Education, sussed out and put down

Petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson knows exactly what education is (rubbish) and what it’s good for (nothing).

Jeremy plus one on deck

For years now he has been posting an annual message of consolation when A-level results come out in August. Some pupils don’t get the scores to make it into a good university, but not to worry.

Clarkson is on hand to shine a ray of hope. The first part of every message is the same every year, with only minor changes of a word or two: “Don’t worry if your A-levels are disappointing. I got a C and two Us, but…”

The second part varies, depending on what part of his vulgar achievements Clarkson wishes to highlight. This year it’s: “…I’m currently holidaying on this boat.”

The boat in question is taking Clarkson and his girlfriend around Saint Tropez. (As an aside, the preponderance of people like him is making our friends sell their Saint Tropez houses and flee to less befouled areas.)

I’m surprised he didn’t add, “…and my girlfriend has long, shapely legs”, so perhaps this is something to look forward to next year. Those things have a monetary equivalent too, and the longer the legs, the higher the price.

Last year, the tail end of the boast was different: “…and I’ve ended up happy, with loads of friends and a Bentley.” In 2020, it was: “…I’m currently building a large house with far reaching views of the Cotswolds.”

This is an upgrade from the 2014 message: “…And I have a Mercedes Benz.” Things must be looking up for Clarkson – in a mere seven years he traded his Mercedes in for “loads of friends and a Bentley.”

He didn’t specify the exact models, but an average Bentley costs some £150,00 more than a high-end Mercedes. I don’t know the price tag attached to Clarkson’s ‘loads of friends’, but I’m sure they are all happy to sit next to luxury vehicles on his shop shelves.

The Top Gear presenter is occasionally amusing, but that doesn’t make up for the subversion he has dedicated his life to fostering. He is one of the most successful promulgators of the philistine heaven on earth: a life wholly signposted by material possessions, of which cars take pride of place.

I like cars as much as the next man, unless of course the next man is Jeremy Clarkson. He has elevated vehicular transport into a philosophy of life, and millions of people gobble it up avidly, McPherson struts and all.

That’s what I hate about cars. For me, they are purely functional machines. I like them to be fast, comfortable, steady around bends and aesthetically pleasing. That’s all. I refuse to detect any transcendent, metaphysical properties in cars, the kind peddled by advertising – and the likes of Clarkson.

I wish that were all they peddled. Alas, their wares also include utter contempt for life of the mind, spirit and beauty, the sort of transcendent cosmos for which universities were supposed to provide a launchpad.

That used to be their role and, at their best, they can still play it, sporadically. But few people these days understand education in such terms – the Clarksons of this world have done their job well.

Most people see university education as the starting point on a road to prosperity, and some degrees don’t disappoint. IT, computer science, engineering, medicine, law all score high in that department.

Humanities, however, are in the doldrums, which is reflected in a number of apt jokes. Such as: “What do you say to a philosophy graduate? I’ll have fries with that.”

To some, considerable, extent this is universities’ own fault. Humanities departments have been turned into indoctrination centres, with Marxism in its various genres acting as the mainstay of most curricula. But the real problem is deeper than just the ideological bias of humanities faculties.

They increasingly attract lefty ignoramuses full of ideological rancour because subjects directly linked with the essence of our civilisation have become marginalised, just like the civilisation itself. That’s why they draw individuals who find themselves at the margins of society and resent it.

The mainstream is formed by those who see life in strictly materialist terms, usually of the crudest type. They are the ones who have made Clarkson rich because he knows how to tickle their most vulgar bits effectively. He is their flesh and blood, and they are his.

And he is right: success defined by Bentleys, yachts and houses with a view doesn’t depend on a university diploma, although it may still help. Why waste years at university, accumulating student debts in the process, when you can do paid apprenticeship at a plumbing company (or, in Clarkson’s case, a local newspaper) and get a head start on an aspiring egghead?

I can confirm that on the basis of my own experience. The only decent living I’ve ever consistently made in the West came from advertising, a field for which I had no educational credentials whatsoever. However, I’d cite this as an example of a life wasted, not one of enviable success.

I have nothing against Jeremy Clarkson. In fact, I find him a charming and capable man who has earned his success, as he defines it. However, I do have plenty against a society shaped by people like him. Someone like John Henry Newman would be my preference, but, well, not in this life.

10 thoughts on “Education, sussed out and put down”

  1. The only problem is that all that prosperity is founded on the expansion of credit. Advertising items for purchase by unproductive people with unearned money. This has always eventually failed. It is not “different this time”.

  2. I also like cars; I’ve three of them, but Jeremy Clarkson isn’t my taste. If cars did have metaphysical properties, he would be the last to know. Watching his shows is like watching an overindulged (and perhaps slightly autistic ) child play with toys.

  3. So many good points. I would like to comment on a few.

    On your friends moving to “less befouled areas” – Where, exactly, are these areas? Are any in my reach, physically and economically?

    On education and prosperity – We hear so much backlash about the evils of free enterprise (I will never call it capitalism). But when some ignoramus says education is not important, “Just look at me, I am uneducated and I own a mansion and a yacht” (my nod to a childhood favorite – Bugs Bunny), nobody stands up and yells out that money is the root of all evil; that the pursuit of it is all that is wrong with the world. No, they cheer. Is it only direct mercantile exchange with the general public that is damned? And when people disparage those who make money, what do they advocate? Do they speak of life after death? Of the impossibility of “Heaven on Earth”? No, they suggest the rich should give them some (or all) of their money. So much for the evils of money. The evil seems to be other people having money.

    On the contempt for life of the mind, spirit and beauty – The mind has been given over as a ward of the state. The spirit has been replaced with “new age spirituality” – mother Earth and “the universe” (or fate, or whatever they call it). With its focus on the self this is hardly surprising (hurrah for narcissism!). And poor, poor, beauty has been redefined such that a Crucifix in a jar of urine garners praise.

    On the shapers of society – John Henry Newman is an excellent choice. With our scourge that is the USCCB, I often wonder, “Where is our Archbishop Sheen?”

    1. In the Anglican tradition, we sometimes wonder, “Where is our Archbishop Laud?” But some of us deplore his politics and wonder instead, “Where is our Archbishop Wulfstan?” Pity us and pray for us – us who aren’t sure we’ve had a really good archbishop for a thousand years.

  4. As a middle-class class youth I looked up to Clarkson. Here was a man unafraid to speak out and stick it to the plebs, toffs and leftists. Nowadays I can hardly bring myself to look at him. That hideously ageing flesh, that ever increasing desperation to ward off thoughts of mortality through acquisition!

  5. Clarkson seems to me to be a poor man’s P J O’Rourke. In every way he’s similar, but not quite as good.

    If I were appointing a Platonic “Nocturnal Council” from great conservatives of recent(ish) times, I’d certainly include Newman, along with G K Chesterton, George MacDonald and J R R Tolkien. Whom would you add (or remove)?

      1. I chose Tolkien as a representative of the Inklings, rather than C S Lewis or Charles Williams or Owen Barfield, because I think he was the most profound moral theologian of all of them. But perhaps the Inklings ought to elect their own representative to sit at our Round Table. (Our patron Mr Boot is of course King Arthur.)

        For the next seat, will we pick Belloc? E L Mascall? Ronnie Knox? Austin Farrer? No, Katherine Farrer would be my choice, because the virtues of a good, intelligent man’s good, intelligent wife are more valuable than rubies.

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