recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : smartness   11

Teju Cole — Sitting Together in the Dark - The On Being Project
"Writer and photographer Teju Cole says he is “intrigued by the continuity of places, by the singing line that connects them all.” He attends to the border, overlap and interplay of things — from Brahms and Baldwin to daily technologies like Google. To delve into his mind and his multiple arts is to meet this world with creative raw materials for enduring truth and quiet hope."



"I’m going to go back to a word I used earlier, which is how much help we need. We sometimes think of culture as something we go out there and consume. And this especially happens around clever people, smart people — “Have you read this? Did you check out that review? Do you know this poet? What about this other poet?” Blah blah blah. And we have these checkmarks — “I read 50 books last year” — and everybody wants to be smart and keep up. I find that I’m less and less interested in that, and more and more interested in what can help me and what can jolt me awake. Very often, what can jolt me awake is stuff that is written not for noonday but for the middle of the night. And that has to do with — again, with the concentration of energies in it.

Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet, who died — can’t remember; maybe 2013 he died. He seemed to have unusual access to this membrane between this world and some other world that, as Paul Éluard said, is also in this one. Tranströmer, in his poetry, keeps slipping into that space.

In any case, I just found his work precisely the kind of thing I wanted to read in the silence of the middle of the night and feel myself escaping my body in a way that I become pure spirit, in a way. I remember when he won the Nobel Prize, which was in 2011. We live in an age of opinion, and people always have opinions, especially about things they know nothing about. So people who were hearing about Tranströmer for the first time that morning were very grandly opining that his collected works come to maybe 250 pages, that how could he possibly get the Nobel Prize for that slender body of work? — which, of course, was missing the fact that each of these pages was a searing of the consciousness that was only achieved at by great struggle. I think the best thing to compare him to is the great Japanese poets of haiku, like Kobayashi or Basho."



"But I wrote this today, and — for a long time now, but very definitely since January 1 of this year, I’ve been thinking about hospitality, because I wanted a container for some things I didn’t know where to put about the present moment. Who’s kin? Who’s family? Who’s in, who’s out? And just thinking this whole year about the question of hospitality has given me a way to read a lot of things that are very distressing, in this country and in the world, around the border but also around domestic policy. So this one goes against the grain, but I needed to put it down.

“The extraordinary courage of Lassana Bathily, an immigrant from Mali, saved six lives during a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes in 2015. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, François Hollande.

“But this is not a story about courage.

“The superhuman agility and bravery of Mamadou Gassama, an immigrant from Mali, saved a baby from death in the 18th Arrondissement in May 2018. He was rewarded with French citizenship by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

“But this is not a story about bravery.

“The superhuman is rewarded with formal status as a human. The merely human, meanwhile, remains unhuman, quasi-human, subhuman. Gassama crossed the Mediterranean in a tiny boat — that was superhuman, but no one filmed that, he remained subhuman, and there was no reward.

“Such is Empire’s magnanimity. Merci, patron. Je suis tellement reconnaissant, patron.

“The hand that gives, it is said in Mali, is always above the hand that receives. Those who are hungry cannot reject food. Not only those who are hungry but those who have been deliberately starved. But soon come the day when the Hebrews will revolt and once and for all refuse Pharaoh’s capricious largesse.

Hospitality.”

Because I wanted to think about this beyond what seemed, to me, too easy — the headlines, the gratitude — “Oh, he was heroic. He was like Spiderman, and the French government did a great thing and made him a citizen.”

How did we get here? Why is this enough? How did we get into the position where he kneels down to receive the crumbs?

If I were still on Twitter and I wrote that, I might get cancelled. You get cancelled when you’re out of step with the general opinion."



"I just find that anything really loud and hectic can just last for a moment, but it does not get to that deepest place, that place of self-recognition, which becomes indistinguishable from other-recognition, which is continuous with world-recognition. So I’m attracted, in all the arts, to those places where something has been quietened, where concentration has been established. I think one of the great artistic questions for any practitioner of art is, how do you help other people concentrate on a moment? This photograph, it’s a frontal portrait of a young woman, but it’s not a posed portrait. She’s in a crowd, and he has photographed her. She’s African-American, but her skin is dark, and he has made it darker still in the way he has printed it so that your first thought is, “Oh, could we lighten that a little bit?” And then you think, “No — no, no, no. Why am I feeling this way about this image?” In all the arts, there are those moments that are as though somebody has made the gesture of raising a palm, which is not a stop sign, but a — ”Attend, hush, listen.”

I think those are the moments we really live for in art, the moment where the artfulness falls away, and all that is left is that thing we don’t have a better word for beyond poetry."



"This is going to be my worst misquotation of the evening. But Toni Morrison talks about — we die, and that may be the — does anybody know it? — that may be the length of our lives or span of our lives; but we do language, and that may be the meaning of our lives — something in that direction. And I think it is somewhere in there. A frank confrontation with the facts is that between two cosmic immensities of time, you are born, you flare up for a moment, and you’re gone. And within two generations, everybody who knew you personally will also be dead. Your name might survive, but who cares? Nobody’s going to remember your little habits or who you were. So one meaning of our lives might be that we die.

But then the other is this other thing that has nothing to do with the noise out there — advertising, arguing on social media, which we all can get tempted into — or even our personal disputes or even our anxieties, even our struggles — but some other thing that is like this undertow that connects us to everyone currently alive and everyone that has lived and everyone that will live. So I think there’s just the stark, existential fact. It’s not fashionable to take up labels or whatever, but on some level, I’m sort of an existentialist. I don’t think it necessarily has a grander meaning. I certainly don’t believe that God has a wonderful plan to make it all OK. I used to. I don’t believe that anymore. You die; I don’t know what happens. I talk to my dead; I don’t know if they’re anywhere. You die, and it hurts people who love you.

But then, the other thing is that if there’s no grander, larger meaning, in real time there does seem to be a grand and large meaning. Right this minute, this does seem to be something that is real, that might not be meaning but comes awfully close to it: to be sitting together in the dark of this political and social moment, to be sitting together in the dark of what it actually means to be a human being, even if this were a euphoric political moment.

So there’s the grim view of, we’re not here for very long, and LOL no one cares, and then there’s the other thing, which is when your favorite song gets to that part that you love, and you just feel something; or when you’ve had a series of crappy meals and then finally, you get a well-spiced, balanced goat biryani — you know, when the spices are really fresh? Black pepper — a lot of people get black pepper wrong. Really fresh black pepper — and you have this moment.

So these moments of pleasure, of epiphany, of focus, of being there, in their instantaneous way can actually feel like a little nudge that’s telling you, “By the way, this is why you’re alive. And this is not going to last, but never mind that for now.” It happens in art, and it happens in friendship, and it happens in food, and it happens in sex, and it happens in a long walk, and it happens in being immersed in a body of water — baptism, once again — and it happens in running and endorphins and all those moments that psychologists describe as “flow.”

But what is interesting about them is that they happen in real time. As Seamus Heaney says, “Useless to think you’ll park and capture it / More thoroughly. You are […] / A hurry through which known and strange things pass.”

You’re just a conduit for that. But if you are paying attention, it’s almost — I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it’s almost enough. I’m certainly glad for it. I’d rather have it than not have it.

What do you think?"
tejucole  stillness  2019  truth  hope  interconnected  jamesbaldwin  brahms  place  borders  interstitial  tomastranströmer  smartness  reading  poetry  wokeness  kin  family  families  hospitality  photography  art  silence  quietness  listening  donaldtrump  barackobama  howwewrite  howweread  writing  tonimorrison  socialmedia  noise  meaning  seamusheaney  fear  future  optimism  johnberger  rebeccasolnit  virginiawoolf  hopelessness  kalamazoo  pauléluard  primolevi  instagram  twitter 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Zombie Neoliberalism | Dissent Magazine
"For someone who demands that Democrats return to the questions of class that once supposedly drove the party, Frank has a fraught relationship with the radical left. Perhaps it’s to be expected of someone who cut his political teeth in the decades when the idea of socialism was all but dead. His books are peppered with denigrations of communists past that feel particularly dated in a post–Cold War era where many of today’s Bernie Sanders supporters and new Democratic Socialists of America members scarcely remember the USSR. He often draws equivalencies between left and right, positioning himself, like any good New Dealer, as the compromise keeping the commies at bay—the only reasonable position between two wildly irrational poles. This leads, at times, to a curiously apolitical reading of politics, one that strikes an above-the-fray pose that ignores the realities of struggle.

Frank is sharper when he examines the Democratic establishment. Listen, Liberal is a biting diagnosis of the cult of smartness that has become liberalism’s fatal flaw. Given his own weakness for pretending to float above partisan conflict, the book is a self-critique as much as anything. In previous books he glanced at the failures of liberalism, only to return to pointing out how very bad the right is. When he notes today that “Nothing is more characteristic of the liberal class than its members’ sense of their own elevated goodness,” this is an unsubtle rebuke to his own earlier assumptions.

Criticizing the fetish for smartness within the liberal class (the term that he uses for what others have called the “professional-managerial class”) puts Frank in familiar territory. His skewering of tech-fetishists from the first dot-com era turns into a skillful reading of Obama’s turn toward Silicon Valley (and the fact that so many former Obama staffers have wound up there). The failure of the “knowledge economy” has been a subject of Frank’s since way back. There is, he notes, a difference of degree, not kind, between the Republican obsession with entrepreneurs and business and the “friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans.”

Since Trump’s win, Democratic strategists have doubled down on the idea that victory lies with Frank’s “well-graduated” professional class, the “Panera Breads” or the suburban voters of Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell’s famed predictions that Democrats would make up any losses with blue-collar voters who defected to Trump by gaining ground in affluent suburbs. The most obvious problem with this strategy is that it does not approach a majority: only a third of the country has a bachelor’s degree, and only 12 percent an advanced degree beyond that. The other, and more significant, problem is that this assumption encourages a belief in meritocracy that is fundamentally anti-egalitarian, fostering contempt for those who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and Republicans already give us far too much of that.

Liberalism’s romance with meritocracy has also fostered an obsession with complexity for its own sake—a love of “wonky” solutions to problems that are somehow the only realistic way to do anything, even though they require a graduate degree in public policy just to comprehend. Politics by experts gives us a politics that only experts can understand. Complexity allows people to make things slightly better while mostly preserving the status quo and appearing to have Done Something Smart.

In Frank’s description of Hillary Clinton we see where all this leads: a feeling of goodness that replaces politics. This isn’t entirely fair, of course—for the millions of Clinton voters (and there were, we should remember, some 3 million more of them than Trump voters), one can assume that at least as many of them were motivated by her actual stated policy goals as Trump voters were by promises of jobs and a wall. Yet Clinton came up short in the key states that lost her the Electoral College as much because poor and working people stayed home than because of any sizable flip of the mythical “White Working Class,” those bitter non-degree-havers of the coastal media’s imagination, to Trump.

Feeling good about voting for Clinton because she was less crass than Trump—the campaign message that the Clinton campaign seemed to settle on—was not enough to inspire a winning majority at the polls. Feelings, Frank would agree, are no substitute for politics.


What is left of liberalism these days, then? Surveying the wreckage of the Democratic Party, one is tempted to answer: not much. On the other hand, the 2016 election (and the 2017 elections in the United Kingdom and France) show us the rise of a current presumed dead for decades. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the United States has seen the awakening of socialist politics, breathing life into the kind of class talk that Frank has yearned for his entire career. It is important, then, that we take note of the limitations of longing for a vanished past, that we salvage the lessons from recent history that Frank offers in order to move forward.

Frank’s books presume that a return to the New Deal is the best we can hope for. His frequent invocations of FDR demonstrate the problems with Frank’s take on “culture.” Many New Deal programs, after all, excluded workers who were not white men, and while the best parts of the New Deal have resisted right-wing attempts to take them down, nostalgia for its peak is similar to that which motivates right-wing populism. It is the left’s version of “Make America Great Again.”

The echoes of Kansian arguments have returned to a left grappling with the best way to respond to Trump; some have forthrightly said that pandering to presumably cultural-reactionary Trump voters is necessary, that Democrats should discard “identity liberalism,” in Mark Lilla’s words. In Kansas, Frank wrote, “If basic economic issues are removed from the table . . . only the social issues remain to distinguish the parties.” But this is also true in reverse: when Trump ran to the left on trade, denouncing deals that Hillary Clinton had backed, few people were able to successfully explain why Trump’s racism and sexism made him, still, a bad deal for working people.

Frank demonstrates both liberalism’s promise and its limitations—which are also the limitations of Bernie Sanders and those who, in trying to defend the left against its more disingenuous critics, wind up casting the New Deal–state as the apotheosis of all possible politics rather than as one temporary phase in the class war.

For it is class war that we are in, whether we like it or not, and we will not win it with smartness or with better billionaires. It is a power struggle in which the right will aim to divide and conquer, to mobilize racism and sexism to maintain a hierarchy, and the center will attempt to smooth the roughest edges in order to hold onto its own power or, what’s worse, because it genuinely believes that there is still No Alternative.

“Liberalism,” Frank notes in The Wrecking Crew, “arose out of a long-ago compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests.” In most of his books there is a brief acknowledgment of this kind of struggle—nods to what Kansas refers to as “decades of movement building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, advocating, and thankless organizing.” We need that kind of fight once again, if we are to hope for things to get better.

John Feltner of Rexnord knew; he joined his union comrades on the picket line even as he was preparing to lose his own factory job. Feltner told me about his time at “union school,” held on the grounds of the great labor leader and five-time Socialist presidential candidate’s home, and how compared to Debs’s day, neither political party spoke to him.

We need to ensure that our politics are not just a welfare-state version of Make America Great Again, a kinder fetishizing of the industrial working class that leaves so-called “social issues” out of the picture. For that hope, we need to turn to the social movements of recent years, to the growth of the Movement for Black Lives and the promise of the Women’s March and particularly the Women’s Strike, to the activists sitting in and disrupting town halls to save healthcare and even improve it, as well as the burgeoning membership of socialist organizations and the rise of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi. The groundwork is being laid, but as Frank notes, no benevolent leader is going to bring us the change we need.

That is going to be up to all of us."
2017  neoliberalism  sarahjaffe  donaldtrump  thomasfrank  hillaryclinton  meritocracy  smartness  elitism  politics  us  elections  newdeal  economics  workingclass  class  classism  berniesanders  socialism  capitalism  chokweantarlumumba  liberlaism  unions  labor  activism  organizing  chokwelumumba 
11 days ago by robertogreco
Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”

***

When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.

***

Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."



"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart
"He holds degrees from Harvard and Oxford. Like many Ivy League grads, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey. He won a national essay contest in high school. He speaks eight languages, including English, Norwegian, Maltese, Italian, French, Spanish, Dari, and Arabic. He learned Norwegian to read a favorite author in that language, and at a recent press conference, spoke with some Norwegian journalists in their native tongue. He was a Rhodes Scholar.

He’s been precocious all his life — no wonder that at only thirty-seven he’s running for president. Pete Buttigieg, son of two professors, is a classic Smart Dude, and there is nothing journalists love more. His followers even have a proudly know-it-all approach to his name, showing up at his rallies with signs explaining, “It’s Pete BOOT-Edge-Edge.” He says he’s all about “bringing forward good ideas.”

For the upper professional-managerial class (PMC), guys like this represent a dreamy ideal of human supremacy. That’s because for them, all of life is an Ivy League application. Well-rounded “smartness” is everything, even in the wake of recent news that this is not necessarily what elite college admissions are based upon.

As a result, BOOTedgedge has been the focus of a media frenzy, despite polling far behind Sanders and Biden (even 538 is skeptical of his recent much-ballyhooed jump in Iowa). CNN’s Chris Cillizza finds his resumé “remarkable.” Some call him “bookish.” Queerty.com exults that he “represents the best and brightest of our country.” A New Republic headline uses the word “Genius.”

Liberal feminists have rightly bristled at the collective ecstasy over the mighty dome of BOOTedgedge. When economist boy-wonder Alan Cole tweeted this week, “Mayor Pete seems head and shoulders smarter than the other candidates running and IMO that should count for quite a lot,” he was widely and correctly rebuked for sexism. What about Elizabeth Warren, asked Katha Pollitt, Jill Filipovic, and many others. The Twittersphere weighed in with lists of Warren’s accomplishments. Others pointed out that the tweet was possibly racist as well as sexist; Julian Castro holds degrees from Harvard, Harvard Law School, and Stanford, and Cory Booker was, like BOOTedgedge, a Rhodes Scholar, among a pile of other academic achievements.

The question of what “smart” even means and why this type of smart should matter in a presidential race got less attention. One person rightly asked, “are you sure he’s not just smart in the ways you also fancy yourself to also be smart.” No one asked why this particular form of well-credentialed “smart” should “count for quite a lot.”

That’s because while the PMC are often eager to be more inclusive about who gets to be “smart” — women, black people — they have tremendous faith in the concept itself. They love rich people whose intelligence has made them prosper: they may cringe at the science-denying Koch Brothers but they went into deep mourning when Steve Jobs died. They devour Malcolm Gladwell’s veneration of the wisdom of genius entrepreneurs over the plodding, clueless masses.

This notion of “smart” allows elites to recast inequality as meritocracy. In this narrative, you’re rich because you did well in high school and went to Princeton, not because capitalism has taken something from someone else and given it to you. Yet the culture of smart is not all smugness; it also contains a heavy dose of fear. The PMC understands that while it’s fun to brag about having a kid like BOOTedgeedge, it’s not optional (like, say, having a pet that can do weird tricks, a cat that can use a human toilet, for instance). In the neoliberal order, if you’re not born into the top 0.1 percent, you have to be “smart” and unusually talented and motivated, otherwise you will not only lose what privileges you have, but possibly not even survive. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman once gleefully proclaimed, “Average is over.”

The PMC therefore tries hard to make their children “gifted” and to nourish their talents, an effort that is supposed to culminate in the kind of august institutional validation that BOOTedgedge has enjoyed. Because they have, all their lives, felt a certain panic about the need to be college-application impressive, the PMC has come to see such impressiveness as somehow morally admirable. For people like this, the recent college admissions scandal, exposing corruption at institutions like Yale and USC, occasions not eye-rolling and wisecracks, as it does on dirtbag Twitter (this writer is guilty), but earnest hand-wringing about fairness and social justice. Smartness, to them, makes some people more deserving of the good life than others. Smartness culture is social Darwinism for liberals.

This obsession pervades the politics of the PMC. Trump’s proud ignorance and shameless pandering to the nation’s dumbness often seems to gall them more than his inhumane, death-drive policies. This class always seeks a Smart Dude as savior. Obama, of course, represents successful fulfillment of this dream, and they can’t wait to repeat it. Beto, after some initial signs of promise, has now revealed himself to be a dummy who has to ask his wife on the proper usage of “subconscious.” Hence, BOOTedgedge mania.

The quest reflects a theory of change in which, as political scientist Adolph Reed Jr remarked years ago, describing the worldview of some of his academic colleagues, “all the smart people get together on the Vineyard and solve the world’s problems.” Davos is the fullest expression of this: elites get together and showcase how smart they are, advertising how fit they are to be our ruling elites.

It’s oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of “smartness” culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad.

This Democratic primary lineup is not the worst, and within it, neither is Mayor Pete (the term used by those not quite smart enough to pronounce BOOTedgedge). He seems to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in some form. He invested in infrastructure in South Bend. He won office as an openly gay man in Mike Pence country and has a record of connecting with voters who voted for Trump. And there’s no question that he’d be a better president than Trump or some of his Democratic primary competitors. We do need a president capable of reading a book, not one reveling proudly in his ignorance like the current occupant of the White House, who seems to reflect our dumbest tendencies insultingly right back to us. (When Trump this week fantasized that a Hillary Clinton victory would have turned the power grid over to solar energy and deprived us of the joy of watching TV, the writer Tara Rose aptly observed, “He’s so perfect for the kind of stupid that we are.”) A BOOTedgedge presidency would reassure those of us who believe in things like science and logic that we have stepped back from the braying idiocy that now envelopes us like a toxic plume. Of course, that would be a pleasant reprieve.

But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. “Smart” is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: “Not Me, Us.” The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."
elitism  meritocracy  2019  petebuttigieg  smartness  lizafeatherstone  inequality  berniesanders  politics  elections  saviors  merit  liberalism  socialdarwinism  malcolmgladwell  genius 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Rethinking Giftedness on Vimeo
"We decided to work with Citizen Film to make this short film after many years of my being a professor at Stanford and hearing from students about the labels they had received growing up. Many of the students had been labelled as “gifted” or “smart,” when they were in school, and these labels, intended to be positive, had given them learning challenges later in life. Most people realize that it is harmful to not be labelled as gifted when others are. The labelling of some students sends negative messages about potential, that are out of synch with important knowledge of neuroplasticity showing that everyone’s brains can grow and change. But few people realize that those labels are damaging for those who receive them too. At Stanford many students were labelled as gifted in Kindergarten or 1st grade and received special advantages from that point on, raising many questions about equity in schools. But labels and ideas of smartness and giftedness carry with them fixed ideas about ability, suggesting to students that they are born with a gift or a special brain. When students are led to believe they are gifted, or they have a “math brain” or they are “smart” and later struggle, that struggle is absolutely devastating. Students who grow up thinking that they have a special brain often drop out of STEM subjects when they struggle. At that time students start to believe they were not, after all, gifted, or that the gift has “run out” as one of the students in our film reflects.

In the film, which I really recommend that you watch, we also hear from students from a local elementary school who shared their experiences of learning without labels. Their school does not give students the idea that some students are smart or gifted and has instead shared our youcubed messages and videos about the high potential of all students to grow and change their brains. Their math community values all kinds of learners and communicates that all students have interesting and unique ideas to share. The teachers know that careful problem-solving takes time, conversation, and lots of questions from everyone. The fourth graders who are interviewed illustrate the different ideas students can develop when they are given messages of brain growth and high academic potential for everyone, rather than messages of high academic potential for only some students.

Both labels and dichotomies are damaging in education. Instead of deciding some students are “smart” or “gifted” we should acknowledge that everyone is on a growth journey and we should celebrate the growth potential of all students. If you like this film and think it is important please share it on Facebook, twitter, and any other social media you use. We would like it to help bring about important changes in education."
gifted  labels  children  learning  howwelearn  sfsh  joboaler  2017  neuroplasticity  smartness  equity  schools  schooling  education 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Jonathan Mooney: "The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed" - YouTube
"The University of Oregon Accessible Education Center and AccessABILITY Student Union present renowned speaker, neuro-diversity activist and author Jonathan Mooney.

Mooney vividly, humorously and passionately brings to life the world of neuro-diversity: the research behind it, the people who live in it and the lessons it has for all of us who care about the future of education. Jonathan explains the latest theories and provides concrete examples of how to prepare students and implement frameworks that best support their academic and professional pursuits. He blends research and human interest stories with concrete tips that parents, students, teachers and administrators can follow to transform learning environments and create a world that truly celebrates cognitive diversity."
neurodiversity  2012  jonathanmooney  adhd  cognition  cognitivediversity  sfsh  accessibility  learning  education  differences  howwelearn  disability  difference  specialeducation  highered  highereducation  dyslexia  droputs  literacy  intelligence  motivation  behavior  compliance  stillness  norms  shame  brain  success  reading  multiliteracies  genius  smartness  eq  emotions  relationships  tracking  maryannewolf  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  punishment  rewards  psychology  work  labor  kids  children  schools  agency  brokenness  fixingpeople  unschooling  deschooling  strengths  strengths-basedoutlook  assets  deficits  identity  learningdisabilities  schooling  generalists  specialists  howardgardner  howweteach  teams  technology  support  networks  inclusivity  diversity  accommodations  normal  average  standardization  standards  dsm  disabilities  bodies  body 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Just don’t lose the magic
"“We cannot have a meaningful revolution without humor.”
—bell hooks

In a terrific piece about his writing education, George Saunders talks about getting into the MFA program at Syracuse and hanging out with his new mentor, Tobias Wolff:
At a party, I go up to Toby and assure him that I am no longer writing the silly humorous crap I applied to the program with, i.e., the stuff that had gotten me into the program in the first place. Now I am writing more seriously, more realistically, nothing made up, nothing silly, everything directly from life, no exaggeration or humor—you know: “real writing.”

Toby looks worried. But quickly recovers.

“Well, good!” he says. “Just don’t lose the magic.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about. Why would I do that? That would be dumb.

I go forward and lose all of the magic, for the rest of my time in grad school and for several years thereafter…

He later sums it up:
[S]omehow, under the pressure of suddenly being surrounded by good writers, I went timid and all the energy disappeared from my work–I’ve lost the magic indeed, have somehow become a plodding, timid, bad realist.

You see this pattern over and over with many creative people: they have this little bit of magic, a spark of something that comes naturally to them, and it’s often messy and weird and a little bit off, and that’s why they catch our attention in the first place. The odd magic is what we love about them.

Then, something happens. They decide it’s time, now, to be serious.

The wild painter whose Instagram you love goes to grad school and all of the sudden her posts get boring. A brilliant illustrator decides to write a book, a real book, one without any pictures in it, and it comes out and bores you to tears. Etc.

(Preston Sturges sends up this impulse in his great movie about a comedy director who decides he wants to make a serious film, Sullivan’s Travel’s.)

It happened to me: before I went to college, I loved poetry, drawing, and art with a sense of humor. Then, after I got to college, I decided, It’s time, now, to be serious. I started to believe in the following misguided equations:

1. fiction > poetry
2. words > pictures
3. tragedy > comedy

Eventually, I got so miserable that I threw those equations out the window, bought a sketchbook, and started reading comics again. When I graduated college, I started making my weird, occasionally funny, blackout poems. Slowly, a little bit of the magic came back.

But whenever that impulse returns, that impulse to come on now be serious, I lose the magic again. It happened most recently getting ready for my upcoming art show. That stupid voice started saying: This is a gallery show. This is Art. I need to be serious.

Cue the choke.

A few years ago, Bill Murray gave a speech to a bunch of baseball players and he ended it with this perfect bit of Zen:
If you can stay light, and stay loose, and stay relaxed, you can play at the very highest level—as a baseball player or a human being.

I keep this goofy picture of him in my studio:

[image]

It’s up there to remind me: Stay at it, but stay light. Don’t be afraid to do what comes naturally. Fight the urge to be serious. Don’t let it destroy the very thing that makes you you.

Like Tobias Wolff said, “Just don’t lose the magic.”"
austinkleon  self-care  writing  creativity  personality  billmurray  tobiaswolff  prestonsturges  georgesaunders  howwewrite  smartness  audience  messiness  weirdness  magic  individuality  playfulness  seriousness 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Granted, however…. — Medium
"There is a growing move to blame Brexit, or Trump, on voters just not trusting experts. Or being too uneducated to understand experts.

This is wrong for two big reasons beyond being contemptuous, beyond having the goal to demean those who you disagree.

Reason 1: It creates an unnecessary laziness in political discourse. Rather than really working at explaining a position, you default to the much simpler, “Well the experts say.” So when I hear arguments like, “The voters didn’t understand the consequences of Brexit,” I am also hearing, “I didn’t explain my positions very well.”

Reason 2: It ignores the huge mistakes experts have made. Like the Iraq war and the aftermath of the global financial crisis (TARP anyone!)

At the risk of borrowing from David Brooks (!), let me get a bit pop-sociology/ psychology.

The “expert class” are very slow to admit they are wrong which is a direct result of our system that rewards the most educated, and the cleverest. Rising to the top now means being clever as fuck, knowing how to game rules, and most important, being able to always argue your case.

It is almost like we now reward that kid on the playground who when tagged during recess, replies, “You didn’t ACTUALLY tag me. You only tagged my clothes. Which isn’t technically me…..” Or the person who when they lose a bet for 100 dollars, says, “I didn’t say dollars, I said, Doll Hairs.” or responds, “We never actually signed a contract.”

The experts are indeed smart. They are indeed clever. They are indeed informed. They can also be damn closed minded and stubborn. Because we reward that.

On the trading floor we called them the “Granted, however….” crowd, and they started appearing more and more as we shifted our hiring to those with resumes filled with elite education. Every argument with them was an endless game of “Granted, however….” A long spiral down more and more esoteric and absurd reasons they were right, often invoking loopholes and/or clever math.

To a lot of voters the Iraq war and the bail-out of Wall Street were huge mistakes that most of the “Granted, however” crowd defended well beyond when they should of. Some still do defend one or both. Without recognizing the harm both policies have inflicted.

The politicians that represent the expert class, Jeb Bush, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, are very clever, very smart, very informed. They also really struggle to just say, Sorry, I fucked up. (Think how Jeb stumbled so badly when asked was the war a mistake. That is partly why he lost so badly to Trump, who had no problems saying it was.)

To many voters burned over the last X years, it all ends up sounding like a big “Granted, however…..”

Granted your wages have stagnated for 40 years. Granted we went to war under false pretense. Granted we bailed out the big banks and not the general public. However, ……….”

If you disagree with the Leave crowd. Disagree with Trump. Admit the faults of the last X years. Be humble. Understand not everyone sees PhD’s as the chosen ones.

Understand elites and experts, HAVE made big mistakes.

Also. Please don’t be the “Granted, however person.” Nobody likes them. They may win arguments at debates, they may get the A+ at Harvard, but they don’t win elections. Not at least these days."

[in reaction to: https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/28/its-time-for-the-elites-to-rise-up-against-ignorant-masses-trump-2016-brexit/ ]
chrisarnade  jamestraub  brexit  elitism  classism  2016  cleverness  education  experts  psychology  donaldtrump  politics  discourse  smartness  stubbornness  rulingclass  humility  humbleness 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]

"Cornel West is a different kind of civil rights leader. His below-the-radar presence at racial flash points across America recently, stands in stark contrast to many of the more traditional civil rights leaders and their bright light press conferences.

Some of the new generation of African-American activists seem to be gravitating towards West, a charismatic academic scholar who doesn't lead an organization or have an entourage.

Cornel West has a message about how poor and disadvantaged Americans are being treated today and he can be searingly provocative on matters of race, never more so than when he criticizes President Obama.

Cornel West: When I call the president a black puppet of Wall Street, I was really talking about the degree to which Wall Street had a disproportionate amount of influence on his policies as opposed to poor people and working people.

James Brown: Why use such harsh language with-- showing no respect for the office of the president?

Cornel West: I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, and so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh. In that sense I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. So all of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one not to speak politely sometimes.

Eight years ago, Cornel West was a fervent supporter of candidate Barack Obama. Today, he blames the president for not doing more on issues like income inequality and racial justice. A product of the turbulent sixties, West has joined protests led by civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter. Here in Ferguson, Missouri, he was one of many arrested for civil disobedience.

James Brown: The young people who are leading the Black Lives Matter charge, you're all behind them?

Cornel West: Oh, very much so. I think that's a marvelous new militancy that has to do with courage, vision. The fundamental challenge always is will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice. You got to push 'em toward love and justice.

James Brown: Why do you think you have that kind of currency with young people?

Cornel West: They know that I take their precious lives seriously. When I go to jail in Ferguson and say quite explicitly, "I'm old school, and I want the new school to know that some of us old folk love y'all to death" and they hear that and say, "Well, dang, you know, we might not always-- agree with this brother, but this Negro looks like a fighter for justice."

[March: This is what democracy looks like. Justice!]

Nyle Fort: I think a lot of young people really gravitate towards him not only because he's a giant of an intellectual, he is somebody that you want to be around.

Nyle Fort is a 26-year-old activist and religion PhD student at Princeton. He first saw West speak at a rally four years ago.

James Brown: The manner in which Dr. West has been criticizing the president. Your reaction?

Nyle Fort: I think it's important for us to listen to the substance of his argument. And I think that his critiques not just of President Obama, but of our current state of democracy in this country, the current state of the world, is something that we need to pay attention to.

A favorite on the lecture circuit, we were with him at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, when the crowd of 1,500 broke into applause before he said a word.

Then, for more than an hour, an extemporaneous journey filled with biblical passages and quotes from philosophers and poets about decency and virtue. All in support of West's warning about the dangers of inequality.

Cornel West: I have nothing against rich brothers and sisters. Pray for 'em every day. But callousness and indifference, greed and avarice is something that's shot through all of us.

Cornel West has diverse influences to say the least; crediting jazz giants John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan with helping him understand human suffering. West sees civil rights pioneer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of the great treasures of the 20th century.

Cornel West: It's never a question of skin pigmentation. It's never a question of just culture or sexual orientation or civilization. It's what kind of human being you're going to choose to be from your mama's womb to the tomb and what kind of legacy will you leave.

Cornel West was born 62 years ago in Oklahoma, but grew up in Glen Elder -- a predominantly black neighborhood near Sacramento, California. He is the second of four children. His father, Clifton was a federal administrator and his mother, Irene was a teacher. They were a close-knit, church-going family.

Cornel West: I feel as if I have been blessed to undergo a transformation from gangster to redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.

James Brown: You actually were a thug when you were a youngster?

Cornel West: Oh absolutely, I got kicked out of school when I was seven-- seven years old.

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

Cornel West: I refused to salute the flag because my great uncle had been lynched with the flag wrapped around his body. So I went back to Sacramento and said, "I'm not saluting the flag." And teacher went at me and hit me, and I hit back. And then we had a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali moment right there in the third grade.

Clifton West: He was the only student I ever knew that came home with all As and had to get a whipping.

Clifton West is Cornel's brother, best friend and was his role model growing up. He says behind his little brother's bad behavior, was a relentlessly curious mind.

Clifton West: We had this bookmobile. And we would come out, and check out a book, and go on back in the house and start reading it. So Corn, at one point, I don't know how long it took, he had read every book in the bookmobile.

James Brown: Excuse me?

Clifton West: I don't know it had to be 200 books, easy. And the bookmobile man, who was a white guy, went to all the neighborhoods, little chocolate neighborhoods, saying, "There's this guy in Glen Elder that read every book in here."

Anecdotes like that convinced teachers to give their troubled student an aptitude test. West's recorded IQ: 168.

Cornel West: I got a pretty high score. So they sent me over all the way on the other side of town. Mom used to drive me all the way to school and then drive back to her school where she was teaching first grade.

The new school had a gifted program that challenged his mind and changed his behavior.

James Brown: Was that when you first grabbed hold of the notion that you were smart?

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why Elites Fail | The Nation
"While smartness is necessary for competent elites, it is far from sufficient: wisdom, judgment, empathy and ethical rigor are all as important, even if those traits are far less valued. Indeed, extreme intelligence without these qualities can be extremely destructive. But empathy does not impress the same way smartness does. Smartness dazzles and mesmerizes. More important, it intimidates. When a group of powerful people get together to make a group decision, conflict and argumentation ensue, and more often than not the decision that emerges is that which is articulated most forcefully by those parties perceived to be the “smartest.”

It is under these conditions that destructive intelligence flourishes."
judgement  wisdom  ethics  smartness  gamingthesystem  class  power  destructiveintelligence  intelligence  psychopathy  empathy  2012  oligarchy  education  us  inequality  elites  policy  society  politics  meritocracy 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Making smart on Env
"Smart people can take something complex and express it faithfully in different, especially simpler, terms. They can interpret and reinterpret. If you want to make something smart, it’s tempting to do smartness to your topic until you’ve condensed it into some admirably lucid interpretation, then hand that to the audience and wait for the applause. Sometimes this is what’s needed. But it isn’t how to make smart things. A smart thing is something for a smart person. However many interpretations you put in it, however fertile they are, you leave room for more.

You do this because you respect what you are interpreting and you do it because you respect your audience. It’s a lot like being considerate. And that’s how you make smart things."
making  writing  subjectivities  balance  interpretation  dryness  comments  audience  clever  cleverness  criticism  superiority  disdain  milankundera  kitsch  storytelling  airs  malcolmgladwell  ted  smartness  authenticity  entertainment  art  nervio  thomaskincade  beauty  humor  neilgaiman  2012  consideration  smarts  smart  charlieloyd 
may 2012 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read