Hildegarde

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Archive for August, 2009

My Problem With Religion

with 7 comments

I’m going to start this post with something of a warning.

I am, today, in a very odd frame of mind.  My husband died, some years ago, of a very rare form of cancer–so rare that the cases of it in the US in any one year are in single digits, and there are no known risk factors for it.

Two and a half years ago, his older sister was diagnosed with the same thing, the only case in all the medical literature where there have been two cases in a single family. 

My mother in law is in her eighties, and if the doctors know what they’re talking about–and  I’m not sure they do, I never am sure–she will have lost three of her four children young–Bill and Joann to this odd cancer, and a son, named Andrew, in infancy, from a congenital heart defect we now correct without a second thought.

(And, in the kind of coincidence that makes my head hurt, the new technique that rendered that congenital heart problem no longer a big deal was the subject of the first in-class educational film I ever remember seeing.)

Anyway, the other weird coincidence is the fact that this particular sequence of events dovetails so perfectly with what I have been thinking about for weeks now, so let’s get on to that.

Yesterday, or the day before, I said that I was thinking of two poems, “Dover Beach,” by Matthew Arnold, and “Sunday Morning,” by Wallace Stevens.

The two poems share a single thee, in spite of having been written many years apart:  what is to become of us–what does life mean, and how are we to live it–in a world without God?

One of the things I want to stress here, is that neither Arnold nor Stevens was one of our “new atheists.”  Neither was even a freethinkiner in the nineteenth century use of the term. 

These were not men who spent a lot of time reasoning and thinking and coming up with a grand Eureka!  God is dead!

These are men who didn”t believe because,well, they just didn’t.   They started out believing, and then they woke up one morning and the belief was gone, and there was nothing they could do to get it back.

This is, I think, the condition of quite a few people at the beginning of the twenty-first century, at least in the West.

There are, of course, deliberate atheists and agnostics, but in a way they’re more like religious people than Arnold or Stevens were–they’re always thinking about agendas, and dogmas, and grand philosophical  prescriptions for this, that and the other thing.

The deliberate atheists and agnostics tend to be very highly educated and also significantly urban.   The accidental atheist–there’s the title for something–can be anywhere, and is increasingly everywhere.  

And the accidental atheist lives in a world with significant problems, if he wants to recognize them–and not all accidental atheists do.  Quite a few, in fact, simply decide to make their nonbelief a nonissue and go on thinking and acting as they did when they still saw the world as beheld by God.

But accidental atheism causes more problems for the individual and the culture at large than deliberate atheism does.   Deliberate atheism is a philosophy waiting to happen, intent on recreating meaning in the world on its own terms.  Accidental atheism is day after day with the experience of randomness and the lack of an anchor.

Robert sent me an e-mail in which he outlined the problem well, I think, so I’m going to quote it here:

>>>we’re breaking down morality. No, not sex, though that’s part of it. But there’s been a relentless assault on tradition as a source of morality. The brutal truth is, tradition is the only alternative to a religion-based morality, which is also under attack. The result is what I think of as a “don’t look down” agenda. We have to provide for the poor because—well, not because Christ told us to do so. That would be imposing our religious morality on others. Not because of tradition: that’s a bunch of dead white males. So why, exactly? We must be good stewards of the earth because—it was entrusted to us? No. Our grandchildren will curse us? But WE won’t be there. Why, then?

Virtually the entire liberal—or for that matter Marxist—domestic agenda has its roots in the injunctions of a religion they no longer believe. It’s only a matter of time before a secular opposed to capital punishment starts asking why human life should be sacred. It’s not as though he believes in the sacred, after all. My mother’s mother was a rock-ribbed Methodist and an old school FDR/LBJ progressive. This had little scope for human freedom, but you could make it work as a consistent program. Without either tradition or religion, you just can’t.

 

Yes, I know you think a morality can be arrived at from philosophical first principles. Doesn’t matter even if you’re right. The important thing is that you’re not unanimous. Jefferson, Rand and Marx thought the same thing, after all. What percentage of the population would go through such an exercise? Ten percent? More likely five, if that. The rest walk through a program someone else has laid out, and the diversity of philosophical opinion makes any action defensible.  If the basis of morality is philosophy, and you can find a philosopher to justify anything, how long before someone does the intelligent thing and doesn’t bother to consult the philosophers at all? And why shouldn’t he?

 

I don’t think we’ll go all the way to a Hobbesian state. People—except possibly philosophers—are brighter than that. But before the next tightening up, in which a morality is taught and enforced, the body count and property damage could be considerable.  And by “we” I mean basically portions of the suburbs. The Hobbesian state is only about 20 miles from me as I write. The kids currently shooting themselves in DC turf wars don’t suffer from an absence of philosophy, but from a surfeit. Take away religion, take away tradition, and there is only predator and prey. We’ll be a long time getting out of this hole. Perhaps we should stop digging.<<<<<<<

 

I want to leave this here, for a moment, as the statement of the problem.  I think it does state the problem pretty well for people like Arnold and Stevens, each of whom came up with a different “solution” to the difficulty.

 

But morality is actually the problem’s step two, not its step one, and I want to go back to that, too.

 

So I’ll go running off to do what I have to do today, and get back to this tomorrow.

 

The poems are worth reading.

Written by janeh

August 6th, 2009 at 6:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Couple of Short Notes

with 5 comments

This is going to be just a little thing today, because I’m gearing up for something.  For those of you who like to read up, part of what I’m gearing up to concerns two poems, “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, and “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens.

Actually, what I’m gearing up to is a thing about religion, tradition, and morality, but I’ll get to it tomorrow, I hope.

I would like to address Muddled in Moscow’s confusion for a minute.

First, there are many really excellent schools in the United States, both public and private.  

My guess is that at least two thirds of American students go to at least good schools and the top twenty-five percent go to really excellent ones. 

And there are places outside NY State–Connecticut has the best overall public school systems in the country, and then there are really stellar places in Winetka, Illinois, in the suburbs around LA, etc. 

But the first thing I want to know is if the people you know went to New York City schools or schools elsewhere in NY State?

American schools adhere pretty closely to local control.   It’s entirely possible for two schools in adjoining towns to have entirely different curricula, facilities, and, for that matter, socioeconomic make-up. 

Some states centralize some fuctions at the state level, but many states consist of dozens of local school districts run by local school boards with minimal accountability to anybody outside the locality.

That said, schools in suburban New  York towns–in Westchester  County, for instance–are often indeed excellent, but New York City schools are something else.

There are four kinds of NY City schools:  the public, the private, the parochial, and the public-selective high schools.

Virtually all New York  City parents who are middle class or above send their kids to private schools, and quite a few parents who fall distinctly under the middle class send their kids to parochial schools.

The exceptions are the competitive admission public high schools, like Bronx Science, for which kids must apply and by which they can be rejected. 

Outside of one interesting exception–P.S. 6, on the Upper East Side, the most monied neighborhood in NYC–the NYC public schools are an unmitigated disaster.  

These are the places you hear about where fewer than a tenth of students read at grade level, kids graduate from high school unable to do simple arithmatic, and there are metal detectors, rando drug sweeps, and the occasional knife fight.

Similar situations exist in Washington, D.C. and inner city Los Angeles. 

These are places where the middle class and above have simply abandoned the public schools altogether.  They send their kids to local private schools where they get very good educations, and that’s that.

To give you an idea, however, of how vast a difference there is between schools in the US, consider the following.

If you eliminate black and Hispanic students from the statistics on educational attainment, American students actually outperform students in every country of the world but two in every single subject area, including mathematics.

No, the issue isn’t race–it’s what goes on in schools with high poverty levels, which is most large cities are likely to have disproportionate numbers of certain categories of racial minorities. 

You’d do the same thing simply by eliminating the stats on the inner city schools.

Similar problems exist in some rural schools–remember, each town runs its own school system.  So if you live in town where the majority of the population thinks education is just a luxury and educated people are uppity snobs, that’s going to be reflected in the standards your school uses, the teachers it hires, even the culture of the school itself.

I don’t get the kids who graduate from Wilton  High School, where they’re required to take coordinated sequences in hitory and literature (one sequence in American, one in world starting with the Greeks),  one full year of American government, si courses in arts (history of painting and sculpture, history of theater, history of music), and on and on and on.

Send your kids to the Wilton, Connecticut, public schools. They’ll get one of the best educations available in the world.  It’s better than all but the very top rank even of US private schools.

But they won’t end up in my classrooms.  The kids who end up in my classrooms went either to inner city public schools, or to rural schools witout much use for education, or–and this is the kicker–to better schools in districts where there is just no political advantage in fighting parents.

Places like Wilton or Scarsdale, New York, have the kinds of schools they do because they’re full of parents with first rate educations who want the same for their children.

In town where the mix is not so heavily towards the well educated parent, you get a fair number of parents who make very decent incomes, but who were never “good at school” themsleves, and who tend to take it personally if their Little Darling gets a C. 

At that point, the district has to start worrying about law suits.  So they don’t.  They create tracks with often wildly divergent curricula–one thing for the “gifted students,” another for the ones who aren’t going to do any work anyway, and whose parents will back that up.

One of the interesting things over the last few years has been to watch the response to the “high stakes testing” requirement of the No Child Left  Behind Act.

I’m not going to go into the idiocy of thinking that if a student fails it must be the teacher’s fault, but beyond that there is the fact that students must take “competency exams” at various levels IF the district is going to accept federal money.

Note the IF.  Not all districts opt to take the money.

But note something else–the tests do NOT determine if the kid is to be passed on to the next grade.  They do NOT determine if the kid is to be allowed to graduate from high school.  They are NOT sent to colleges and universities as part of the admissions process.

Schools deemed “failing” must find a way for stdents whose parents want to to go to other schools, and that’s largely it.

Middle class parents whose children fail these tests almost universally attack the tests and demand they be halted–the same is true of state-run mastery testing. 

And that doesn’t even go into the fact that these tests do not test anything really useful, as far as I can see.  They certainly don’t test cultural reach or a general body of knowledge. 

So the first thing I’d do is ask your friends if they came from NY City or one of the suburbs, and then if they went to public, private or parochial schools.

And if they went to school in Westchester Country–well, yes, they’d have gotten an excellent education.

But my kids don’t live in Westchester County.

Written by janeh

August 5th, 2009 at 8:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Lowest Common Denominator

with 7 comments

Cathy asks what the inner city kids in Philadelphia are being taught–all I can say is that if they’re at all like my bottom-remedial students, the answer is:  nothing.

Conservatives who complain that inner city students are being denied the classics because they’re being fed a diet of “grievance literature” are missing the point.

Grievance literature would be a step up.  What they’re mostly being fed is:  nothing.

Which brings me back around to something one of the posters made me think of the other day.

Robert says we should assign more popular genre fiction in elementary school and high school in order to get kids interested in reading.  Gail says she tried to give her students “Araby.”

What is it that we actually teach these days in “English” classes not aimed at the top ten percent of our students?

Well, to the extent that we do “classics” at all, they tend to begin and end in  Edgar  Allan  Poe.   There’s nothing particularly wrong with Poe.  He’s a truly bad writer in some ways, and an interestingly good one in others, and if you approach his work the right way you can teach a lot about the formal aspects of poetry and the construction of plot and the place of emotion in fiction.

But my kids don’t get any of that.   If they’ve been assigned Poe, it’s because the curriculum committee of the English department thinks they’d be willing to read it because it’s “scary.” 

Poe also, interestingly enough, manages to skirt most of the hot button issues for high schools these days–it’s unusual for one of his characters to smoke, and descriptions of food are minimal, so he isn’t promoting unhealthy eating.  The relationships between men and women lack the overarching context of most nineteenth century fiction, and that avoids a whole nest of worms.

Do worms have nests?  Where the hell does that phrase come from?

Okay, I haven’t had enough caffeine this morning.  Yet.

But–Poe, and the relationships between men and women.

My kids have heard about sexism, and about how women were oppressed in all kinds of ways before the modern era.   They couldn’t vote!   Horrors!  Of course, most of my kids don’t vote, wouldn’t vote, and declare that politics just bores them, so the lesson is less striking than it might be otherwise.

But the big kicker is this–most of my kids have never heard of a time when a baby born out of wedlock was shunned as “illegitimate.”

They’ve heard that it used to be hard for women to get divorced, and that women used to be looked down on for having sex when they weren’t married, but this is nowhere near the kind of leap that the thing about babies is.  This entire culture has become extremely relaxed about sex in most ways, but the slut stigma still exists for girls.  They know what that is.

What hits them like a truck is the information that a child born out of wedlock beore the era in which they’re living generally did not have the right to use her father’s name, did not have the right to any child support from that father, and did not have the right to inherit anything her father might leave when he died.

Take that further and tell them that illegitimate children, as adults, were often denied ordination in various religious denominations, entry into some Roman Catholic religious orders (nuns and monks both), and election to public office (because nobody would vote for them).  Tell them that parents objected to their children marrying somebody who was born illegitimate.

Tell them all that and then watch them hit a mental wall.  Assuming you can get it through to them at all–and I’ve gotten pretty good at it–they get indignant very fast.  Why is everybody punishing the baby?   The baby didn’t do anything wrong!

If shared cultural references are necessary to being able to read, so is a developed understanding that not everything you’re familiar in your life has always been the way it is now.

My kids have no sense whatsoever that the very America they’re living in used to have different rules than it does now.   They’re aware that people do things differently in different countries, but if the people who decided to drill that into their heads thought they’d become more tolerant and openminded as a result, it didn’t work.   Instead, my kids treat other countries with about the same interest as they treat Mars–yeah, out there somehwere people do really weird things, it’s none of their business.

But let me bring up an incident that happened in one of my classes.  I’m pretty sure I referred to it in the very early days of this blog, but it’s going to stick with me for as long as I live, so I  think I’ll repeat it.

I was trying to get my class to analyze a poem by Langston Hughes called “Theme for English  B.”  I gave them some general pointers–for instance, that the word for “English essay” in the old days used to be “English theme”–and then  I figured they’d be sure to know what the rest of the thing was saying, because, you know, they’re supposed to get all that stuff about racism and oppression in high school these days.

It got to the part where the narrator goes back to his room in the Harlem Y, and I asked the kids why he did that.  Columbia is a residential university.  There were dorms right on campus.  Why was Hughes living in the Y?  And in Harlem rather than in Morningside Heights?

I got nowhere.   Not even a guess in the right direction.  When I pointed out that the narrator, being black, wouldn’t have been allowed to live in white dorms, I got tootal shock.  There was a time when black people wouldn’t be allowed to live in the dorms because they were black?  Seriously?   Wasn’t that against the law?

They have no shared cultural references, but they have no shared historical references, either.  What they read in high school–and what the textbooks for college freshman English courses increasingly provide–is a diet of long and short memoirs, plus a few pieces of fiction the faculty thinks they might find relevant. 

And they can’t read.  They really, really, really can’t read.

Phonics can only do so much.

Written by janeh

August 4th, 2009 at 7:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Stuff to Know

with 3 comments

So–John says there’s “no longer an adult canon” and Michael asks if most people knew Shakespeare’s references anyway…

So let’s start there.

First, there is still definitely an adult canon.  A canon isn’t just a set of books everybody decides they want to know, or even that a bunch of people in power decide everyone has to know.

A canon is a vocabulary–it’s a language in which the people of a culture speak. 

And it’s not necessary that the people be able to read to speak it, either.   I don’t know about rural peasants in Shakespeare’s time, but his plays were wildly popular with the urban–and illiterate–lower classes, who picked up their cultural vocabulary in church and in (again) fairy tales.

We have a great deal of really wonderful art because the literate upper classes knew just how important it was that the illiterate lower classes be able to understand that canon, or at least the basic ideas and images of it.

They would, of course, have called that saving their souls.

But no culture in history has ever been able to survive for long without a shared cultural vocabulary, and this culture (meaning American, now) would fall apart in a heartbeat without it.

For better or for worse, we have spent the last century embarked on a great experiment to prove the whole of human history wrong–to prove that it is possible to take people of different races, ethnicities, religions and personal histories and make them into a single self-identified nation.

We took seven thousand years of “identity is blood and soil” and said, “nope, don’t have to do that, that’s the stupid way, we can do it better.”

What makes Americans Americans is a shared cultural vocabulary.  And most Americans have it.  It may not be the canon as traditionally understood–I’d make a good case for why it’s desperately important that every American know who and what Superman is–but it’s a canon nevertheless.

We’ve spent the last forty years or so pretending that this is not true, and that it does not matter what kids learn while they’re growing up, in school or out, but we’ve done it while keeping a dirty little secret.

The higher you want to go up the ladder of success and power in this country, the more of that canon you’d better know. 

A black kid with an absent father and a crack addicted mother who wants to sell her to a pimp for drugs is at more of a disadvantage because her school didn’t teach her fairy tales and the Federalist Papers than because of anything else in her background.

I used to tell my children that the most important thing was to make sure they knew how to read, because if you could read you could always find out for yourself what you needed to know.

An at least glancing acquaintance with an at least skeletal component of the canon is necessary to being able to read.   It’s impossible to get through the op-ed page of the daily New York Times without a singularly vast array of cultural knowledge, and not just the highbrow stuff, either.

Most of us have this culural vocabulary so deeply embedded in our minds by the time we’re adults that we don’t think of it as anything anybody has to learn in the first place.   We blow past references without even realizing they’re references because we know them so well, they feel “obvious,” or automatic.

And even distinctly low-brow, mass-trash stuff–stuff meant to sell to people who know virtually nothing–automatically assumes a fairly broad cultural vocabulary.  It was one of the shocks of my life when I realized that a solid majority of my students didn’t understand the lyrics to half the rock and pop songs they declared they  loved. 

Go look at the lyrics to a song called “Love Story” by Taylor Swift.

We no longer teach a defined canon of works in elementary and high schools because we’ve decided not to teach it.  That decision is not a force of nature against which we cannot hope to prevail, but a choice. 

As to that cable television service with the one hundred channels–most of them are showing the same things over and over again in different orders.   CSI versions alone appear on more than a dozen different channels on my cable system, the mini-true crime documentaries (American  Justice, Cold Case Files, Forensic Files, City Confidential) show up on A&E, Bravo, ID, Sleuth, Tru TV, and Bio, among others. 

A country without a shared cultural vocabulary is at best a mess of warring factions.  This country without a shared cultural vocabulary is a country on the brink of a civil war.

But the act is that we have such a shared cultural vocabulary.  We’ve just given up making sure that our least privilieged citizens acquire it. 

And to change that, I don’t think we need to change the schools–it would e nice, and it would help, but it seems to me to be too much trouble to bother.

We do need to start being honest about what an enormous disadvantage it is for a kid to walk into a college classroom–where we say we’re determined to put him–without it.

Written by janeh

August 3rd, 2009 at 8:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Good References

with 8 comments

I was, interestingly enough, thinking just what Mique was–that the people who were actually here during the election have a far different take on the Palin situation than the people who weren’t.  I’ll just leave it at this–I think it’s probably not a good idea to take the ramblings of the more infuriating members of RAM all that seriously, and that as far as I’m concerned, Palin didn’t get slammed nearly hard enough.  

But let’s take a look for a minute at the kind of thing that I get into knots over, given a large  population of Ignorant and Proud of It students to consider when I actually teach introduction to literature.

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading a Terry  Pratchett novel called Witches Abroad.  I think  I mentioned it.

Pratchett novels are often full of references so esoteric, they make your head spin, and the novels are definitely better experiences if you get all or most of these. 

In Witches Abroad, the actualy esoteric references are minimal, but there are still references, lots of them, and if you don’t get them, the book is going to be completely mystifying to you.

But those references should be general–they’re the kind of thing that people like those of us here tend to think that “everybody” knows.   They’re the kind of thing that when  I say my kids have no context, people automatically (and without realizing it) except in their minds in a category called “but she doesn’t mean that kind of thing.”

What you have to know a lot about to understand Witches Abroad is…fairy tales.

You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.  Cinderella.  The three little pigs.  Frog princes returned to human form by a princess’s kiss.   Fairy godmothers.  Rapunzel.  Sleeping Beauty.

Pratchett is not an expository writer.  He gives you minimal prose and lots of dialogue, not a whole lot of glimpses into the way his character’s heads work from the inside, just straightfoward plot and dialogue, so that the entire meaning of the book (or of some of them) endes up being lodged in the references.

If you don’t get the references, you may get a few good laughs–Pratchett can be very funny–but you’ll have no idea what the hell the book is actually about. 

Pratchett’s best book is called Small Gods, and it’s definitely one of the three I’d have with me on a desert island if I was going to be stranded for life.  It’s one of the most interesting takes on religion I’ve ever read, and probably the best  Christian novel I’ve ever read, and that in spite of the fact that Pratchett is a fairly straightforward and outfront atheist in his private life.

Witches Abroad is not as dense or complex as that, but it’s an interesting take on the kind of people who “want to make you happy whether you want to be or not.”

It’s also an interesting take on how narrative–or thinking in narrative–can warp and ruin people’s lives.

And it is, as is most Pratchett, very funny.

But.

The chances are good that I’m not going to be able to use this book any more successfully than I have been able to use Small  Gods, and for the very same reason–a solid majority of my kids won’t know the fairy tales.

And no.  I’m really not exaggerating.

For many years, I gave a classroom exercise in point of view by asking my kids to retell the story of the three little pigs from the point of view of the wolf, or Cinderella from the point of view of the ugly stepsisters.  I had to give it up, because the exercise is useless when performed by people who have never heard the original story, or who have only heard it in class right before I ask them to write, because I tell it to them.

Think about this for a minute.

How is anybody supposed to be able to teach literature to students with no shared culture at all–at least, no culture they share across generations.

Forget trying to explain “Bartleby the  Scrivener” or “A Rose for Miss Emily.”  They’d find it nearly impossible to decipher Poe or Twain.  And if they have been taught one of these novels–say, Huckleberry Finn–in high school, they’ve been given a standard spiel about politics or race as an explanation of what the book “means.”

And politics and race are the good news.  At least an explanation like that connects the book to the real world.  Too often, what they get is an endless boring stream of “spot that symbol!” blather, sort of a game show approach to reading fiction.

I think it was W.H. Auden who is supposed to have been asked what children should read in school, and to have answered, “it doesn’t matter, as long as they all read the same thing.”

And I get that, but I think it does matter at least to this extent–we need to give our chidren at leas some experiences to share with ourselves.   I should think fairy tales would be right at the top of that list.  

By now, I think everybody reading this must be aware that I’m not much interested in the iea of doing this through the schools.  I think schools are a bad place to do it in, for a lot of reasons.

But surely there’s got to be some way, outside of controlling the institutions, that we could make sure every six year old knows the story of Cinderella, or of the three little pigs.

If we could find a way to get the basic bible stories out there–Adam and Eve, Noah and the Arc, even Sodom and Gomorrah; and yes, to atheist children as well as Protestant ones, if only to make Shakespeare comprehensible–that would be even better.

Written by janeh

August 2nd, 2009 at 8:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Invincible Ignorance

with 7 comments

That’s actually a term in Roman Catholic theology.  It refers to the state of someone who, no matter how determined to know Christ, cannot do so–originally, because he was living in a place the Gospel had not been brought to and so had never heard of it, but later also applied to people who have had experiences of the church so horrendous that they can’t get past them (like, I presume, the victims of priest pedophilia).

But it’s a good term for this discussion, for a number of reasons.

Let me start by pointing out that I would have fel the same way about Sarah  Palin–as she presented herself during the campaign–if she hadn’t been running for anything at all.

It has nothing to do with what schools she went to, or whether she’s for or against abortion, or has a large family. 

It certainly has nothing to do with whether she hunts.  Practically everybody I know up here hunts.  For some families in the far northwest corner, it’s the only way they get meat in the winter.

In fact, what bothered me about Palin wasn’t even her ignorance.   Ignorance is a disability, but it’s curable if you want to cure it.

What bothered me about Palin was that she didn’t want to cure it. 

In fact, she made it perfectly plain that she had no intention of doing anything to cure it, that she was just peased as punch to be bone ignorance, because that made her a “regular person,” and that anybody who pointed out what she didn’t know was just practicing “gotcha journalism.”

Sorry, but there’s no place for me in a party that is willing to take somebody with that atitude and present it to the country as something to emulate. 

I also think that most of what you think were complaints about her “lifestyle” were in fact just code discussions for this attitude. 

If the Republicans had nominated a garage mechanic from Duluth who’d responded to his lack of knowledge on the necessary subjects by going, “gee, okay, let me WORK on that,” and then gone ahead and worked on it, I’d have thought the experiement was admirable.

But it looked to me as if the Republicans didn’t want that garage mechanic.  What they wanted was somebody who would do just what Palin did–parade her ignorance as a badge of honor and declare the superiority of stupid over intelligent, ignorant over educated. 

For what it’s worth,  I don’t think Palin got slammed any worse than Clinton did during the run-up to the impeachment.  At least, I’m sure that there were no U.S. Congressmen giving backyard firearms demonstrations meant to “prove” that she’d killed someone.

And I don’t think that this is peculiarly the function of American politics.  Nothing Palin was slammed with looked worse than what I used to read in the British tabloids about  British politicians on a regular basis–or what you could read about President  Bush in supposed respectable German newspapers right through the end of the administration.

And the country vindicated my faith in it, so I’m not going to have a complete meltdown here.

But this started as a discussion about ignorance, and it’s ignorance–and not politics–I wanted to talk about.

I don’t have a “damn the audience” attitude.  I’m simply not willing to cater to people who think the standard of value should be whatever they’ve managed to pick u with the least amount of effort.  

That attitude–and the attitude that everything should be brought down to that level ifit is to be valid as art–is more dangerous than Sarah Palin’s lack of knowledge about Russia could ever have been.

In the meantime, I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad, which was a huge best seller, is funny as hell–and would require an education much better than mine to catch all the references he uses.

You don’t have to cater to stupid to write a successful novel, even for the popular market.

You do have to accept the fact that there are some audiences not worth having.

Written by janeh

August 1st, 2009 at 8:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Bad Behavior has blocked 737 access attempts in the last 7 days.