Even when the profit margin is not immediately apparent, there is something to be said for ivory towers. More of that later. Now it’s time to step outside and comment on real world protests taking place at the Slade School of Art and elsewhere.
The student demonstrations and occupations are about more than the right to spend three years putting off the shackles of employment. That right was enjoyed by most of those now in white collar jobs and certainly most of those in parliament, but never mind.
They are also about a duty which is felt to some extent by everyone who opts to take a course in the arts or humanities, a sense that there is more to human life than succeeding in business.
To see why arts education matters, you need only look at the heart of the most commercial sphere of all: advertising. If money talks, the £10.9bn spent on this industry in 2010 is very eloquent on the importance of aesthetics.
As Braque said, art disturbs, and it can stir up any number of useful desires for advertisers. So if you take creative endeavours out of this context, they become more than a piece of indulgence. They becomes a catalyst for other forms of social change.
That is why the humanities are under threat, not because they are a waste of time, but because they are potentially dangerous. Just ask anyone with a dumbed-down multi-million pound brand.
All of this may be why culture is so often sequestered in the sort of towers which are now being attacked by the Browne Report, which incidentally features some stylish graphic design.
Take away that bit of garnish and it would be capitalist ideology in its rawest state, and surely nobody wants to see that.
You can read an insightful blog post on the man behind the proposed reforms to higher education by Catherine Bennett on the Guardian website here. Or take a look at this convincing argument against the competitive model for higher education by Stefan Collini on the London Review of Books website here.
Oh, and follow the Slade Occupation blog, here. The times are as inspiring as they are frightening.