Yet another weird SF fan

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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How about Those Navier–Stokes Equations?

According to William Deresiewicz:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness.
It might be easier if his education were in a field that was about something in the real world, instead of about each other's opinions about the real world.

To make matters worse, he then went on to say:

I also never learned that there are smart people who aren’t “smart.” The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools, precisely because their students (and faculty, and administrators) possess this one form of intelligence to such a high degree, are more apt to ignore the value of others. One naturally prizes what one most possesses and what most makes for one’s advantages. But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense. One needs to wander away from the educational elite to begin to discover this.

I strongly suspect that plumbers need analytic intelligence a lot more than they need those three other forms. This rhetoric might even be a way for humanists to try to prove that they're better than the experts in real-world subjects while simultaneously looking humble.


Anonymous TJIC said...

> This rhetoric might even be a way for humanists to try to prove that they're better than the experts in real-world subjects while simultaneously looking humble.

I think you've nailed it exactly.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Yeah, my pretentious douchebag alarm is going off. What's next, a confession that he's spent so long thinking of himself as special that he's done a horrible disservice to all those Special Olympians out there?

There was some anchor on CNN confessing his personal sins against Gaia or whatever today - sometimes he forgets to turn the tv off! He drives an SUV - alone! (See, he's just like a regular guy!) It's all just posturing for the plebs... they must be starting to worry about populism and their lack of popularity.

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Vader said...

It reminds me of the university humanities department (afraid I can't recall which one) which experimented with having the professors and janitors swap jobs now and then.

It was meant to show that the professors were humble people who recognized the inarticulate wisdom of the masses. What it really showed was that the department wasn't in a real academic field requiring any actual knowledge or expertise.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Cambias said...

Note that the article is copyright 2011, but all the snarky references to the "entitled mediocrity" of the current President are about George W. Bush. Evidently this Ivy League genius couldn't be bothered to edit his essay which has been making the rounds for the past four years or so.

1:54 PM  

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