Quotulatiousness

April 13, 2014

Reason.tv – Glenn Reynolds on the Future of Higher Education

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:48

Published on 10 Apr 2014

“It’s kind of a weird thing that’s happened with American society — this idea that you have to have a college degree to be a respectable member of the middle class,” says Glenn Reynolds, professor of law at the University of Tennessee and purveyor of the popular Instapundit blog. Reynolds’ latest work, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself, looks at the higher education bubble and how parents, students, and educators can remake the education system.

Reynolds sat down with Reason TV‘s Alexis Garcia to discuss why Americans are spending more for a college education and how students are responding to increasing tuition costs. “Given how expensive it is to go to college, there has to be a return sufficient to make it worth the time and especially the money,” Reynolds states. “You’re seeing declining enrollment in some schools and you’re seeing much more price resistance on the part of both parents and students.”

The discussion also includes Reynolds’ take on school choice, the upcoming elections, the current state of the blogosphere, and whether or not both political parties are necessary. Nearly a decade after Reynolds published An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths, the blogfather still remains optimistic about technology’s ability to empower the individual and inspire grassroots movements.

April 11, 2014

Virginia bans campus “free speech zones”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:51

The way the fight for free speech has been going, you might be forgiven for reading that headline as “Virginia bans free speech”, but fortunately it’s actually a significant improvement in the right of university students to speak freely:

On Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill into law effectively designating outdoor areas on the Commonwealth’s public college campuses as public forums, where student speech is subject only to reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. Under this new law, college students at Virginia’s public universities will not be limited to expressing themselves in tiny “free speech zones” or subject to unreasonable registration requirements.

HB 258, championed by its lead patron Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly unanimously. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) urged the passage of the bill and testified on behalf of the legislation in hearings in both legislative houses.

“FIRE thanks Governor McAuliffe, Delegate Lingamfelter, and all of Virginia’s delegates and senators for coming together and supporting this legislation,” said FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn. “One in six public colleges in the United States unjustly restricts student speech with free speech zones. Thanks to this new law, public institutions in Virginia will no longer be among them.”

Restricting student speech to tiny “free speech zones” diminishes the quality of debate and discussion on campus by preventing expression from reaching its target audience. Often, institutions that maintain these restrictive policies also employ burdensome permitting schemes that require students to obtain administrative permission days or even weeks before being allowed to speak their minds. Even worse, many of these policies grant campus administrators unfettered discretion to deny applications based on the viewpoint or content of the speakers’ intended message.

April 9, 2014

QotD: “Perhaps being a boy is a learning disorder”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

… more children are being diagnosed with “autism spectrum disorders” than ever, specifically that diagnoses have gone from one in about a hundred and fifty to about one in sixty eight. A lot of these diagnoses are for children with extremely mild Aspergers, right at the borderline between normal (whatever that is) and Aspergers. Now this may be a result of more people suffering from ASD’s, especially extremely mild Aspergers, as a result of cumulative mutations and pregnant women being exposed to environmental risks. Or it could be that ever since the Fed’s started throwing money at diagnosing and providing educational services for kids with ASD’s they have become the diagnoses de jour. In fact, it is worth noting that since the Feds started throwing more money at ASD’s and less at ADD and ADHD the number of children diagnosed with the former has increased and the latter two decreased. Apparently getting more Federal funding causes learning/psychological disorders and getting funding cut cures them.

That or educators are blowing off the needs of kids with disorders that are not “getting the love.” My own personal opinion is that favored problems get over-diagnosed and those not blessed with Fed money get under-diagnosed. Shame on the education establishment either way.

It should also be noted that whichever disorder is getting attention it seems to hit males about four times as often as females. In fact, it seems that a lot of the descriptors of symptoms for various ASD’s and ADD read like pretty normal behavior for boys.

Perhaps being a boy is a learning disorder (there’s a large number of females who would nod their head in agreement with this thesis).

A.X. Perez, “Old News Interpreted”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2014-04-06

April 5, 2014

Grade inflation at US universities

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:42

Stu Burguiere looks at the remarkable increase in higher grades handed out at US universities:

I never went to college so I missed out on all the keg parties and, apparently, a surplus of good grades.

Contrary to the concept of school as you knew it growing up, A’s are pretty easy to come by these days. In fact the only thing you have to work really hard to get are D’s and F’s. In college today, an A is over four times as common as a D or an F combined.

It’s a drastic change from the 15% of students who received A’s in 1960.

The pool is a little higher today. Ok, it’s a lot higher. If you look at this chart you’ll see that 43% of all letter grades given today are A’s.

US university grades 1960-2008

And this sort of makes sense if you think about it. No one wants to pay $40,000 a year to hear that they’re dumb.

College is one of the rare businesses in which you pay them and at the end of the experience they tell you how well they did. If you’re a parent and you send your kids to school and they get A’s you feel good about the purchase. But if your kids get F’s you feel like they wasted your money.

And amazingly these institutions of higher learning, that do little other than indoctrinate kids against the evils of capitalism, sure do understand incentives.

March 17, 2014

Tokenism watch – PhD models

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:06

Martha Gill is underwhelmed by Betabrand’s use of PhDs as runway clothing models:

‘Hey ladies, you might have PhDs, but really you all want to be models’

Is there no job you don’t need a ludicrous set of qualifications for nowadays? Clothing company PhD, in a fairly ill-defined attempt to, I don’t know, raise awareness or something, have hit upon a novel concept for a fashion shoot: recruiting only models with PhDs.

“Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?” founder Chris Lindland said in a statement. Supporters have greeted it as a feminist move, saying it helps to promote “different kinds of female role models”.

Hmmm. Does it? I’m really not so sure that it does.

[...]

I mean, I see what they’re trying to do. They are trying to broaden the public’s idea of models, make them more representative, and show that being intelligent is something to aspire to, too. They just haven’t managed to do this. In any way.

You see, what I think they’ve done here is confuse the term “role model” with “clothing model”. The drive to make models more “representative” (see also Dove’s “real women” campaign) is actually setting up modelling to be far more aspirational than it is. It takes as read that being a model is the pinnacle of feminine achievement, and all we need to do to make girls feel good about themselves is to tell them they, too, can all be models. Even if they’re PhD students.

But models are just models. Really, really, ridiculously good-looking people doing what, when it comes down to it, is a fairly crap job.

The photo chosen to accompany the article in the Telegraph is why I originally wrote “runway model” instead of “clothing model”. The photos in the Daily Mail taken from the Betabrand website are much less … ridiculous than the Telegraph implies. They’re just modelling ordinary clothing for ordinary women, not the weird and totally impractical stuff some clothing designers foist on their runway models at fashion shows.

Betabrand PhD model example

I’d say there’s no story here (despite blogging about it), but there is. It’s just not quite the drive-by that the Telegraph‘s photo editor wants it to be. Betabrand scored a lot of free advertising and (probably) got its clothing line modelled on the cheap as well. It’s rather amusing that the Daily Mail is significantly more realistic in their coverage of this story than the Telegraph.

February 12, 2014

As a class, writers are world-class procrastinators

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:15

Megan McArdle gets to the source of so many writers’ problem with getting the writing done:

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talent kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English class. Your stuff may not — indeed, probably won’t — be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fear of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fear of turning in something terrible. But I’ve watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. These are all college graduates who can write in complete sentences, so it is not that they are lazy incompetents. Rather, they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.

Update: I just added this comment on the Facebook link, and realized it should have gone into the original posting. “Do read the whole linked item … I just grabbed a small section that talks particularly about writing. If you suffer from “impostor syndrome” or have experience (either side) with “helicopter parenting” or if you are (or work with) Millennials, there’s something in this you should read. (It’s excerpted from her new book, which I’m adding to my “must obtain soonest” list.)”

January 31, 2014

QotD: The love of music

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:49

Of all forms of the uplift, perhaps the most futile is that which addresses itself to educating the proletariat in music. The theory behind it is that a taste for music is an elevating passion, and that if the great masses of the plain people could be inoculated with it they would cease to herd into the moving-picture theaters, or to listen to Socialists, or to beat their wives and children. The defect in this theory lies in the fact that such a taste, granting it to be elevating, simply cannot be implanted. Either it is born in a man or it is not born in him. If it is, then he will get gratification for it at whatever cost he will hear music if hell freezes over. But if it isn’t, then no amount of education will ever change him he will remain stone deaf until the last sad scene on the gallows.

No child who has this congenital taste ever has to be urged or tempted or taught to love music. It takes to tone inevitably and irresistibly; nothing can restrain it. What is more, it always tries to make music, for the delight in sounds is invariably accompanied by a great desire to make them. I have never encountered an exception to this rule. All genuine music-lovers try to make music. They may do it badly, and even absurdly, but nevertheless they do it. Any man who pretends to a delight in the tone-art and yet has never learned the scale of C major any and every such man is a fraud. The opera-houses of the world are crowded with such liars. You will even find hundreds of them in the concert-halls, though here the suffering they have to undergo to keep up their pretense is almost too much for them to bear. Many of them, true enough, deceive themselves. They are honest in the sense that they credit their own buncombe. But it is buncombe none the less.

H.L. Mencken, “The Allied Arts: On Music-Lovers”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.

January 28, 2014

New Zealand primary school descends into anarchy by “ripping up the schoolyard rules”

Filed under: Liberty, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:45

In a breathtaking display of anarchy, an Aukland primary school got rid of all their playground rules and let the little savages do whatever they wanted. As you’d expect, the results were catastrophic and the kids will need to undergo therapy for the wanton violence they unleashed. Well, no, not really:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

J.D. Tuccille hails the rise of spontaneous order:

Youth is a relatively low-risk time to test your limits and discover what hurts and what doesn’t. Kids are practically rubber, so when they fall down off a bike or out of a tree, it may be a jolt, but it’s unlikely to do permanent damage. The lessons they learn about what’s fun and what’s painful can be retained for later in life when the stakes are higher. I know that I gained a relatively low-cost understanding of the world wandering the streets unescorted as an eight-year-old than I would have if I’d been “protected” from the world around me, and I suspect the same is true of most kids everywhere.

And, of course, kids get to burn off a lot more steam when they play free than they do when adults ban tag and running. Those rules are imposed by adults who live in fear that children will damage their little selves, but that leaves the tots chock full of unreleased energy and uncertain of the limits of their worlds — limits they’ll have to discover when they’re older and the consequences can be more severe (or else they won’t discover at all as they internalize the fear in which they’ve been marinated).

January 7, 2014

The “politicization” debate about the First World War

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:54

In sp!ked, Frank Furedi says that the row in Britain over the centennial of the start of World War 1 isn’t really about the war at all:

Somehow, the First World War has come alive. Suddenly, everyone in Britain seems to have strong views about its causes, meaning and the way it is taught in schools and represented by the entertainment industry.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, is certain that the Germans started the war. Michael Gove, the Conservative secretary of state for education, concurs, insisting that the ‘ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites’ and their ‘aggressively expansionist war aims’ made ‘resistance more than justified’. Gove, who believes Britain fought a ‘just war’ back in 1914, has denounced ‘left-wing academics’ and cynical TV shows like Blackadder for mocking Britain’s role in the conflict.

The Labour Opposition has dutifully done what it always does — attack Gove. Labour’s shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, said in response to Gove that ‘few imagined that the Conservatives would be this crass’. He also reminded his opposite number that the left played an honourable role in the Great War. Labour activist Sir Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in Blackadder, also joined the fray, accusing Gove of ‘slagging off teachers’.

This looks and sounds like a debate about the past — but actually, its main drivers are contemporary conflicts over cultural values and political opinions.

Hunt claims Gove is using history for political ends. No doubt he is right. However, Hunt himself, and other Labour-supporting critics of Gove, fail to acknowledge their own complicity in the politicisation of the current debate on the meaning of the First World War. When they depict Gove’s attack on media cynicism about the war as just another example of him ‘slagging off teachers’, what they’re really doing is continuing today’s education debate under the guise of talking about the past.

January 5, 2014

Excerpt from Glenn Reynolds’ new book

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:19

The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt from The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself, the latest book by the Instapundit himself:

Though the GI Bill converted college from a privilege of the rich to a middle-class expectation, the higher education bubble really began in the 1970s, as colleges that had expanded to serve the baby boom saw the tide of students threatening to ebb. Congress came to the rescue with federally funded student aid, like Pell Grants and, in vastly greater dollar amounts, student loans.

Predictably enough, this financial assistance led colleges and universities to raise tuition and fees to absorb the resources now available to their students. As University of Michigan economics and finance professor Mark Perry has calculated, tuition for all universities, public and private, increased from 1978 to 2011 at an annual rate of 7.45%. By comparison, health-care costs increased by only 5.8%, and housing, notwithstanding the bubble, increased at 4.3%. Family incomes, on the other hand, barely kept up with the consumer-price index, which grew at an annual rate of 3.8%.

For many families, the gap between soaring tuition costs and stagnant incomes was filled by debt. Today’s average student debt of $29,400 may not sound overwhelming, but many students, especially at private and out-of-state colleges, end up owing much more, often more than $100,000. At the same time, four in 10 college graduates, according to a recent Gallup study, wind up in jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Students and parents have started to reject this unsustainable arrangement, and colleges and universities have felt the impact. According to a recent analysis by this newspaper, private schools are facing a long-term decline in enrollment. More than a quarter of private institutions have suffered a drop of 10% or more — in some cases, much more. Midway College in Kentucky is laying off around a dozen of its 54 faculty members; Wittenberg University in Ohio is eliminating nearly 30 of about 140 full-time faculty slots; and Pine Manor College in Massachusetts, with dorm space for 600 students but only 300 enrolled, has gone coed in hopes of bringing in more warm bodies.

Even elite institutions haven’t been spared, as schools such as Haverford, Morehouse, Oberlin and Wellesley have seen their credit ratings downgraded by Moody’s over doubts about the viability of their high tuition/high overhead business models. Law schools, including Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School and Thomas Jefferson Law School, have also seen credit downgrades over similar doubts. And now Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing legislation to give colleges “skin in the game” by clawing back federal aid money from schools with high student-loan default rates. Expect such proposals to get traction in 2014.

December 19, 2013

Changing perspectives of gender

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:19

Christopher Taylor on how women’s views of boys and men change as they grow:

Something interesting happens to most women when they get married and have a boy: they change their perspective on men. I think its not unreasonable of girls to get a certain grrl power men-are-dumb point of view in modern culture, we’re constantly bombarded with this message. It would take a pretty strong and unusual girl to resist the education that music, film, television, books, and education all imprint on her.

In college, young women are told all men are rapists at heart, and their denials is simply proof of the rape culture that menaces women constantly. Advertisements continually portray men as hapless idiotic children. With few exceptions, television shows almost always show the male characters as barely-literate frat boys and cave men. Music and movies promote the image of the all-powerful kung fu genius girl who looks hot constantly and always has the right put down to make men look bad.

But when a woman marries, she finds out guys aren’t all like that. Her husband has [his] faults, but strengths as well — or why would she love and marry him to begin with? She finds out that he’s no more immature and childish than her, just in different ways. She learns that men have strengths and abilities that women lack, just as they lack things women have.

And when she has a son, she sees things from a different perspective. That shirt that was so cool and empowering that said “Boys suck throw rocks at them” when she was 12 seems horrible and abusive when her son is the target. She finds out that her school treats boys as if they are some awful imposition that need to be drugged into submission and silenced in class. She learns that all the girl-power stuff she grew up with was at the expense of the boys.

But with a culture that so strongly tries to repress and shunt aside boys and treats men like knuckle dragging brutes, its even tougher for a boy to grow up as a man. I feel for the boys of today in school where they learn they should shut up and stop being masculine, that its awful and wrong to be a man and beautiful and good to be a woman. Growing up in the face of that can’t be easy.

December 16, 2013

Reason.tv – Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe on the High Cost of College

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:04

Published on 13 Dec 2013

“If we are lending money that ostensibly we don’t have to kids who have no hope of making it back in order to train them for jobs that clearly don’t exist, I might suggest that we’ve gone around the bend a little bit,” says TV personality Mike Rowe, best known as the longtime host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs.

“There is a real disconnect in the way that we educate vis-a-vis the opportunities that are available. You have — right now — about 3 million jobs that can’t be filled,” he says, talking about openings in traditional trades ranging from construction to welding to plumbing. “Jobs that typically parents’ don’t sit down with their kids and say, ‘Look, if all goes well, this is what you are going to do.’”

Rowe, who once sang for the Baltimore Opera and worked as an on-air pitchman for QVC, worries that traditional K-12 education demonizes blue-collar fields that pay well and are begging for workers while insisting that everyone get a college degree. He stresses that he’s “got nothing against college” but believes it’s a huge mistake to push everyone in the same direction regardless of interest or ability. Between Mike Rowe Foundation and Profoundly Disconnected, a venture between Rowe and the heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Rowe is hoping both to help people find new careers and publicize what he calls “the diploma dilemma.”

December 14, 2013

Literacy and demographics

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:37

David Warren invites a lot of knee-jerk reaction with this passage in a recent essay:

Whether in West or East, however, the mechanism of societal disintegration is the same. It could be described in one phrase as “the liberation of women.” The modern economy lures women away from home and family with (ludicrously false) promises of wealth, pleasure, and freedom. Industry required a more docile labour force, the State required revenues from double-income taxation. At a level more fundamental than economics, the times have offered atomizing ideologies — the promise of “democracy” in which everyone will be treated the same, whether man, woman, or some other thing. As Goldman has rather plainly shown (and Roberts showed long before him), we must cherchez la femme.

For women are, as they have always been, the bedrock of both family and religion. Men have, and will be by nature (whether this is recognized or not) the hunters and gatherers and bread winners. There is no point in debating this, for either one gets it or one is wilfully obtuse. A certain minority of talented women have always flourished outside the home, and perhaps a like proportion of men not flourished in the absence of any marketable skills — but the case is straightforward in the main. What we have been enduring, for a century now, is an attempt to change the order of the world by social and sometimes genetic engineering; with results clearly visible all around us, to say nothing of the grief and loneliness and self-pity that each of us is carrying inside.

Curiously enough, Goldman homes in on a statistical fact that Roberts elided. It is that a sharply increasing female literacy rate is a more or less infallible predictor of demographic collapse, in all non-Western countries. Or as I mischievously put it, on Twitter only last night, “statistically and objectively, the quickest way to destroy a nation is to teach their women to read.”

This remark would invite several gallant qualifications. The modern emancipation of women began in the West, where Christian teaching had always accorded women the greatest respect. The social changes were therefore slower and easier to assimilate, here. It is when what happened more gradually in the West, happens more suddenly in the East, that the transformation becomes catastrophic. The whole ancestral order of society comes down, in one generation rather than four or five. And they haven’t seen the worst of it yet, for the West had accumulated reserves of wealth, with which to pay some pensions and geriatric bills. The East will face a more dramatically ageing population, without the reserves.

November 19, 2013

QotD: Education and aptitude

Filed under: Britain, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:14

Every time a liberal sees someone behaving badly they sigh and say, “They just need education,” but the solution to America’s problems is less education, not more. If we got over this myth that everyone needs infinite academia, we would have less unemployment, more manufacturing, a stronger economy, less student debt, and less school tax. The economy would be stronger and we would all be happier. Ironically, in an effort not to hurt anyone’s feelings, we developed a system where everyone has to go to college, even the stupid people, until we all feel like shit.

When everybody’s special, nobody is. Getting everyone into college means you have to dumb down the curriculum until it is nothing but meaningless drivel that has no application in the real world. Colleges aren’t going to complain when you stick them with more customers. They just take the check, lower the bar, and say, “Come on in.” But getting a gold star on your math test does not a computer programmer make.

When my dad was a kid in Scotland, Britain was practicing a very successful exam system called 11-plus. Dad came from a huge working-class family and as is often the case, one of them had an IQ much higher than the others. They all took their 11-plus test at age 11. His brothers did fairly poorly and he did incredibly well. The brothers were then diverted from academia and put into trade schools, whereas my father got scholarships for private school and eventually got a degree in physics from Glasgow University. The brothers did very well working at a printing press and now lead fulfilled lives as proud tradesmen. My father went on to develop sonar equipment that called the Russians’ nuclear-submarine bluff and helped lead to the fall of communism. This was all thanks to the 11-plus system and it worked beautifully for over 30 years until 1976 when the egalitarians decided it was cruel to admit that some kids are simply not as smart as others.

Not only is this kind of thinking the stupidest. It’s stupidist. What’s the matter with not being smart? As Hemingway put it, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Have you ever seen a genius at a water park? He’s miserable. The only time people with an IQ over 120 are really happy is when they’re at work. They’re basically our slaves. Dumb people ride ATVs with their sons, go bungee jumping, and laugh their heads off when somebody farts. Many of them are also rich.

Gavin McInnes, “A Nation of Working-Class Dropouts”, Taki’s Magazine, 2013-08-23.

November 16, 2013

QotD: Petronius was right

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:57

Sometime in the mid-first century a.d., an otherwise little known consular official, Gaius Petronius, wrote a brilliant satirical novel about the gross and pretentious new Roman-imperial elite. The Satyricon is an often-cruel parody about how the Roman agrarian republic of old had degenerated into a wealth-obsessed, empty society of wannabe new elites, flush with money, and both obsessed with and bored with sex. Most of the Satyricon is lost. But in its longest surviving chapter — “Dinner with Trimalchio” — Petronius might as well have been describing our own 21st-century nomenklatura.

[...]

Another farce in the Satyricon involves the nonchalant ignorance of Trimalchio and his guests. The wannabes equate influence and money with status and learning and so pontificate about current events, with made-up mythologies and half-educated references to history. When Trimalchio and his banqueters begin to sermonize on literature, almost everything that follows turns out to be wrong — as Petronius reminds us how high learning has become as inane a commodity as food or sex, and only sort of half consumed, rather like the 2008 campaign of faux Greek columns and Vero possumus, which were supposed to convey gravitas.

Likewise, in our version, what does a $200,000 Ivy League education or a graduate degree really get you any more? In the sophisticated world of our political and highly credentialed elites, there are 57 states. Atlantic Coast cities are said to lie along the Gulf of Mexico; after all, they are down there somewhere in the South. The Malvinas become the Maldives — Ma- with an s at the end seems close enough. Corps-men serve in the military (as zombies?). Medgar Evans was a civil-rights icon, but you know whom we mean. President Roosevelt addressed the nation on television after the stock-market crash in 1929 — well, he would have, had he been president then and if only Americans had had televisions in their homes. And how are we to know that what we read from celebrity authors is not just made up or plagiarized, whether a Maureen Dowd column or a Doris Kearns Goodwin book?

The famously nouveau-riche Trimalchio’s guests drop the names of the rich and powerful, mostly to remind one another that they are now among the plutocracy that is replacing the old bankrupt aristocracy. We too are seeing something like that metamorphosis. It is hard to guess on any given summer weekend which populist progressive family — the Obamas, the Clintons, the Kerrys, the Gores — will be ensconced on what particular Hamptons, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard beach, rubbing shoulders with just the sort of Silicon Valley or Wall Street new zillionaires who during work hours are supposed to be the evil “1 percent” and “fat cats” who need to be forced to pay their “fair share.”

Victor Davis Hanson, “An American Satyricon”, National Review Online, 2013-08-27

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