The way I usually look at things, nobody in this world deserves to be called a ‘dunce’, or a ‘dummy’, or a ‘moron’, or an ‘idiot’. But when somebody is intellectually, and ethically, stuck in a position in which they see humankind divided into two groups, smart folks and dunces, and has been stuck there for many years (if not decades), and when they behave as if they are members of the former and you are a member of the latter, it’s time to shift perspectives–at least for rhetorical purposes. There seems to be no way to get through to such a person–to have even the mildest impact on their egomaniacal, destructive, behavior–except to firmly place the dunce cap on their head.
I didn’t actually do it; but I sure was tempted. Let’s just say I didn’t have the greatest Christmas this year.
After having had a couple of weeks to calm down, rather than resorting to petty tit for tat, without naming any names or getting into any other particulars, I’m going to try to present my position clearly in this blog post–or at least as clearly as a short blog post will allow. All of this seemed to have a great deal to do with education, and with university education in particular, so I’m including this post in the “UABCs” (or “University ABCs”) series of posts in this blog.
People who have experienced academic success through the years–a group in which I include myself–tend not to be pretentious. This is especially true of those who have gone through the education system in recent decades, since the hierarchies formerly associated with Western education began to crumble. I definitely encountered a few pretentious university professors over the years, trying to defend old academic values during a period of great change within academe; but very few of their students chose to emulate them. Not behaving in a way that used to be considered “high status” or “smart” is no longer necessarily an indication that one is “low status” or “dumb”—unless one truly is … I won’t say it, although I’m extremely tempted.
It’s one thing to be knowledgeable in particular areas and to employ that knowledge wisely, and with sensitivity to the social setting in which one finds oneself. To me, in our postmodern age, these are the hallmarks of intelligence and having had a good education. It’s quite another to impose a shaky knowledge–including things one must surely know are untrue, in other words fabrications and lies–on others in order to gain social status, within a hierarchy that no longer exists.
To those who never did well in our education system (I said I wouldn’t name any names), I would say I’m very sorry about your lack of success. But keep in mind, I wasn’t the one who was putting you down. (I did all I could over the years to provide you with encouragement in areas in which you had real talent.) It’s you who’ve been putting yourself down. If you can’t see that–if you can’t fathom the basic philosophical perspective from which I and so many others who have been academically successful now view the world–you may truly be a DUNCE.
But maybe, now, you can see …