Why I think academia is irrelevant


I may be a university student, but I have no real respect for academia. To be frank, I went to university with the full knowledge that I will gain something out of it. Since I do an art course, I’m mainly talking about the contextual studies module, which if you’re preparing to go to uni yourself, you should know this that this is the dry and academic part of your course. I frankly dislike academia, mainly because I see it as stingy and old fashioned, particularly when it comes down to research.

To be clear, they’re okay with you using Internet sources as long as you don’t just use a random blog as a source (incidentally, please don’t use this site as a source for your dissertation, I’m not liable for your carelessness), but they seem to be insistent that you mostly use books. That isn’t necessarily the worst of my problems, but it seems to me like they have no faith in a student’s ability to discern truth from misinformation on the Internet. The only real argument I’ve heard against using online sources is that there might be misinformation.

More to the point, they seem to be the kind of people who have the attitude of either you write the way we want you to, or you fail, and I can say this because I have actually discussed this with a member of staff working at the university, and we basically came to that conclusion looking at the kind of writing language you’re required to use. They’ll tell you its supposed to be about objectivity, but really it seems to me like you’re part of the Borg. Not even a shred of your own individuality is allowed in your writing at all, and yet I’ve heard that certain lecturers recommend that you write your dissertation with emotive, persuasive language. That sounds like they’re in favour of narrative crafting, the total opposite of objectivity.

To me, that’s the biggest problem I have with academia, that it’s stuck in its old and entrenched ways, refusing to change with the times. The most revolutionary aspect of the age of information has been the fact that now anyone who can use the internet has access to any kind of knowledge they want, and they don’t even have to go to university and go into debt to do it. The people in academia hate that. They have long been the ivory tower gatekeepers of information in the days before the information age, and now that the internet has brought about the free flow of information to the public, academia is left unable to stem the flow.

Of course, academia is one the core components of the reigning establishment (the others being the government, the media, and the cultural elite). Their gripes are the same as those of the rest of establishment at large – they are becoming irrelevant, and they can’t stand that. It doesn’t help that they cling to the ideology of cultural Marxism, that postmodern, neo-Marxist nonsense which you can easily use the Internet to disprove if you have at least two brain cells, a cursory knowledge of philosophy, and/or internet connection. If anything, this seems to be making academia (and academics) even more irrelevant and out of touch with the rest of society.

Those at least are my observations. I haven’t necessarily been in university for very long, but I get the sense that I don’t fit in well with academic culture. The way I see it, the kind of academic language taught in university isn’t going to be worth much when you get out of university and try to enter the job market, which as I speak is so oversaturated with degree-holding graduates that I dare say degrees will one day become worthless. All that debt for nothing I guess, and yet I’m supposed to have respect for the irrelevant spectre that is academic culture, which will offer nothing of worth to me unless I plan to become a teacher and/or a professor, thereby entrapping myself within the education system. It seems to me like an outdated system. Instead of encouraging young people to go to university, I think it would be best to encourage them to develop vocational skills and enter the job market. If anything, it may yet be more profitable for the next generation than locking them into the old, outdated academic culture that will continue to fail them in the long run.


Believing the lecturer (a rant)

listen and believe

So I had an interesting conversation with some of my classmates, wherein I talked about the contents of a previous lecture, in which the lecturer, attempting to explain the 50’s mystique, read from an article entitled “Only a Mad Woman would call the 50s a golden age”, which sort of implied that the nostalgic, rose-tinted view of the 50’s is a recent phenomenon attributable to the TV show Mad Men. That didn’t sound right at all. I know that’s bullshit, because I used to watch the 70’s sitcom Happy Days, a show that uncritically exonerates the 50’s is this golden decade in which nothing went wrong.

When I actually researched the article, I found out that this was lifted from The Daily Mail (I checked word for word, and it was the correct one), a tabloid newspaper with about as much credibility as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The article itself was written by Liz Hodgkinson, a noted feminist who writes for the Femail column (the UK equivalent of Jezebel that’s somehow part of a fervently right-wing paper).

In the same lecture, we were treated to the first episode of a 2002 BBC documentary entitled “Century of the Self”, which was made by Adam Curtis, a glorified conspiracy theorist who apparently has a reputation for manipulative film-making tactics designed to hand-hold you towards his conclusion. The central assertion is that modern consumer culture is essentially the product of Edward Bernays and the ideas of the Freud family. Even if it was largely factual, it was exquisite propaganda, and had the tendency to imply rather bold claims that could easily be debunked. For instance, one part of the film implied that Edward Bernays was responsible for getting women to smoke, which Curtis would be successful in having you believe if you’re a moron. A quick google search will yield several photos and/or illustrations that show women smoking (I found an image dating back to 1906).

Anyways, after I explained this (in greater detail, I just condensed it in this post so I could get to the point), one of my classmates apparently told me that I should just listen to whatever the lecturer has to say, with weak arguments such as “how many degrees do I have” or “how long have I been in art”. None of those questions were even fucking relevant. My argument is that you should take what a lecturer says with at least some scepticism. You should be critically analysing what you’ve been taught, but apparently he disagrees. He thought I should basically sponge up what the lecturer says without thinking about it. Effectively, he argued that I should accept academic dogma uncritically. Gee, where have I heard this before?

anita sarkeesian

There is a very good reason I don’t just sit there and accept what the lecturer has to say unless I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s factual. As I’ve written about several times on this site, you have crazy left-wing ideologues who constantly lie about sexism, racism, so-called Islamophobia, and they run rampant on the mainstream media. Such ideologues are also found in academia, in the form of far-left academics who preach Marxism and social justice as if it were gospel. As we have seen over the past few years, we know that Marxist lecturers have been using their position to indoctrinate young people into the cult of social justice, and if that’s true, how can I not be sceptical of what they’re saying?

Besides, people forget that this “listen and believe” attitude isn’t just limited to leftists. The conservative Christians also pulled this crap too when Bush Jr. was President, or did everyone forget? In fact, you get this mentality from any brand of authoritarian ideology. Given that you get at least some Marxism in every university, I have to be sceptical of what I’m taught. Failing to be sceptical would be a dereliction of every value I hold dear.

The other reason I can’t accept such a proposition is because if you apply that logic, it can become dangerous. If you just sponge up everything a lecturer says uncritically, then you can get tricked into believing outright falsehoods such as white privilege, the patriarchy, and so on. Besides, if you’re willing to just listen and believe in the case of lecturers, then why not apply this logic to priests, imams, newsmen and politicians? If you won’t, then you’re not being consistent in your values. If you do, then your naivety will be a con artist’s best friend. After all, a good old confidence trick can only work if you trust the con artist.

I’m not trying to say that all university lecturers are con artists. I’m sure most of them have standards, and I’m certainly not suspecting art teachers, but I’m saying that students should be sceptical of their lecturers, just as they should be sceptical of the media, the politicians, and organised religion. In that sense I’m applying my sceptical principles universally, and believe that everyone else should. Is that really such a bad thing?

Why we should abolish the Welsh Baccalaureate

welsh bac

Don’t let the poster fool you. It’s far worse than it seems.

As my time in Coleg Sir Gar will soon come to its natural end, I think it’s time that I addressed a subject that has bothered me for nearly three years, but have not been at much liberty to post about until now – the Welsh Baccalaureate. Since I’m sure most of the world outside Wales won’t know, the Welsh Baccalaureate (which we all just call the “Welsh Bac”) is a secondary qualification that supposedly “combines experiences and projects that help you to develop as an individual”, and claims to “equip you for your next steps for work, university and for life”. However, my experience has shown the opposite.

The Welsh Baccalaureate is perhaps the most reviled aspect of life in college. The main problem is that the government requires all further education students to take it along with the course they want to do. Unless you’re on a degree course, this means that you have a secondary qualification appended to your own course without your consent, but if you’re actually doing the Welsh Bac, that’s the least of your worries. Apparently they attach it to your course in such a way that failing the Welsh Bac means failing your existing course, which I always thought was totally unfair. Why should students have to fail a course they want to take because they failed at something most students don’t even want?

What you do in the Welsh Bac is often irrelevant to the course you plan on doing. Throughout the programme, you spend your time writing and doing exercises about social issues, typically from the left wing point of view, which brings me to another concern I have. It is claimed that the Welsh Bac helps students develop critical thinking, but from my experience, the course seemed to be a hotbed of mainstream left-wing idealism. The tutor I had was an optimistic leftist who never really questioned what she was showing us, and she was even willing to show the movie I Am – a idealistic, self-indulgent documentary from the director of Ace Ventura – and she took its shady and often pseudo-scientific arguments as facts. It doesn’t help that she also used her position as a teacher to advance the idea of “global citizenship”, a subject that was never debated even once in the course.

If you do the Welsh Bac, whether by choice or not, you ultimately find yourself saddled with the task of writing an “individual investigation”, an academic report wherein you’re supposed to talk about a serious topic, and you have to compare the way said issue is handled in both Wales and a country of your choice. On top of that, it has to be at least 3,000 words long, which isn’t impossible, but still very annoying when you’re trying to concentrate on the real coursework. Also, depending on what topic you chose, finding the right information could be a hellishly frustrating task, and what good does this individual investigation do? Other than showing you what it’s like to write a degree-style academic report, it doesn’t do much good, especially if you consider that I only wrote it because I had to. If I had any choice in the matter, I wouldn’t have done the Welsh Bac at all.

The Welsh Bacc also comes with a language module, which is supposedly aimed at helping you learn a new language. However, in all the times I’ve had to do the Welsh Bacc, you weren’t given a choice of what language you wanted to learn, and they used it as a way of forcing English-speaking teenagers to learn Welsh. In 2013, this became my chief complaint against the Welsh Bac, and the source of the worst meltdown I’ve had so far. I could have handled it better, but I’m not exactly wrong. In my current class, the popular consensus is that the Welsh Bac does nothing except adding unnecessary frustration. That’s why I personally feel that the Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything except giving students far more work to do than they actually need.

Of course, there are those who support the Welsh Bac (and I bet those same people are out of touch with the young people), and they would claim that the Welsh Bac offers a broader student experience than what you’d have with just A-levels. I should also mention that the chief benefit of passing the Welsh Bac is that it gives you additional UCAS points to support your application for university (at most, you can get 120 UCAS points from it), but while a lot of universities accept the Welsh Bac, some universities, such as Warwick and Cambridge, don’t value the Welsh Bac compared to a single A-level. Worse still, if for the sake of argument you’re unfortunate enough to be taking the Welsh Bac on top of three A-levels, the combined workload will put you under unnecessary stress, which may actually hinder your chances of successfully getting into university. So on top of it being a useless qualification you’ll only use once in your life, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress that could ruin your chance of getting a degree, which ultimately defeats the point of trying to get the 120 UCAS points in the first place.

So if you live outside Wales or didn’t know what the Welsh Bac is, I hope I’ve given you an idea on what it actually is, and why we should get rid of it. The Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything good for a student, and even if it did, what good is it if the student isn’t given any choice in the matter. A student’s education should be a matter of their choice, because it’s ultimately their future on the line. If the Welsh government really cared about the education of its students, then they should abolish the Welsh Bac, or at least put an end to it being required in further education college, because as long as it’s mandatory, it’s nothing more than another reason why it sucks to be a young person in Wales.

The trial of producing a huge art project

For past six months, I’ve been working myself to the bone in producing what is perhaps my biggest art project yet. Simply put it, its a series of books (which I call “visual art albums”) that deal with aspects of Christianity through a more surreal prism of thought. I originally conceived it as a project about world beliefs in general, but I encountered several problems during the research phase of the project, and thus I changed the overall theme of the project.

A lot of my time has been devoted to finishing the project that I started, and so I’d like tonight’s post to talk about what goes on behind the scenes, and offer some insight into the project’s concept, creation, and production.


Book III (The Houses of God), shown being produced during today’s sessions.

The project was originally titled “Visions”, then I changed the name of the project to “In the Valley of the Shadow of Faith”, and that name ran until last week, when I decided to change its named to “The Shadow Bible” (I name I chose for when it becomes a published book). I have made nine A2 folders, each of which are meant to contain 11 artworks, along with text and additional embellishments across 48 pages per book (as a whole book, this would be 432 pages long). I made it this way because I thought there would be nine units in the second year of my art course. This was eventually proven wrong. There were eight units, and only one could accommodate my project, so I’ve been working on the whole project alongside the other assignments. As you could imagine, it’s been a living hell managing all this.

Much of the project was conceived a few months before production actually started. In May 2015, I began to plan out my ideas, and August, I began making the book folders. Meanwhile, the planning phase of the project, wherein I would organize my various ideas and concepts for the project (at least by name), continued until November. I produced the artwork starting as early as September, but did this sporadically until November 17th, when I began producing artworks almost every day until February 4th, when I had finished all the artworks relevant to the project. The week before was when I finished the first book (or rather the eighth in chronological order), and from then on I began focusing on the books.

Today, I’m on what could be considered the final stages of the project. I had finished all 99 artworks, and so all that’s left is to finish the books, writing for each one along the way. I made the actual artworks as drawings and paintings, experimenting with various mediums. The books are each made using 24 sheets of tropical paper (except for one book which uses metallic paper), with each side displaying either an artwork, the text to go with the artwork, or anything else that I use to fill the remaining pages. The artwork is stuck down to the pages using double-sided tape, and since one roll runs out after around two and a half books, I had to buy it in bulk. Each book can take up to a total 12 hours to produce (which is why I split off production into separate sessions, each lasting up to four hours). The text is written using pencils, and exhibits a style of writing that doesn’t adhere any current precepts of creative writing (mainly because I don’t know any).

For the books, I want to convey narrative with a lyrical style of writing. This is in part due to the fact that I derived the concept of the project from music albums and the booklets that come with them (particularly vinyl records, and especially Christian Death LP’s). In fact, the writing in the project was influenced by the music I listen to on a daily basis. Sadly, this is not a collaborative effort, so I’ve had to do all the production and writing by myself, and I have until May to complete it. I’m on track, but it’s been a long and exhausting road to get to where I am now. It’s also been quite an expensive project. The amount of A2 card I need to finish the project has so far costed me a total of £120, with other costs being incurred in buying new pencils and replacing any paints that have run out. I’d say the project has so far cost me upwards of £300 to produce. Considering that I have no income, I’m lucky that I’m able to afford everything.

Producing “The Shadow Bible” has been quite a trying part of my life, but I feel that the experience has been a test of character. In my opinion, some of my best artworks have emerged from the sessions, and it’s on this project that I’ve actually started visualizing what I might want to produce in my later years. There’s also the prospect of releasing this whole project as a published book (which, according to one of my lecturers, it is entirely possible to do). That sounds like the most exciting prospect in years. I don’t know when it’ll happen, but if it works, who knows what could happen.

Until I start university, I’m certain that this is the hardest project I’ve ever done, but when it’s done, it’ll be one of the most satisfying things I’ve done yet, mainly because of the sheer ambition and scope of the project. Throughout the project, I felt like I was making something nobody else had done before (then again, I’m sure most people have more sense), and I think that’s been keeping me going all this time, that and the fact that I was making something I truly wanted to for the first time in many years. For all its ups and downs, I have high hopes for the project, and if given the chance, I’d do it again (though, hopefully, it’d be a lot shorter).

Looking to the future


Not representative of what’s actually coming.

Three years ago, I would have been utterly against the idea of going to university, believing that I was defiant in my refusal to go to university when everyone else was. Three years later, I’m not only optimistic about doing a three-year illustration course in Swansea, but I also now realize that everything I believed about going to university as a teenager was complete bunk.

I’ve been in college for nearly four years, and in that time, there are a lot of things I’ve had to think about, and at some point, I ran into a critical dilemma. This would be my final year in college, but I had no plan for what to do next. I had nothing but disdain for the video games industry, and while I had plenty of creative ideas for future projects (and I still do, with more to come), and didn’t exactly specify where I wanted to go with them. It wasn’t until September that I decided to finally discuss university as an option. By this point, nearly everyone I knew was at least considering it, even if some didn’t want to go to university the year before. Unlike previous years, however, I actually saw the reason why people were going to university, and sought out my own reasons for going as well. I also want through a lengthy decision process where I contemplated fine art, illustration, creative writing, and at one point even film studies, before eventually settling on the BA Illustation course at the Swansea College of Art.

Naturally, this decision came as a shock my mother, who had thought that I was jumping into a risky decision without giving it any thought. For the first month of the decision process, she was right, but after I did more reading, my excitement and understanding grew. Predictably enough, both my parents had issue with my firm decision to study away from home, and perhaps rightly so, since this would perhaps be the most radical change in my life in nearly a decade. They tried using every argument to convince me to change my mind, even going so far as to argue that I couldn’t live in halls because I had autism. That only made it impossible for me to take their concerns seriously, since they were all based on the overprotective paranoia of neurotypical parents.

When making this decision, I fully understood that I was taking a big risk. In fact, that element of risk made it even more attractive. However, what they didn’t see at the beginning (I hope they do now) was that I wasn’t taking this chance just to leave the nest as quickly as possible. The strong desire for independence was a key factor in my decision, but I want to go to university now because I have great concern for my future. I worried that I was doomed to walk my 20’s without any idea of what I want to do, all while I’d still be painfully single, living with my parents, and trapped with the notion that my autism is some kind of social barrier (an idea I have been fighting relentlessly against). I had to ask myself, “is this my future?”

All that aside, now that I’ve decided firmly where I want to go (even if UCAS has no idea as of yet), I still have one unresolved question – where do I from there? Since the beginnings of the creative renaissance I’ve experienced in the BTEC art course, I’ve been getting tons of ideas for various projects (with some ideas coming from the strangest places), and according to the university’s website, Swansea’s illustration course provides a good foundation for a career as a self-employed artist/designer, an illustrator for a major publishing company, a children’s book author/illustrator, or even a teacher, and perhaps there are other possibilities I don’t know of yet.

Thankfully, I have three more years to decide where I want to go after Swansea (I’ll probably be offered the chance to do a master’s degree, which I’ll respectfully decline), but in the mean time, I have a vague idea of where I’m going, it’s going to be fun. The main thing I’ll get out of this is a new experience, and a new outlook on life that I desperately need. Maybe I’ll find the one thing I’ve been longing for all this time.

Education is not a privilege

education cuts

Over the past five years, we’ve witnessed the Tory government and our Prime Minister David Cameron attacking everything that makes people’s lives easier just to keep their rich friends afloat. The government seems to have a particular hatred for education, as evidenced by a checklist of their past atrocities. They’ve been raising tuition fees, making cuts to post-16 and higher education, making cuts to the Disabled Student Allowance, and trying to drop 20th century American novels from the national syllabus. If you thought that our slimy Tory government could sink any lower, then look no further. Their burning hatred of education is extending to student maintenance grants, which they are attempting to scrap without holding any proper debate (probably because they know any real debate wouldn’t end the way they’d like it).

Naturally, the very idea of scrapping student maintenance grants for the poorest students has sparked outrage from students and politicians alike, mainly because only 18 MP’s talked about it, and without any proper debate whatsoever. It is perhaps the single most undemocratic decision our government is making so far, but then, what were we expecting when we nation collectively decided to pardon David Cameron in the last election? We all knew that Cameron was going to screw this country over yet again, and many of us didn’t even want to vote for him, but apparently there was an even greater amount of morons who bought Mr. Cameron’s bullshit at the last minute, and unless something is done, the next generation will pay the price.

I must wonder what our government assumes about us young people. They must assume that higher education is just as much a privilege for us as it must have been for David Cameron and his Eton chums. The reality is that the job market is still horrendously tight. For young people like myself, higher education offers a way of acquiring not just an attractive degree, but also crucial employability skills that are vital for anyone’s professional survival. Hence, for many young people, higher education is not just an attractive prospect, but also a necessity for attaining our various career aspirations. Our parents know this as well, so when they hear about the government’s plans to scrap the maintenance grants for the poorest students, they’ll inevitably worry that this will discourage young people from even considering higher education.

As a Coleg Sir Gar student (who often asks myself what I’m still doing there) hoping to make the big leap to university, I have every reason to worry about this, but what worries me more is that millions of young people could make the same mistake I did when I was 18. I worry that many young people will dismiss higher education purely because of the costs associated with university. If I could go back in time to the year 2012, I’d tell myself not to worry too much about the financial side, because there is help out there for those who need it (providing the government isn’t planning to cut that too).

Thankfully, there is some hope. There’s a petition going around and it already has enough supporters to merit a debate in parliament. The only question is will our voices be heard? Will the petition make impact on overturning an unjust and illogical plan, or will David Cameron’s government attempt to suppress our voice once again? Whatever the outcome, it is important to remember that any attack on higher education risks silencing young voices and crushing young talent, and if we have any hope of rescuing the country from its bleak situation, then the government must consider the importance of young talent, rather than depriving them of what I now accept to be perhaps the best pathway to a career they could hope for.

If you wish to sign the petition, the link is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/109649

The artists of the future need better teachers

art teachers

The art teacher shown here is most likely better than what I’ve seen in school.

On Tuesday morning, I did a somewhat improvised painting in a class session, but unfortunately, my particular style drew ire the art teacher that presided over that lecture. She argued that my style of painting was lazy, and she tried arguing with me about developing a saleable painting style by insulting my own unique style. After I continued making my point intellectually, the teacher, unable to come up with any intelligent counterargument thereafter, resorted to comparing my art to that of a five-year-old. Given that I have a five-year-old nephew, that was the most insulting thing I have ever heard from a teacher since my days in primary school.

Of course, I really should get over this, except that’s been on my mind all week for two reasons – (a) because the teachers general attitude has been a recurring problem for me and my classmates, and (b) because thinking it over allowed me to see that it was representative of a bigger problem that reminded me of my school days.

The art teacher in question was the kind who would belittle anyone’s art that didn’t conform to her preconceived notions of art. Specifically, she was having us all imitate the Cubist stylings of Pablo Picasso. Consequently, I worried that much of my artwork was going to be the same under that direction. In my mind, all the good artists, Picasso included, rebelled against the current of art to create their own unique stylings. By attempting to restrict our stylings, she is blaspheming against all that is wonderful about art, and slandering anyone who tries to deviate from that pattern only compounds this.

All that aside, I look back and wonder, if she acts so much like a grade school art teacher, then what kinds of art teacher are our kids getting? As my experience has taught me, a teacher can make a significant, life-changing impact on how children perceive their future, and indeed themselves. If art is to continue growing, then the next generation of artists need teachers who recognize the talent and the potential of young artists, and who will help to nurture that talent. At the moment, I don’t think that happens in school, and as for British colleges, this largely depends on the tutor. Then again, where I come from, college is not as different to school as we’d like to think.

I recently read something that Picasso once said that I believe is relevant to the subject in question. He once said that “all children are born as artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. In that regard, I think the art teacher has a role to play in that struggle. If the art teacher has no faith in his or her student, or teaches art the wrong way, then the student will not be enthusiastic about his or her own art. I remember not wanting to do art again because my A-level Art course was such a frustrating experience. It took until 2014 for my enthusiasm to return, and that’s a very bad sign. If that happened to all young artists, there’d be no new talent. Just more old artists anchoring the art world to old ideas, and that would cause the art world to stagnate horribly. The only way that stagnation is prevented is for young artists to contribute fresh ideas, and that cannot happen as long as the next generation has teachers who insist on anchoring them to outdated ideas.