Dumb Britannia: How dumb are we?

"I don't think that elitism is really a bad thing. I don't think that people are dumb - they're actually quite astute. What is dumb is what they've done to the education system - Blunkett and that awful man with the silly haircut, who don't want children to have fun any more... The idea that everyone is educated from the age of five to be some kind of middle-management salesperson is absolutely disastrous."

Sir John Mortimer, writer

"We are currently going through a period of artisanship... If people look at the diet of pop we have at the moment, while the content could be considered `dumbed down', the form of the music that kids are listening to is of a very high quality indeed, and when these kids grow up, they in turn will demand this quality from their music.

"My objection to the phrase `dumbing down' is that it implies there was some golden age of the past when everything was better, which I think is absolute bollocks...

"I think this Government has tried to appeal to popular culture and play on the fact that Tony Blair once played guitar in a band and Peter Mandelson likes going to clubs. It all hopelessly back-fired, but the important thing is that this Government has accepted the importance of popular culture, and those who consider themselves part of high culture are terribly upset by this."

Anthony Wilson, presenter, Granada TV, head of

Factory Records

The speakers are contributing to a conference entitled Culture Wars, Dumbing Down, Wising Up? at the Riverside Studios, London W8, 5-7 March