Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Frontier schoolhouse

I do love a curmudgeon, especially one who writes well.

Here's an excerpt from an especially incisive essay in The New York Review of Books by Charles Simic.

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of high school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past. I recall being stunned some years back when I read that a majority of Americans told pollsters that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 terrorist attacks. It struck me as a propaganda feat unsurpassed by the worst authoritarian regimes of the past—many of which had to resort to labor camps and firing squads to force their people to believe some untruth, without comparable success. 

You can read the rest of  The Age of Ignorance here.

I'm not sure what to do with it all, though, other than shake my head and feel a certain smug satisfaction draped over growing dread that I'm in total agreement.


  1. And to his/your point, "we" are the best people to do something about it, but "we" have our hands super full just trying to do right by our families and our selves day-to-day ... when really doing right would be to do something about it, but there's the problem with the full hands, and it just goes on and on in a frustrating circle.

  2. The only way I can think of to combat it is to teach my kids the best I know how in hopes that the ripples will widen farther than I dream possible and to continue connecting with brilliant people like you online, if only to remind myself that I'm not alone. (Whew, helluva run-on sentence).

    It is so inexplicably sad.

  3. Frightening. I also read yesterday comments by Jeannette Winterson who said our sophisticated technological resources now stop us from being anything other than highly superficially informed. There is no more research, poring over things, slowness. There is a whole new way to qualify knowledge, it is instantaneous, fickle and quite meaningless.

    Wise words.

  4. Excellent article -- I posted it to Facebook! I think it's a little heavy-handed, but his main point is certainly true enough.

  5. Spending time talking about the news as opposed to watching TV is good, I think.



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