blather

Two items, the first in a post by a friend, the second from a book that I think explains a lot about where we are today and how we got to be here. Last night I watched Bill Maher and his panel jousting over the reason for Trump and most of what was said had been said before and Maher, of course, made clear that he thought that it was a matter of the American people being stupid, a rather easy and, I think, rather stupid assessment of the circumstances of our existence today, particularly alarming of the stupidity has anything to do with limited capacity, in which case, the experiment that is democracy would have to be put to rest. And then Neil Degrasse Tyson, looking to be tired of the blather surrounding him concerning the Tragedy of Trump—the panel repeated what has been said over and over again about the cause of the state of mind that could produce a candidate for high office the likes of Donald (that is what Hillary now calls him and good for her)-spoke to say that the problem was education. There has to be, he implied loudly, something wrong with an educational system that would cause there to be so many human beings ready to support a being of Mr. Trump’s kind for the presidency.

I have written before of my concerns about the way in which people in this society are educated. I have written about this for years, thought a lot about why it is that the system cannot be adjusted to insure that all those it teaches are able to engage effectively in making sense of what goes on around them so that they can make sensible decisions as individuals and as citizens who, because they live in a democracy, are obligated to participate in the societal decision making processes.

The two bits below, I think, would be useful in the conversation that I would like to have because I think such a conversation is absolutely essential to our getting back on track.

From a note from Wendy Ryden: Under the everything old is new again amusement category–Irwin Edman in 1926: “… an assistant professor … will find … the university has got under his skin. He had imagined himself joining a society of free spirits moving in the communion of high, clear thoughts upon vivid issues. Instead he finds himself caught in the treadmill of men who have the habits of mind of rather superior civil servants or the secular analogues of army officers at dull posts on remote frontiers…They are absorbed in petty politics–rumors of promotions, displacements, and advancements–such as a mind engaged in creation can only at its peril afford to bother with at all.”

From Listen Liberal: …the professional ideology brings with it certain predictable, recurring weaknesses. The first of these pitfalls of professionalism is that the people with the highest status aren’t necessarily creative or original thinkers. Although the professions are thought to represent the pinnacle of human brilliance, what they are actually brilliant at is defending and applying a given philosophy… Despite the favorite Sixties slogan, professionals do not question authority; their job is to apply it. This is the very nature of their work and the object of their training… By definition, professionals are “obedient thinkers” who “implement their employers’ attitudes “ and carefully internalize the reigning doctrine of their discipline, whatever it may be.
The peril of orthodoxy is the second great pitfall of professionalism…Every academic discipline with which I have had some experience is similar: internationals relations, political science, cultural studies, even American history…each of them is dominated by some convention or ideology. Those who succeed in a professional discipline are those who best absorb and apply its master narrative.
Frank, Thomas (2016-03-15). Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (p. 25). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.