(photo of Gail Trimble)
Two different women hit the headlines this weekend. Jade Goody, who made a fortune from her ignorance, and Gail Trimble, the University Challenge genius vilified for being so intelligent. How have our values become so distorted?
Back in 1980, Fred Housego, the London cabbie with one O-level, won Mastermind in a glittering performance which captivated the nation. With his mastery of specialist subjects such as Henry II, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, he became a media darling.
He got his own radio show, spoke at Oxford and Cambridge University, and appeared on This Is Your Life.
Almost 30 years on, the qualifications to become one of Britain's heroes have changed a little. The nation is now captivated by the impending death of a young woman famous only for being famous, and her wedding to a violent ex-con.
Jade Goody has been given £1million for exclusive photographs of the ceremony and has had her £315,000 wedding paid for by well-wishers. Complete strangers have wept for her and queued to bring presents to the doors of the gated estate where she exchanged vows.
Meanwhile, today's Fred Housego - Gail Trimble, the girl with the planet-sized brain who scored 825 of the 1,235 points amassed by Corpus Christi, Oxford, on the road to last night's final of University Challenge, which they won - has become the new public pariah.
Across the country, bitter bloggers have sniped at a woman who knows about everything from Rudyard Kipling to Kazakhstan banknotes, from Homer to human genetics.
'Smug', 'brain-rupturingly irritating', 'vicious bitch', 'a horse-toothed snob'. . . With every insult there emerges a new member of the growing ranks of a nasty, insecure tribe who need to be comforted in their own dumbness, rather than impressed by another's brilliance.
Jade Goody's story is undeniably a tragic and gripping one; but how extraordinarily inverted our values have become when she is treated like some modern-day Joan of Arc staring death in the face, while another young woman has bile poured upon her for the wicked sin of intelligence.
......You can see how much easier it is to take Jade Goody for your role model ahead of Gail Trimble. If you know nothing, and see someone getting rich and famous precisely for that reason, you are instantly validated. You, too, could become the next poster girl for ignorance.
When she appeared on University Challenge, she didn't just know the answers to academic questions about Latin, Maths, Greek and Shakespeare - subjects she studied for her A-levels and at university.
She also knew about the children's books that don't crop up on university syllabuses, but used to form the staple diet of the young British schoolgirl. She gave correct answers to questions on Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales For Children, and Rudyard Kipling's Puck Of Pook's Hill, his children's history book.
Half a century ago, before that broad, deep British education system was narrowed and shallowed by Labour and Tory governments, by patronising teaching unions, and by dumbing down in the name of equality, Miss Trimble certainly wouldn't have been hated.She also wouldn't have been that remarkable.
One can't help but suspect that if Ms. Trimble were of African or Asian extraction her accomplishments (irregardless of her personality) would have been sung from the rooftops by every blogger, journalist, politician and average Joe from Edinburgh to London.
But to be a normal, healthy and intelligent young White person is to be the epitome of blasphemy and evil in a once great nation that is in the process of sacrificing itself to the gods of diversity.
"Equality", after all, is not achieved upwardly.