A remark in an angry essay about climate alarmism on Bishop Hill set me thinking:
“This isn’t just individual failure, it’s institutional.”
And what are the institutions in question? They’re universities mostly. So perhaps the institutional failure is to be found in the universities.
In the UK there were only about 10 universities up until 1900. Around 1905 another 6 “redbrick” universities were added. And then in the early 1960s another 8 “plate glass” universities were added. The Open University started in about 1970. And then, after 1992 another 74 new universities were added, many of them former technical colleges.
Where we once had 10 universities prior to 1900, we now have 100 universities. And over the past 20 years, the number of UK universities has quadrupled.
And when, roughly, did all the global warming and secondhand smoke junk science start really gathering momentum? In the 1990s, approximately.
Might the rise of junk science be related to the quadrupling of the number of universities?
Well, there are several ways it might. Firstly, it got four times easier to get into a university, and get a B.A. or B.Sc. And so the value of such qualifications fell correspondingly. You had to get an M.A. or an M.Sc, or maybe even a Doctorate, before anybody would notice you. So you had to stay in university longer and longer.
And if the 25 oldest universities had creamed off the very brightest and best produced by the school system, when there were 100 universities, the not-so-bright and not-so-good could enter universities. Where they were taught by not-so-bright and not-so-good university tutors.
The quality of the students fell, and so also did the quality of the teaching. And so also, by extension, the quality of the research carried out in them.
And when the quantity of universities increased, so did the quantity of research carried out in them.
So the universities started producing large amounts of low quality research. Also known as junk science.
And what had presumably been intended to allow many more people to gain academic qualifications actually ended up in debasing the educational system.
And maybe that’s the root of many of our problems.
I don’t know whether the UK is alone in having multiplied its number of universities ten-fold over the past century, but I suspect that it’s only been following the trends elsewhere, and that the same thing has been happening in the USA and across Europe.
If so, most countries will now have 10 times as many university students, and 10 times as many university lecturers and tutors, and be subjected to 10 times as much “research” pouring out of the universities. The universities will have become almost another industry, with their own (usually left wing) university ‘culture’, and generating people like Barack Obama (who I believe spent more or less his entire life in universities).
The solution to the problem would be to cut the number of universities back to their 1900 levels, adjusted for population to provide the same numbers of student places per head of population.
The tidal wave of junk science would die out overnight. The quality of universities would rise sharply, as only the best students were taught by the best tutors. And only the highest quality research would emerge from them.
Of course there’d be screams that the universities were becoming “elitist” institutions again.
But I think that might be a very desirable thing.