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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Educated idiots

'JD' contacted me today to say (order slightly altered):

Post in The Conservative Woman today about Gates and his plan to 'seed' the atmosphere with calcium carbonate to 'protect' the earth from the sun. I had read about this last year but it is planned for June this year in northern Sweden. Recently Elon Musk called Gates a knucklehead; an optimistic assessment of his intelligence.

But it comes back to what I wrote in one of my posts: the ignorance of politicians, civil servants, academics, 'experts' and the over-educated. Here is a perfect example which I recently sent to Wiggia. His one word response was - blimey!

The man in the video, Tomasz Schafernaker, is a meteorologist who worked at the Met Office. This appearance on Would I Lie To You is not only unbelievable but is unforgiveable. Even David Mitchell was lost for words.

We are back to one of my hobby horses; those in the green corner are usually highly educated and ignorant. You will know by looking at their weather page that they are fully on board with all this climate change nonsense and green issues. 

School is where you go to learn how to be stupid and university is the finishing school where you go to have the remains of your brain given a quick rinse in the latest woke fads.

I have often noted how 'celebs' on quiz shows seem more ignorant than contestants drawn from the general public. 

How to account for their success? I assume that it's down to focusing narrowly on what gets them where they want to be. I think that is a winning strategy in a situation where generally we are safe and secure and the social/work/political hierarchy has been settled. All you need to know is your performing role, and who to suck up to and amuse.

We inhabit a complex social and linguistic structure, mistaking human words and power relations for reality. Only when disaster strikes are we made to wake up truly - think of how the butler become the boss in The Admirable Crichton, when his practical and organisational skills become essential to the survival of an upper-class party shipwrecked on a desert island.

Ironically, the term 'woke' as used today really means 'in a fantasy' - riding political hobby-horses while remaining astonishingly ignorant. The first time I heard the modern usage was when watching 'Breaking Bad', when the chemistry teacher Walter White is finally provoked by poor pay and conditions and the scorn of his students into breaking his civilised conditioning and turning wholeheartedly to crime: 'I am awake,' he says ominously, meaning the exact opposite of the baby-idealism of cocksure, semi-educated 'woke' youngsters.

Our world is complex but artificial, like the Mayan building complexes left to rot in the encroaching jungle when calamity overtook that society. In my days as an English teacher, I used to attend meetings of the National Association for the Teaching of English; it was all politics, progressivism and 'skills' - leading to today's schooling that concentrates on teachable-and-testable duckspeaking about 'fronted adverbials' while airbrushing out much of our literary heritage, with its embarrassing links to religion, history and classical learning. I said we have become experts in abstractions, but cannot name the plants we see when we go outside; they looked at me as though I were mad.

Ah, learning. My friend's three children spent never a day in school; two each went on to do two degree courses in Europe (one is dyslexic and only decided to learn to read at age ten), while the third has travelled widely and walked into jobs lacking a fistful of exam certificates but having a powerful and engaging personality. 

At one stage, the young lady felt she might need formal academic guidance on one course, and went to a sixth form college in the Midlands. She soon gave up, saying that her fellow students didn't really want to learn and (possibly as a result) the teacher didn't really want to teach. She went on to get first-class honours in mathematics.

Modern society and its unbelievable wealth depend on STEM subjects - even just to maintain the systems we have, let alone develop further; and to provide for the 7.7-billion-plus humans on the planet, most of whom are trying to attain the Western standard of living. Meanwhile, as my American brother tells me, university managements cut away at the budgets of 'hard' academic disciplines while boosting business management courses (you can never have enough Pointy-Haired Bosses) and pouring millions into college sport.

You never know what knowledge will turn out to be useful. I recall seeing a TV programme that mentioned an episode in the North Africa campaigns in the Second World War, in which an American general (Patton?) remembered a detail in the Old Testament (Joshua, Chapter 8?) about how the ancient war-leader used a valley to hide a force to ambush the foe; the modern officer looked for and found the dip (not observable from a distance) and so managed to smuggle a column past the enemy's position.

Again, there is an anecdote told by David Niven of a discussion with Winston Churchill in 1941:

’Do you think, sir,’ I asked, ‘that the Americans will ever come into the war?’ He fixed me with that rather intimidating gaze and unloosed the famous jaw-jutting bulldog growl. ‘Mark my words—something cataclysmic will occur!’ Four weeks later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

“Months later, when we were once more at Ditchley, I asked if the Prime Minister remembered what he had said so long ago. His reply gave me goose pimples.

“‘Certainly I remember.’
“‘What made you say it, sir?’
“‘Because, young man, I study history.'”

That sort of learning informed the great man's gambles - not all paid off, but enough did.
Do our leaders today have that breadth and depth of learning that will save us in time of peril? Or do they, like Crichton's social superiors, have a 'little man' who sorts everything for them? Is it the right 'little man'? How would they know?


Scrobs. said...

Hope I'm not butting in with another history anecdote but...

A couple were visiting Blackpool when they noticed a tent with a sign, “Big Chief Howling Wolf – He Remembers Everything”.

The husband decided to give it a go so he paid his money and asked his question, “Who won the FA cup final in 1915?” and the Chief replied straightaway, “Sheffield United!”

Ten years later the couple were making a return visit to the town and were surprised to see that the tent was still there. The husband again decided to test the Chief’s memory, and, as the BBC keeps telling us, being some time ago, his language was what ‘we’ now consider unacceptable.

As he entered the tent he said, “How!” And the Chief, without looking up said, “Three nil, Kitchen scoring the final goal.”

(coat applied for as well as half-eaten hat...)

MrMC said...

Part of the problem may be that one can "google" something quite easily, and learning does involve a little more than that, the simple act of reading commits more to memory than watching a video I think, it demands more application and attention.

Ritchie Blackmore, the Deep Purple guitarist said recently that "anyone can now find the tablature online of any song and copy it whereas we had to learn by ear"

Facts are easy to find online, whether they are real facts is lost to those who do not know how to search for references, which is why we have "fact checkers" how lazy, why not check oneself ?

decnine said...

"...why not check oneself ?"

Because you may collide with the Truth.

A K Haart said...

Interesting. Higher education does appear to generate what Burke called the "ethics of vanity". Not universally of course, but we certainly see it. Socially and financially we seem to encourage it.

Sobers said...

Nassim Taleb came up with the moniker 'IYI' a while ago to describe such people - Intellectual Yet Idiot.

Sackerson said...

I have also seen/heard the term 'midwits.'

Paddington said...

@MrMC - the idea that one can 'just look something up' has infested Colleges of Education in the US, to the point that they happily equip all students with tablets, and then can spend lots of time doing God knows what in the classroom.

They ignore the fact that, to actually think about things, and form coherent models of the world, you first need to know some things.

This is the major problem with teaching the 'theories' in Mathematics before learning how to perform the operations.

Paddington said...

@Sackerson - the only 'nonsense' in the discussion of Climate Change is the fact that so many are still ignoring actual data, including the vanishing glaciers worldwide, Arctic ice extent, etc.

The people, like Lord Monckton who make their fame going around the world claiming that things are not happening, have been caught repeatedly simply lying about data and scientific papers.

People don't believe it because they don't want to, and our comfortable modern life makes it possible to do so, in the short term.

If you really don't believe it, go buy a nice retirement place in the Maldives (maximum height 5 feet above sea level).

MrMC said...

I did learn some stuff at uni, one interesting fact is that water is the most harmful climate gas, something the bbc morons either do not know (likely) or ignore, oh btw methane is pretty nasty too.

Sackerson said...

@P: You are referring to JD's remarks, in the first section.

Oddly, there are many rich famous and powerful people who have bought beachfront properties - I think Barack Obama is one.

Paddington said...

I suspect that they are a little more than 5 feet above the waves.

Paddington said...

@MrMC - You are correct about greenhouse gases.

Now, what happens as the oceans and atmosphere warm? More evaporation, and higher capacity to store water as well.

MrMC said...

The funny (or tragic) thing is, everyone knows it: as a cloudless day will lead to a cold night, because there is no water in the sky to hold the heat in

MrMC said...

@Paddington, I think you may be referring to a feedback loop which is probably why other planets lost their atmosphere, as for evidence of climate change, any fisherman can tell you that, the breeding cycles of carp are changing so the closed season for freshwater fishing are no longer relevant.
As for water, it was a while ago now, too long but I recall having to produce an essay on the wonders of water, it is unique among liquids with surface tension, density when frozen and if one thinks sulphuric acid is nasty, water has much better ability to dissolve things.

Paddington said...

@MrMC - That's why I drink wine and Scotch.

Sackerson said...

@P: pickling prolongs usefulness.

Paddington said...

@Sackerson: Typically only for vegetables and dead meat

Sackerson said...

@P: what are you shaying, Shir?

Paddington said...

@Sackerson - that I am useless old meat. Yesterday, all I did was look after the animals, fiddle on the internet, and make dinner.

Sackerson said...

@P: in other words, the life of the idle rich.