Michael Yates mikey+ at pitt.edu
Thu Feb 11 06:18:32 PST 1999


Well, I must say that many colleagues are pretty stupid too. Perhaps you are right, best not to think about it too much. And as Carrol said, maybe retirement is the best bet.

michael yates

Greg Nowell wrote:
> I share the sense of frustration with the general
> ennui. I hate to be elitist, but if you read
> Hofstater's 1960 (or thereabouts) classic,
> Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, you will
> experience a wonderful kind of therapeutic feeling.
> Still relevant. Like 15 or 25% of New York students
> being unable to identify the Atlantic Ocean on a map.
> I could give so many examples. Some students in our
> department (3) upset with the general atmosphere of
> apathy, organized a meeting between students and
> faculty to discuss the major and ways of making it more
> appealing. Leaflets, announcements in classes. 14
> faculty showed up (out of 20). Four students showed up
> (out of 400).
> Now, I don't think we are stupider than we once were.
> But I am an elitist in many ways. I think it takes two
> or three generations to produce intellectuals. One
> generation struggles to get exposed to the ideas. The
> next generation is raised with access to those ideas
> from birth and then might be able to do something with
> them.
> But there is this question of produtive capability (in
> terms of granting degrees) versus the yield of the ore
> that's being processed. Back in 1900, college
> education itself was so elite that the ratio of well
> heeled well schooled students with an interest to those
> that were bored stiff was very high. As education gets
> broadened, we bring in large classes of people that
> really are at sea with the whole notion of sitting and
> concentrating in front of a text. I think the
> "budding intellectual" component has been diluted to an
> expansion of the throughput capability. Maybe they're
> stupider. But thhere was a lot of stupidity in earlier
> times. Now they just watch TV instead of fuck cows in
> between revivalist tent meetings.
> Part of the problem is despair on the order of all I'm
> gong to be is a shoe clerk. Self-fulfilling.
> I've only been in the biz ten years and have a long way
> to go before I retire. I adapt in various ways. One
> of them is that I teach what interests me so that I
> myself am not bored sitting in front of a classroom.
> Thus I have taught Keynes' GT to students without
> economics, making them read (or pretend to read) the
> book; and I am teaching Weber's Agrarian Sociology.
> It's a solipsistic pleasure.
> Now, what I will say: a few smart ones "get it." And
> the ones that only kinda get it at least are being
> exposed to real ideas rather than textbooks. None of
> them reads, so at least they're not reading Keynes
> rather than not reading some bland textbook.
> Leftie in a right-wing society
> Reader in a non-reading society
> Thinker in a non-thinking society
> Educated in a TV society
> These are all forms of marginalism. I personally
> recommend not thinking about it. That way I am always
> pleasantly surprised at the occasional coherent summary
> of an argument.
> More distressing than the boorish uneducable beer
> swilling louts are the colleagues who are technicians
> in their field without being intellectually curious
> about literature, history, and such. "Intellectual
> lumber in the brain," is a phrase I remember vaguely,
> from Alexander Pope (The Dunciad), which is highly
> relevant.
> --
> Gregory P. Nowell
> Associate Professor
> Department of Political Science, Milne 100
> State University of New York
> 135 Western Ave.
> Albany, New York 12222
> Fax 518-442-5298

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