5 March 2011
Harking back to my recent entries concerning mentoring and role models, we have seen over the past couple of weeks two of our MPs being jailed for fraudulent expense claims. Over the last couple of days there has been a case reported of a senior minister in the German government, a Baron no less, allegedly plagiarising material in order to achieve a Ph.D. in order to append the letters Dr in front of his already impressive titles. How can we expect the young to play fair by the rules, if these public role models are exposed as cheats? In fact, Â young people do not even have to go so far as looking to these national figures as role models. They have to look no further than their daily dose of soaps and reality shows onÂ television. Any night of the week they can see the next generation getting drunk, violent being sexually promiscuous, using bad language and generally displaying appallingly bad manners. Again, I say how can we expect the young to grow up any differently when they are inured, almost from birth, by the example displayed by this generation of so-called celebrities. I know that this might seem to be yet another gripe from a grumpy old man but somebody must say it, as one rarely hears people in authority having enough guts to come out with the truth. The young could do far worse than look at a few of the old movies made 50 or 60 years ago, such as the one we saw last evening called Escape from Victory, starring Michael Caine. It had all the ingredients of Â honour, honestly, unselfishness and consideration for one’s fellow man, most of the ingredients missing in today’s society.
In the German ministerâ€™s case, no doubt, it was some form of ego trip, as the title of Dr before one’s name is held in very high esteem in Germany. It was recounted, when this matter was being discussed on the radio, that on a recent flight, when someone was taken ill, and an appeal made over the loud speaker system asking if there was a doctor aboard, it transpired that there were seven. Three doctors of philosophy, one doctor of law and three others, but none of them were medical. When I lectured abroad in Europe I was frequently mis-introduced as Dr Cato rather than Professor, despite my protestations. I even met one speaker on the circuit who had the title of Dr. Dr., presumably he had to Ph.Dâ€™s! I did seriously consider taking a Ph.D. a few years back after some discussion with Magdalene College, Cambridge (my son, Smilerâ€™s, Alma Mater) but the cost was prohibitive (something like Â£15,000 a year at that stage, for each of the two or three years) and, in addition, I would have had to have Â been in residence for three eight-week terms for one of the years and frankly I could not afford to stop working, so I gave up the idea. After all it would not have furthered my career and, indeed, would have just been an ego trip. It’s just that I rather fancied being introduced as Dr. Prof but I’m glad in the end the common sense prevailed.