Money for Antique Rope

Here is the rub. Reading 90 per cent of academic tomes is worse than eating a cardboard sandwich: disgusting to look at and impossible to chew. Decent style and a flowing sentence is sacrificed for the tedium of the researcher’s “thesis”. Many academics seem not to have got over writing their doctorates — their typescripts are full of poorly structured sentences, badly organised chapters and a hopeless attention to what they want to say. Most academic books are remainder fodder as soon as they hit the streets, the money sought and won from the funding body going directly into that giant bin-liner where all unread books go.

A quote from Money for Antique Rope, an acerbic, entertaining and nicely provocative piece from Clive Bloom in the Times Higher Education Supplement from 2010.

Bloom differentiates scholarship, which tends to be confined to the humanities and the liberal arts, from ‘scientific or medical research’ (“where lives might be at stake or technological advances might be halted if not primed with money”) and wonders why such ‘subjective’ research requires research grants. After all:

How.…does one “research” such diverse things as Slavoj Zizek’s account of the Iraq war or chivalry in medieval literature or the meaning of Wittgenstein’s theory of colour, but by sitting and reading in a comfy chair with a nice cappuccino and some leisure?

While most educational research is not carried out ‘sitting in a comfy chair’, it does nonetheless fall into the sphere of the humanities and the liberal arts, however ‘scientific’ many of the researchers would have us believe their work to be.

And that is why I am eternally suspicious of large swathes of educational research: too many educational researchers are unable to recognise, or unwilling to acknowledge, the wholly subjective aspect of so many of the questions they seek to answer.