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ERIC Number: EJ877394
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-May
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 13
ISSN: ISSN-0955-2308
Dumbing Down?
Barr, Jean
Adults Learning, v16 n9 p15-18 May 2005
This author has become intrigued by a debate, underway for some time, which involves museum and gallery directors and administrators, cultural workers, and the so-called Institute of Ideas. On one side are defenders of wider access and social inclusion policies and practices on the part of art galleries and museums; on the other, representing something of a backlash against such policies and practices, are those who see in them an oversimplification or dumbing down of complex ideas and artworks. Some of the latter accuse gallery staff of dabbling in "therapy" or "social work" rather than education when they seek to broaden their visitor base. The resonances with long-standing debates within adult and higher education are obvious. The debate centres on the notion of "dumbing down", or, in Frank Furedi's words, "twentieth-first century philistinism", as he refers to it in his book, "Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?". Furedi is a leading light in the Institute of Ideas, a re-formation of a group which once published the bankrupted magazine, "Living Marxism", itself a reincarnation of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a breakaway from the International Socialist party. But, its critics caution, people should not be misled into thinking the Institute of Ideas is of the left. Furedi's thesis is that intellectuals are dying out and that, as a result, there is a growing philistinism throughout all aspects of life. His biggest idea is that intellectual life has been undermined by the pursuit of inclusion "for its own sake", by the desire of the "cultural elite" not to exclude anyone, with the result that universities and museums alike adopt policies that "flatter" students and visitors. The biggest culprit here is the public policy of widening access to higher education. There are good reasons to be suspicious of governments pushing the access and social inclusion agenda, some of which are well enunciated by Furedi. However, the author contends, Furedi needs to apply the reflexivity he seeks to encourage in others to himself and his fellow travellers; he needs to read more--and more widely (and generously); and he should do some research. He should, at the very least, find out what adult educators, including those involved in museums/arts access work, say and do. Perhaps most importantly, Furedi needs to engage in discussions with others who are unlike himself
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom