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CLASSICAL  March 2005

CLASSICAL March 2005

Subject:

Re: Crumbs From The NPR Table

From:

George Melillo <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 2 Mar 2005 15:29:44 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (92 lines)

Arch writes:

>>You can't make schools teach things that the elected representatives
>>of the people do not support.  It amounts to saying: the People should
>>not control Education.  Think about it.  You might believe in it, but
>>you cannot say it without looking like an idiot.  I say it, because I
>>don't care, and around here I'm called "Idiot."

Steve Schwartz:

>It seems to me that you're opening a door you don't want to open.  For
>example, the Texas state legislature, in its wisdom, proclaimed, with
>the force of law, the value of pi (the ratio of a circle's circumference
>to its diameter) at 3, because multiplying by closer approximations was
>too hard.  We also see the efforts of people to put Creation Science
>(which isn't science) into public curricula.  I don't want to drive on
>a bridge designed by someone who never learned to calculate.  I don't
>want to be treated for disease by someone who has no idea what a scientific
>test is.  Call me a snob.  In short, I don't believe education a sole
>matter of familiarizing oneself with popular

It seems that you, Steve, are missing the thrust of Archimedes' comments.
Archimedes is saying: if you want to hold education to standards independent
of majority rule, you are effectively saying that you don't want the
"People" to control education.  Though it is a little unclear, Archimedes
seems willing to bite the bullet, so no doors have been opened.  Pointing
out that one consequence of your beliefs looks unpleasant need not imply
that you should abandon your beliefs.  It might just be an attempt to
illuminate the price at which you hold them.

By the way, I hope it is obvious that you're not a snob if you have
the good sense to hold your beliefs independent of their popularity, or
if you disagree with what most people believe everyone believes (notice
the qualification).  If you are perceived as showing contempt for others,
as well as offering as a justification for that contempt superficial
analyses of the perspective of others, *and* you happen to ally yourself
with a tradition that has a history of being defended as the sole province
and also the cultural bludgeon of the intellectual, political, and
economic elite - well, you will be accused, rightly, of snobbery.
Otherwise you probably won't.  People complain about the anti-intellectual
vein in American culture, but I've never had a problem explaining my
love for classical music on the bus or in the street.  Maybe that's
because the ordinary person knows full well how to tell someone with
class prejudice from someone who reads the New York Times or listens to
Stravinsky.  In fact, I find that most people still have an instinctive
(and unwarranted) respect for people who have some familiarity with
culture.  That is, not only do I think that the anti-intellectualism and
general ignorance of people is blown out of proportion and misinterpreted,
I still think that cultured people retain a magical aura that they just
don't deserve.

I can give an example.  I taught philosophy for two years in Texas.
When we read the Euthyphro in our intro class, my students instinctively
reacted against the obvious lack of piety in Socrates' reasoning.  I
remember one student breaking into tears.  It wasn't easy.  During one
class my students spontaneously asked me what sort of movies I watched,
and added that I probably didn't like "entertainment." Those of you who
have taught will recognize the way students play with and test their
instructors, though this incident also had a certain element of respect
to it: they were simply confirming whether I, like the rest of their
teachers, existed at an unreachable height.  The group had formed a
reasonable hypothesis that reflected their social experience and was
testing it.  "No," I told them, "there is nothing wrong with being
entertained, so long as entertainment doesn't crowd out other important
aspects of life." The tension evaporated and I passed the test.  For
once, instead of puffing himself up and making others feel stupid,
somebody at the front of the room had admitted the obvious.  What did
my class think of me?  They made it perfectly clear time and again.  Was
I smart? Yup, and my students knew it.  Was I a snob?  Well, in this one
case I had avoided that little moral danger.  They knew that too.  In
this respect they seem to have been our superiors, because they had
pretty easily mastered that distinction.  And these are people who may
just want to see creation science in their schools.

I could multiply examples.  I remember the time we discussed the social
importance of football in Texas, using as a prop a filthy editorial in
the college newspaper concerning all the sexual abuse we were going to
visit on the opposing team, and the time I was treated like a respectable
source of information concerning foreign affairs, even though that
information contradicted their "popular prejudices." I've seen this time
and again.

So, I don't know, maybe people don't persecute us for our intellect.
Maybe the sullen, stiff (profound?) person who doesn't know how to dance
to Brittany is misinterpreting the vibes of the good-natured people
enjoying the party, and at the right time and place, treated with respect,
the party-goers are more than willing to talk about "what matters," or
maybe even to listen to some new and difficult music...

yours,
George Melillo
[log in to unmask]

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