Education secretary Michael Gove has defended 
the study of the arts, including French lesbian 
poetry, this week as he accused the engineer 
and inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, Sir 
James Dyson, of ‘anti-intellectualism’.
Michael Gove’s comments came after Dyson, 
Britain’s 22nd richest man, said that we should 
talk about technology more so that “little Angelina wanting to go off to study French lesbian 
poetry will suddenly realise that things like 
keeping an aircraft industry, developing nuclear energy, high-speed trains, all these things 
are important”.
At the Independent Academies Association 
Conference in central London, Gove 
said, “I fear the anti-intellectual 
bias in our way of life has, at 
times, become a bias against 
knowledge and a suspicion of 
education as a good in itself.”
He went on to say, “I am certainly an enemy of those who 
would deprecate the study 
of French lesbian poetry. Because the casual dismissal of 
poetry as though it were a useless luxury and its study as selfindulgence is a display of prejudice. It is another example of 
the bias against knowledge.”
Dyson’s comments appear to 
have sparked controversy within Oxford. Dr Jennifer Yee, tutor 
in French at Christ Church told 
Cherwell, “The reference to ‘little Angelina’ seems to suggest a 
return to the sort of hearty unabashed sexism 
one associates with the 1950s rather than the 
2010s, but I confess I am rather puzzled by the 
more specific reference to French lesbian poetry. Three possibilities spring to mind: 1) this 
was simply intended as a homophobic slight; 2) 
Dyson was making a rather erudite reference to 
the Franco-British poetess Renée Vivien; 3) Dyson was actually thinking of the 
(heterosexual) poet Charles 
Baudelaire.”
She continued, “If little Angelina decided one day to work 
alongside other British employees of Airbus near Toulouse, or 
Électricité de France, she could perhaps rely on French interpreters to get by. I still think she 
would have missed out on a  
wonderful experience reading 
Baudelaire’s poetry at University. She would have thought less 
about her own language and 
the nature of language in general; she would have 
thought less 
about sexuality, the 
nature of 
evil, and  the creation of art.
Dr Carole Bourne-Taylor at Brasenose College was sceptical about 
the perceived differences between 
the arts and sciences, saying, “Sir 
James Dyson has a rather dogmatic 
style that I wish I had; he is a brilliant engineer and gets the headlines in a way I 
could only dream of in my pursuit of “study for 
the sake of knowledge”. We can be truly grateful that Sir James (and now Michael Gove) has 
given us a little publicity that would otherwise 
not have come our way! He is a philanthropist 
as well as a brilliant engineer: the Dyson Foundation has done much for education, for example, through the schools’ “education box” that 
is designed to inspire young minds.
“In both the humanities and sciences, a lateral and inquisitive mind is the key. So when 
“little Angelina” (or “little James”, perhaps?) 
pursues an interest in the unusual, we rejoice. 
That clever turn of mind that revolutionised 
the way we clean our carpets is surely 
the same beast! I suspect that Sir 
James Dyson and I probably share 
the same ground when it comes 
to our eagerness to not 
only identify and nurture 
that quirk of mind that 
is genius, but to enable it 
to bring forth, improved 
social mobility and opportunity. We are both in the same 
field, just at different ends.”
Second year biologist, Sarah Worsley, 
agreed, saying, “The world would be a 
very dull and uninspired place if we all 
studied the same thing. Understanding 
our culture and differences in society 
is just as important as inventing new 
and wonderful things and the two 
are probably interlinked more than we 
might think.”
Second year chemist, Gogulan Karunanithy 
warned, “Though it pains me to say this, on this 
occasion I agree with Gove. Whilst I agree that 
technical subjects should be encouraged, if students taking these courses are not motivated 
(and would rather be reading French lesbian 
poetry in a field somewhere) all that you’re creating is a generation of disillusioned and 
probably unproductive scientists 
and engineers.”
Magdalen biologist, Peter Gleeson sympathised a little more with 
Dyson’s opinion, saying, “I think it is 
fair to say that as a society we need 
medics and engineers and research scientists, and from 
that perspective it seems 
fair to say that the study 
of arts subjects is an optional extra, or a bit of a 
luxury.’
However, second 
year French and German student at Keble College, Brendan 
Fletcher, defended 
the study of French 
poetry and the 
arts, saying that, 
“Whilst it probably isn’t entirely 
useful for designing vacuum cleaners, it opens our eyes to 
other cultures, perspectives 
and who we are.”

Education secretary Michael Gove has defended the study of the arts, including French lesbian poetry, this week as he accused the engineer and inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, Sir James Dyson, of ‘anti-intellectualism’.

Michael Gove’s comments came after Dyson, Britain’s 22nd richest man, said that we should talk about technology more so that “little Angelina wanting to go off to study French lesbian poetry will suddenly realise that things like keeping an aircraft industry, developing nuclear energy, high-speed trains, all these things are important”.

At the Independent Academies Association Conference in central London, Gove said, “I fear the anti-intellectual bias in our way of life has, at times, become a bias against knowledge and a suspicion of education as a good in itself.”

He went on to say, “I am certainly an enemy of those who would deprecate the study of French lesbian poetry. Because the casual dismissal of poetry as though it were a useless luxury and its study as selfindulgence is a display of prejudice. It is another example of the bias against knowledge.”

Dyson’s comments appear to have sparked controversy within Oxford. Dr Jennifer Yee, tutor in French at Christ Church told Cherwell, “The reference to ‘little Angelina’ seems to suggest a return to the sort of hearty unabashed sexism one associates with the 1950s rather than the 2010s, but I confess I am rather puzzled by the more specific reference to French lesbian poetry. Three possibilities spring to mind: 1) this was simply intended as a homophobic slight; 2) Dyson was making a rather erudite reference to the Franco-British poetess Renée Vivien; 3) Dyson was actually thinking of the (heterosexual) poet Charles Baudelaire.”

She continued, “If little Angelina decided one day to work alongside other British employees of Airbus near Toulouse, or Électricité de France, she could perhaps rely on French interpreters to get by. I still think she would have missed out on a  wonderful experience reading Baudelaire’s poetry at University. She would have thought less about her own language and the nature of language in general; she would have thought less about sexuality, the nature of evil, and the creation of art.’

Dr Carole Bourne-Taylor at Brasenose College was sceptical about the perceived differences between the arts and sciences, saying, “Sir James Dyson has a rather dogmatic style that I wish I had; he is a brilliant engineer and gets the headlines in a way I could only dream of in my pursuit of ‘study for the sake of knowledge’. We can be truly grateful that Sir James (and now Michael Gove) has given us a little publicity that would otherwise not have come our way! He is a philanthropist as well as a brilliant engineer: the Dyson Foundation has done much for education, for example, through the schools’ ‘education box’ that is designed to inspire young minds.“In both the humanities and sciences, a lateral and inquisitive mind is the key.

‘So when ‘little Angelina’ (or ‘little James’, perhaps?) pursues an interest in the unusual, we rejoice. That clever turn of mind that revolutionised the way we clean our carpets is surely the same beast! I suspect that Sir James Dyson and I probably share the same ground when it comes to our eagerness to not only identify and nurture that quirk of mind that is genius, but to enable it to bring forth, improved social mobility and opportunity. We are both in the same field, just at different ends.”

Second year biologist, Sarah Worsley, agreed, saying, “The world would be a very dull and uninspired place if we all studied the same thing. Understanding our culture and differences in society is just as important as inventing new and wonderful things and the two are probably interlinked more than we might think.”

Second year chemist, Gogulan Karunanithy warned, “Though it pains me to say this, on this occasion I agree with Gove. Whilst I agree that technical subjects should be encouraged, if students taking these courses are not motivated (and would rather be reading French lesbian poetry in a field somewhere) all that you’re creating is a generation of disillusioned and probably unproductive scientists and engineers.”

Magdalen biologist, Peter Gleeson sympathised a little more with Dyson’s opinion, saying, “I think it is fair to say that as a society we need medics and engineers and research scientists, and from that perspective it seems fair to say that the study of arts subjects is an optional extra, or a bit of a luxury.’

However, second year French and German student at Keble College, Brendan Fletcher, defended the study of French poetry and the arts, saying that, “Whilst it probably isn’t entirely useful for designing vacuum cleaners, it opens our eyes to other cultures, perspectives and who we are.”