I’ve read similar essays before, but this one set off the memory of an often repeated contradiction that has become imbedded in our political culture. Age of Ignorance
Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.
An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.
It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year.
In a recent post I mentioned Alistair Smith and some terms he uses in High Performers: The Secrets of Successful Schools,
At times of change, the learners are the ones who will inherit the world, while the knowers will be beautifully prepared for a world which no longer exists.”
Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck, and here’s how: Turn that around — praise for progress, don’t praise for perfection.”
The knowers tend to be conservative and far right leaning libertarians ( the latter whom when push comes to shove will always pick ‘private realms of power’ over freedom). This are the people who are always yelling elitism at colleges, college professors, college graduates or anyone who has walked past a college. Sure colleges are job training centers and some people see them and use them solely for that purpose, but most see them as a mix of professional preparedness and centers of learning. This latter group has made the implicit declaration that they do not know it all. There is always an arrogant know it all wherever you go, though generally college has a way of instilling some humility. It turns out the world is a complicated place, mastering a subject is a tremendous challenge, you probably will not do that if at all until years after you graduate and all the other people striving to understand this world and master some knowledge are in the same ball park of intellectual gifts. The conservatives who hang on every word of Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Bill O’Reilly – the conservative royalty of knowers and self declared anti-elitist claim they don’t need to study knowledge, facts or logic. They know things. They just do. They know a fake birth certificate when they see it. They know when someone is conspiring to foist solar energy on a nation that deserves all the fossil fuels it can blow the tops off mountains to mine. That lack of humility, the resistance to information and to new justified knowledge is the very definition of elitist.
The photograph below is how people generally picture artist Jackson Pollack.
Jackson Pollack 1947 at work. In the famous series on Pollack by Life magazine – done two years after this photo by he looks much the same. It is as though he was one of those men who was born middle-aged, always a rough old school blue collar worker look ( at Life link) and bald. So this photo via the Smithsonian is a jolt to that perception of a man suspended in time by the most often used photos of him.
Description: Taken at about age 16, when Pollock was a student at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.
Citation: Portrait of Jackson Pollock, ca. 1928 / unidentified photographer. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, Smithsonian Institution.
Looking at that angelic face it is difficult to imagine that 28 years later he would kill himself and an innocent passenger in a drunker car accident. Note: I think they might be off about his age in that photo. If the year was 1928 he would have been 18.
if anyone is looking for a unique context theme for a blog, you might try the daily Orwellian doublespeak. George Bush called his initiative to allow more toxic pollution the Blue Skies Initiative. Lying the nation into a disastrous invasion of Iraq that caused a massive death toll and pushed two million Iraqis into becoming refugees was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. In today’s doublespeak, Paul Ryan’s(R-WI) “Focus on Dignity” is a Spectacle of Greed and Cruelty
All told, Ryan hands out about $4.4 trillion in tax cuts that primarily benefit the very best off, and pays for it with $4.15 trillion in spending cuts to programs that primarily benefit the poor and middle class.
[ ]…“A budget that diminishes what we provide for the one in six Americans who are struggling with hunger is not a budget befitting a moral country,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “A plan reflective of our national priorities should seek to lift up our neighbors in a time of high unemployment and poverty; instead, this demands the most from those with the least, and flies in the face of the common dignity of all Americans.”