Thursday, August 18, 2005

All Must Have Prizes?


Some of the 15,000 people hearing they have all won the Fields Prize for Mathematics, yesterday.



Grade Inflation


Critics are attacking the Culture Minister, David Lammy, for 'literary dumbing down', following the announcement that 250,456 people have won the Booker Prize for Literature, this year.

Hitherto, the prize was restricted to just one novelist, in the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland; officially, the prize goes to the writer responsible for the most 'significant achievement in novel writing in the preceding year'.

Several years ago, however, the government tried to broaden the remit of the Man Booker prize, and make it more 'inclusive' and less 'elitist'. Since then, tens of thousands of people have won the Booker prize, a process which culminated in yesterday's extraordinary scenes at the Man Booker award ceremony, when a quarter of a million novelists turned up to collect their gongs, leading to unprecedented traffic jams around London's Guildhall.

David Lammy rejects the idea that the worth of the Man Booker prize has been diluted. 'People who say this are just literary snobs. The fact is, because of the government's investment in education, kids are being taught more, people are getting smarter, and therefore novelists are getting better. We should be celebrating the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are now writing the single best novel of the year, nor decrying it.'

However, government critics point to other signs of cultural 'dumbing down'. Last year the Turner Prize for the best young British artist of the year was awarded to forty seven hundred people, many of them handicapped, lame, halt and indeed blind. This followed intense discussion at the Culture Ministry, after which it was decreed that questions of taste, talent and artistic worth should loom less large in the Turner judges' minds, compared to factors like gender, race, sexual orientation and likelihood to vote New Labour.

In return, government sources say they are merely mirroring similar events across the world. Next year's Nobel prize for Chemistry has been won by 778,859 women, and a hamster, after the Swedish Nobel Committee was accused of sexism and speciesism, following the revelation that no women had won the prize for several decades, and even fewer pets. Meanwhile, over in Rome, the Catholic church has recently announced that one day it hopes everyone can be Pope, for ten minutes each. Even more curiously, the Office for National Statistics announced, just yesterday, that after an official revision of the relevant data, it now believes that everyone in the UK has an IQ of 367, and is a unique genius.

William Shakespeare was unavailable for comment.

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