The announcement that the Coalition is to axe the £13m funding for Bookstart, a charity providing free books to children who would not otherwise get them, is Dickensian in the most literal sense:
The opening paragraph of Dickens’ Hard Times showing that Gove’s view of literacy has a long lineage.
But it’s worse than that. According to the report in the Guardian, Bookstart is to be axed to pay for restoring cuts already announced in school sport. I’ve already posted about why capitalists love sports, and I continue to believe that sport can be used to engender conformity and turn young people into good disciplined workers; in contrast, literature frees the mind, invites us to challenge, to ask questions about the word around us, and can inspire people to seek a better society. It’s dangerous stuff.
And for me, the suggestion that the Booktrust cut is being done to fund school sport is symbolic of an attitude, not just among Tories and Lib Dems (although there used to be a time when the Lib Dems seemed to want to protect education, although now teachers and students have helped propel their bums into the Ministerial limousines that particular position may have outlived its usefulness). After all the amounts are tiny – the cost of a couple of bankers’ bonuses, or receipts from going after a couple of corporate tax dodgers. But there is an obsession with sport among politicians, and it seems to me a profound hatred of culture. Perhaps it holds up a mirror that reflects uncomfortably the fact that their lives are incomplete. Perhaps they really prefer the bombast and disciplined fervour of a political Grand Projet like the Olympics to books and music and art, things that are both collectively and individually enriching in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways.
But it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that when a Con Dem hears the word culture, he reaches for the axe.