Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reginald Hill's An Advancement of Learning

As a break from the craziness of the end of the semester, I read Reginald Hill's An Advancement of Learning, a Dalziel and Pascoe mystery published in 1971. It takes place in a small college in Yorkshire. It's well plotted narrative, but more interesting as an historical piece, for two reasons.

First, 40+ years ago people were already complaining about the corporatization of higher education. As one character says, "Governments started thinking industrially about education, that is in terms of plant efficiency, productivity, quotas, etc." (p. 31). Some things never change. Plus, professors complain about how lazy students can be.

Second, the sexism is pervasive. The core of the story is about a Biology professor who was accused of having an affair with an undergraduate. Multiple people repeated that they did not care about the affair itself. That's just what happens. The problem is that the professor flunked the student, and there was a hearing to determine if--you know, just possibly--that he was biased. They were sure, of course, that he would be impartial because nice men who have sex with undergraduates are trustworthy.


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