politicians will become the new common sense. Drug use will intensify at the bottom – and the cultural ballast in our society, loving history or Shakespeare for their own sakes, will decline.
The young sense this: it is why they voted so overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, and would do so in greater numbers today.
— BBC History Magazine (@HistoryExtra) July 22, 2019