This crusade to 'decolonise' Oxford University gets more absurd by the day – The Telegraph

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We can imagine how a university might ‘decolonise’ the teaching of history or art. But computer science?
To demonstrate their progressive credentials, universities all over Britain are eagerly “decolonising” their degree courses. They’re “decolonising” their teaching of history, their teaching of music, their teaching of literature.
No doubt to those who work in modern academia, this all makes perfect sense. To those of us on the outside, however, it can at times seem a little perplexing. Especially when we read, as we did at the weekend, that Oxford University is to “decolonise” its degrees in computing.
I freely concede that I am no expert in computer science. One thing I do know, however, is that it was not established as an academic discipline until quite some time after the abolition of slavery, and the disintegration of the British Empire. I am at a loss to understand, therefore, how it is possible to “decolonise” something that has nothing to do with colonialism.
Of course, I could be wrong. But, as far as I’m aware, Edward Colston did not send slaves into the fields to pick computer chips. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook was not plundered from remote tribesmen by Victorian explorers. And when Sir Walter Raleigh returned home from his exploits in the New World, he did not bring back an iPhone 14.
Maybe I’m being too literal, and in modern academia it is in fact perfectly possible to decolonise something that has never been colonised. At any rate, there can be no doubting Oxford’s commitment to the cause. Its Department of Computer Science has announced that “being non-racist is insufficient – carrying out research that is truly representative requires an anti-racist position. This includes working on understanding what it means to decolonise the curriculum.” Good to hear. Because once they’ve finished working on understanding what it means, they can enlighten the rest of us.
One man who would surely have cheered them on is Michael Wharton, aka Peter Simple, the former warden of this very column. Decades ago he envisioned the creation of a revolutionary technological device known as the Prejudometer. He explained: “You simply point it at any person (including yourself) you suspect of racism, press the easy-to-find ‘action’ button and read off the result in prejudons, the internationally recognised scientific unit of racial prejudice.” Should the reading reach “3.6 degrees on the Alibhai-Brown scale”, the Prejudometer would emit a shrill scream to alert everyone in the vicinity.
Sadly, Michael Wharton died in 2006. Thanks to the tremendous advances in computer science since then, however, perhaps Oxford will finally be able to bring his vision to life.
Yesterday, on The Telegraph’s letters page, a reader suggested that it was time to abandon the Tories – because they have become “the party of pessimism”. This remark puzzled me. If the Tories have indeed become the party of pessimism, surely this is excellent news. Because it represents a welcome return to traditional conservative values.
Pessimism, after all, is the very cornerstone of conservative thought. The conservative worldview is based on the fundamental conviction that the past was good, the present is bad, and the future is bound to be even worse. True conservatives are pessimistic by nature. That is why they have always instinctively distrusted radical new trends, not just in politics but in architecture, music, painting, poetry, education, you name it. Being pessimists, they invariably fear the worst. And, more often than not, they’ve been proven right.
In recent years, however, control of the Tory party was seized by politicians who showed no respect for the ancient traditions of conservative pessimism. First, there was Boris Johnson, with his blissful visions of post-Brexit paradise, and his ebullient ridicule of “doomsters and gloomsters”. Then came Liz Truss, who declared during the Tory leadership race that she was “completely unapologetic about being optimistic”, and insisted that anyone who doubted her plans for the economy was “talking our country down”.
In the end, it wasn’t just her plans themselves that proved disastrous. It was her optimism. This is because optimism raises expectations. And when those expectations are dashed, we respond with shock, dismay, and furious recriminations. A pessimist, by contrast, is never disappointed – and is thus much better equipped to handle setbacks. Conservatives know this. Or at least, they used to, before they allowed themselves to get high on the giddy utopianism that was previously the preserve of the Left.
After a long, unsettling period of positivity and self-confidence, then, how heartening it is to see the Tory party reverting to its traditional gloom. This pessimism should give us great hope for the future.
‘Way of the World’ is a twice-weekly satirical look at the headlines while aiming to mock the absurdities of the modern world. It is published at 7am every Tuesday and Saturday
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