Whether or not we should have lots of "shiny new polytechnics" isn't the issue that struck me, reading this post from Tim Worstall. In the comments, someone said:
... its a moot point how many people actually use- or even remember- the majority of what they were taught in schools. Perhaps there’s a case for saying we go overboard on education.Perhaps not.
We might not remember everything we were taught in geography or history or maths lessons. We remember some of it, I expect, and that helps us in our lives. But the real point of exposing children to all the main academic disciplines is that we can't predict what will interest them and what they will excel in.
Some of the kids who study history will become historians, either in a small way in their school specialisations, or in a large way as academics or autodidacts in adult life. Many won't. But we ought to be giving them this exposure to the spectrum of thought and study, as well as equipping them with basic tools of numeracy and literacy. It's the only way they will be able to find their potentials.
And please don't underrate the importance of a plumber with a fascination in the reign of James II. That's just the purest snobbery - that person's life is far richer for their interest and, as Mastermind showed, some people gain deep knowledge of their subjects just as hobbyists and amateurs. Such outcomes are very much one of the purposes of education.