Academics rarely seem to get a good press. Michael Gove typically summed up what has become a season of anti-intellectualism when, prior to the Brexit result, he declared that the public had had "quite enough of experts." More recently, MP Glyn Davies launched a Twitter attack on academics where he revealed a heart-felt irritation of university lecturers living in ivory towers knowing nothing of the real world yet spending their time "rubbishing the efforts of those operating at the sharp end, without facing up to the hard decisions." In the face of all this common sense, and not to mention a new US President who has viewed scientific evidence with disdain, it is difficult to imagine why parents spend so much of their time nurturing their offspring through A Level extension classes, helping them hone their UCAS statements, taking them the length and the breadth of the country at university open days, not to mention assisting them in the considerable costs of attending a university in the first place. So perhaps it's worth offering an alternative point of view - or a corrective to this apparent groundswell of opinion - that might help remind us parents why they and society at large should value its academics.
1. Academics are the people who have trained your doctor, your solicitor, and your child's teacher to name but a few. Would you really want to be operated on by someone who had never attended a university?
2. Academics hold politicians to account by producing evidence through their research. As parents, we need to pay special attention to policy changes that refuse to account for the academic evidence (as is the case in the recent move towards reconstructing grammar schools).
3. Academics spend a good deal of their time interrogating the meaning of things - be they words, enzymes, or financial transactions. A world without this kind of interrogation would be a world in which our children would have to accept everything at first hand - that the Earth is flat, for example.
4. Academics teach. Sending your child to university will enable her or him to be taught by a world expert in their particular discipline. For many students, this is a transformative experience.
5. Academics care less about money and much more about education and knowledge. These values are important for our children to learn particularly in a world where misunderstandings and the dumbing down of thinking is becoming more prevalent.
6. Academics care deeply about their students. The personal tutoring system, where students regularly meet an academic for a one-to-one confidential discussion, remains an unheralded component of the student/lecturer relationship which helps keeps students focussed and on track with their studies.
7. Academics' research is vital to the health of the nation as well as the nation's health. If your child is sick, you are unlikely to seek a treatment that was researched by a politician but you certainly want to be sure that it has been scientifically tested and gone through a peer review process by the academic community.
8. Academics will challenge your child's thinking. They will interrogate their thoughts and teach them to interrogate the thoughts and assumptions of others. Perhaps this is why academics are sometimes unpopular with politicians.
9. Academics value the contributions of their students. The experience is quite different from school and college. Academics tend to see students more as partners in their own learning and will often engage students in the development of their own research.
10. Academics are (very often) parents themselves. We understand and can empathise with the young people we teach and are motivated with a strong desire for them to achieve their goals with and through our active assistance. This is what makes the job of being an academic so amazing and why many of us are still committed to doing it.Suggest a correction