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America the Illiterate

Posted on Aug 31, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  A dog-costume contest in 2008. (Tina Fineberg / AP)

Chris Hedges is on vacation and will return to writing his weekly Truthdig column on Sept. 5. While he is on break, we are republishing some of his past columns. This one originally ran on Nov. 10, 2008.

We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities. 

There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book. 

The illiterate rarely vote, and when they do vote they do so without the ability to make decisions based on textual information. American political campaigns, which have learned to speak in the comforting epistemology of images, eschew real ideas and policy for cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation. Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness. They thrust us into an eternal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of permanent amnesia. It is style and story, not content or history or reality, which inform our politics and our lives. We prefer happy illusions. And it works because so much of the American electorate, including those who should know better, blindly cast ballots for slogans, smiles, the cheerful family tableaux, narratives and the perceived sincerity and the attractiveness of candidates. We confuse how we feel with knowledge. 

The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless.  They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed. They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans. Images and slogans are all they understand. Many eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap but because they can order from pictures rather than menus. And those who serve them, also semi-literate or illiterate, punch in orders on cash registers whose keys are marked with symbols and pictures. This is our brave new world.

Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The reality of the narrative is irrelevant. It can be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount. The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek or want honesty. We ask to be indulged and entertained by clichés, stereotypes and mythic narratives that tell us we can be whomever we want to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities and that our glorious future is preordained, either because of our attributes as Americans or because we are blessed by God or both. 

The ability to magnify these simple and childish lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives these lies the aura of an uncontested truth. We are repeatedly fed words or phrases like yes we can, maverick, change, pro-life, hope  or war on terror. It feels good not to think. All we have to do is visualize what we want, believe in ourselves and summon those hidden inner resources, whether divine or national, that make the world conform to our desires. Reality is never an impediment to our advancement.



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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie: LOL!

Shenonymous:  We agree that our freedom of speech is in jeopardy, but from INTOLERANCE in general.  Add to that FISA and the Patriot Act, which has the result of curbing speech by intimidation as well as violating our right to privacy (which I believe is inate in the constitution, though not specifically articulated) and our freedom from warrantless search and seizure (writ of habeas corpus).  Our constitutional rights and freedoms have been sorely compromised over the last eight years.  The War and Emergency Powers Act of 1933 started the downhill slide, but 9/11 in combination with an imperial presidency has practically finished the job.

Arius:  I believe we have sparred before.  On this we do agree.  As a college English teacher, my first lecture was on the afflictions I called “she-be-we-be” (incorrect conjugation of the PRESENT TENSE of the verb “ro be” started primarily in the black culture) and “they-wuzzies” (incorrect usage of the PAST TENSE of the verb “to be” in the lower-class white culture).  Equally is abhorrent and usually results in the individual being passed over for employment or promotion.  Knowing when to use the vulgar and venacular and when to speak proper business English is a growing problem in our society, and grows worse with each successive generation.

KDelphi:  Perhaps I was not effective in setting forth my view.  I do not support private or faith-based, religious schools getting funds EVER.  Charter public schools are OK providing they do not neglect basic education (the normal curriculum) for whatever special focus they are intended to offer in the arts, math, science, etc.

As a former musician, I am concerned that access to serious music education is almost non-existent in most schools today (at any grade level).  Because education is the “great equalizer,” I believe that the arts (music, dance, theater, fine arts) are just as important as math and science.  Since the ‘80s our society has approached education from a somewhat utilitarian point-of-view, which has virtually eliminated music, dance and the arts from public education curricula.  And many families in the lower economic brackets cannot afford private lessons, instruments or facilities (for dance or theater) to allow their children to pursue the arts.

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By Arius, November 13, 2008 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

“By WorkingMan, November 13 at 4:23 am #
(Unregistered commenter)

Once again, Chris Hedges presents a great, well-reasoned piece that I think, once again, goes too far.

He rightly lambasts the Christian Right for being “unmoored” from reality, but he suggests that Obama’s slogans of “hope” “change” and “Yes we can” are cut from the same cloth.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Yes, I understand he has appealed to the less-literate with a somewhat simplistic campaign, and a TV blitz. But what was he supposed to do? Educate the population first himself, and THEN run for office?

You play the hand you’re dealt, and he found a way to promote the support of education and science while bringing some reality back into the picture regarding energy and foreign relations.

Perfect? Not even close. But to suggest, as Hedges has repeatedly, that Obama and the Republicans are two sides of the same coin, is to ignore reality…”


Obama has no history, no resume, no specifics and offers only “change you can believe in”.  Sorry but imo those who bought this hogwash are the epitomy of what this article above is talking about.

I’m a liberal independent who fully supported Clinton and worked to get her elected. I witnessed the corruption in the primaries and caucuses, I had to sit by (like many) and watch the Obama camp steal the nomination.. as the nation and the Obama-slobbering-media did nothing but play the sexist misogyny card.  The topic in general isn’t even worth discussing for me and not meant that way-  I’m still too raw with anger, anguish, disappointment and resentment at how this entire election season went down. 

I love watching the news but everytime I turn it on all we see or hear is slobbering over Obama-  I’m still in meltdown mood shaking my head and wondering what happened to my country that allowed masses to back the messiah Bush, and then Obambi-

But I think your comments above are dead wrong saying the article’s comments about Obama’s campaign are misguided.  They are in fact right on target.  Those who can’t see that, sorry, but imo, are just who the article is inferring about.

I haven’t posted on this site in a long long time (until last night) so i don’t recall if it allows html but we’ll try this, so I can offer up this old blog post- here

Now I’m off to a periodontist :(

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Arius, that was precious, and you are priceless for giving it to us.  It does say it all.

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother using the word “consumption” to describe some sort of physical problem, like TB or another disease?

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By Arius, November 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

“Sometimes, people correct grammar and spelling or typos, because they dare not attempt the latter” (regarding thinking and intellect)

OUCH! well that could be an interesting debate, but then there are ppl like myself who have annoyances- I can’t let a car pass without checking the license plate to see what state it is from- I quiver when I see “anyways” or “first off” or “he don’t” or “I got” (in place of “have” which seems to have been removed from the english language altogether). 

It’s just a huge annoyance for me to see teens and adults who seriously can’t figure out “to” or “too” or “two” .... or “there” or “their” or “they’re” -  or “ei” or “ie” or “s” (non american version) or “z” ——-  I mean come on!  (lol)

I have no problems with typos or caps on simple posts because I personally have a hard time with my cap key on my laptop from my usual position when surfing- 

But honestly, I find it rather scary when ppl are trying to make very serious, intelligent posts on some sites and seriously can’t spell worth shit! smile

lastly,  we shall never forget this little goodie:

it’s priceless and says it all-


“Only difference is that those with computers who can actually surf the net and are able to type even with two fingers will be the denizens.  Actually I think more learning will occur and the more we humans read and write (and the Internet demands both)the more perhaps understanding will improve?  I donno, maybe? “

I thought of this too when reading this article-  the simple fact that this wonderful invention (the www) has forced people into reading regularly, even if it is mostly “lol” and “imo”- it is a start to getting ppl in the (need) for reading fundamentals- 

as for the 2 fingers- thank god I took typing wayyyyyy back when I was in school!

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By Anarcissie, November 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

‘Laura, thank you for supplying the opposite of ‘consumerism’ but ‘intellegent consumption’ has too many sylables.  It wouldn’t work on TV. Anarchists who are reiventing the wheel are too impatient for long words or phrasses, even those of us with a “desire for excellance and a thirst for knowledge,” should any appear.  Inquiring minds want to know, Laura, but not too much.’

Oh, I don’t mind “intelligent consumption”.  It has only one more syllable than “Intelligent Design”, and look how popular that is.  However, if it means what it appears to mean, it’s only a refinement of consumerism: we’re to be more discriminating in our choice of things to consume, but we’re still interested in getting and using more and better stuff.

The question I asked, about the difference between consumer(ist) culture and subsistence culture, was inspired by my construal of capitalist production into two phases, subsistence production and consumerist production.  In the first phase, capitalists produce things everyone thinks are valuable, like food, hand tools, clothes, guns and Bibles.  In the second phase, the potential consumers have to be told that the things that are offered for sale are valuable or even necessary, like television sets or deodorant.  The means to tell them (newspapers, radio, television, the Internet) become important forms of production themselves and also become politically significant.  (Consider the relation between the radio and fascism.)

So where does this progress (somebody did use the word progressive....)  Is there a post-consumerist mode of production?  I would suggest detritus consumption, or scavenging—freeganism—but that is dependent on someone else wasting, and waste is an important, nay, critical part of consumerist economies, so I don’t think it can be considered a separate way of life.

It looks to me like we are stuck with consumption, although it may be transfigured by increasing degrees of abstraction and refinement, à la Precession of Simulacra; that is, if the lower orders, the struggling masses, do not let us down by failing to produce and consume the grosser substances which are the foundation for this refinement.


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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Absolutely no apologies needed.  I am not legally blind, but I need 300+  reading glasses f’sure, but that is because I’ve spent my life in books and the last 20 years on the bloody computer.  I make many typos and writing omissions.  So much more pardon is warranted to those with worse eyesight.  Cudos to those who overcome it and contribute anyway as I know it is a struggle.

I think it is naive to think that our freedom of speech is not in jeopardy.  I for one am feeling the repercussion of expressing my personal view recently at a school where I am ostracized for not being one of them!  What the Islamists are doing will have ramifications for each an every American who want to criticize a religion.  Religions ought not to be so fragile nor on such tentative ground that they cannot withstand critical review or comments.  Atheists are noted for being critical of religions in general and some in particular.  There ought to be allowed criticism when a religion couches pedophilia under the cloak of the Pope for instance, or under religious belief that multiple marriages are permissible because it is sanctioned by some idea that a supernatural being so sanctions it.  That is utter bull shit and what the Islamists are doing will curb any criticism of the horrors for instance that the women of Islamic countries must endure.  Other kinds of criticism about murdering non-believers.  These things are unconscionable and needs the criticism of the world at large without being criminalized for doing so.

While I am here I will go on record to say I do not support the idea of charter schools and do not support any tax dollars going to private secular or religious schools.  Public schools need to be made to be better and charter schools deflects that from happening.  It used to be that the arts were funded right along with other academic subjects and the world of education produced many many fine artists in the visual, literary, and performing arts.  It is groupthink to think that education cannot be made better in the public sector.

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

Laura—I agree, but why must we have charter schools and faith based initiatives to achieve such goals? There is a very good high school around here that teaches a wellrounded curiculum , as well as specializing in teh arts. For an urban district , this is the best of both worlds.I am happy to pay for it, but, some who support religious schools or would rather not support schools at all, bulk at it.

It is not a charter school, so they are continuously dependent on property taxes, levies and fundraising to keep going.I would much rather my txes go to them than these bogus charters schools.

If people want a religious education for their children, just pay for it. Thats all. The separation of church and state is as much for protection of religion as of the state.

I have never attended teh schools in teh urban district i live in now, nor has anyone in my family. But, I vote for all levies,except one a few years back, which stil bothers me. I called my represntative here and told him I was NOT going to pay to teach kids that there were “baby dinosaurs on Noah;s Ark” and that the “planet is 5000 year old”!

We just passed another one, which Gov Strickland will , hopefully, give more to public schools and less to charters!

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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment


I agree with both broad points and will apologize for any typos or grammatical errors I commit or have committed.  I am legally blind, so I don’t always catch them, even with spellcheck (if the word is spelled correctly, it doesn’t always catch the grammatical or conceptual misuse).  I also use “misspoken” terms for the purposes of humor (perhaps sometimes too subtly?).

As for teachers’ pay, not just an article, but an entire book could be devoted to teacher traininig, certification and compensation.  You are absolutely correct about taking a nine-month salary and dividing it over 12 months.  This was done because too many of us aren’t really all that good at personal budgeting (even those of us who have taught accounting, ironically enough), especially with meager teacher salaries, and it helps sustain the academic workforce.

The sad reality is that the most American taxpayers can reasonably expect from their public school system is that they can only get what they pay for, and when you consider that most teachers are not paid more than most secretaries with no college, it puts some context to the problem.

We say that our children are the most important thing in our lives and that they are our country’s future.  That is true enough, but when you look at both the taxpayer dollars per capita and the amount and consistency of parent participation in the classroom and at home, our actions and our choices do not reflect our stated values.

When speaking of family values or values-based voting, it seems to me that values reflecting good parenting should be our first priority.  But when property tax increase proposals come up for a vote, voters consistently vote them down, and this is not specific to any part of the country.

If you want to know what a person really values and loves, watch how they spend their money and their time.

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

Correct usage of the language is important.  Without understanding the purity of the language ideas are misinterpreted too easily, not understood at all, or ignored at the worse.  France gets really wiggy over the misuse of the French language, They have a language police of a sort.  Francophiles really need to be wary! 

That being said, these blogs, are informal and ought to remain so to encourage rather than discourage participants who would be put off if it were structured as published works of literature.  Often even in excellent examples of literature authors intentionally will use vernaculars, contractions, and localisms to get to craft their ideas.  I often find even in linguistically conventional writings, mistakes of tense, improper use of prepositions, etc. Usually, it is an editing problem.  Not intentional in those cases.  For instance we often paragraph more than is necessary, mainly to help readers follow points or comments.  It is not a big problem but in a formal paper, an crazed editor would make a change.  Or on the other side, paragraphing is hardly used and making it difficult to follow long dissertations on these forums.  In my case I am guilty of both grammatical crimes, and sometimes I use the wrong form and incidence of adverbs.  I am an awful violator of that one!  And I have been called on it in these blogs.  I would be mortified if I were submitting anything for a professional journal, but on these blogs, I just shrug and admit the mistake, most times and move on. 

The point is that while there is a time and place for proper use of the language, it is not in a relaxed environment, even where that environment is solely a written one.  You have noted that and so has Leefeller.  Both of your comments are appreciated.  Hitherto possibly a closer notice of intention will goeth before grandiose academic corrections goeth, and as you also mention when corrections are made, that a real self-control of tone of voice takes place.  It is one of those instances we have often talked about of avoiding elitism.  I for one enjoy the grammatical mistakes intentional or not.  I see real e-people, not dead e-people (dead meaning superformalists). 

BTW:  I am on page 386.

Problem is, FENWICK, there is an equation too frequently made that this “empire” is similar to other historic ones.  I believe that is a mistake in perception of comparison because there has been no other empire like this one in history.  The composition of this country as well as its founding premises and reasons for its existence are unique.  There isn’t just one wave of thought that runs the wheels of internal combustion.  Americans are a factioned group.  There are too many particles like the various ethnicities, religions, political assignments, including competing corporations, and so forth, to lead to a complete and unpleasant collapse.  The tensions are what will allow the nation to survive the various apparent assaults on its whole integrity.

If I might just add one point of clarification about the question of whether teachers ought to be paid for 12 months instead of the 9 or 10 they are in the classroom.  Their “annual” salary is cut up over 12 months so they don’t starve in the months they don’t work.  Also many of them spend their “off” time preparing for classes or improving their teaching skills with in-service courses, traveling to keep up with the state of their particular art (subject of teaching), or relaxing after a harrowing school year contending with incorrigibles.  Some even moonlight to supplement a too small regular teaching salary!

Much more needs to be said about curbing freedom of speech and the current renewed attack by Saudi Arabia.

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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment


Teaching history should not be memorizing dates and their corresponding events and characters.  If done correctly, it does include all the aspects of culture that impacted those people and events.


Regarding charter schools and religious schools, I support a limited version of charter schools (like schools in fine arts or math and science), but with the condition that all schools have as their goal producing well-rounded students educated in all the basics with some specialization.  Unfortunately, this concept (as often happens with any new idea that is not clearly defined) has been too broadly interpreted.

I do not support funding private schools with vouchers or any Federal funds for a number of reasons.  First, public schools are available and public funding to go to public schools.  Second, private schools generally want public funds with no controls or limitations on curriculum, school management, how the funds can be spent, accountability (both financial and academic), etc.  It also speaks to the separation of Church and State issue.  Many, in fact most, private schools are supported and/or managed by churches (parochial schools is only one example).  Most of these church-supported and/or managed schools require religious education narrowly defined (teaching THEIR religious beliefs, not an overview of world religions and philosophy).  I do not support that.

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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, it’s about tolerance:

Your concern over Islamic militarism in terms of blaspheme and thought control is merely a symptom (or application) of GroupThink.  GroupThink, in general, is universally the larger problem.  As a Christian, I am concerned about religious tolerance and religious persecution of ANYONE of ANY religion because I know that MLK was correct in saying that if one of us is not free, then none of us are free. 

I am not suggesting that your concern is not valid, just suggesting that, in an effort to preserve your own religious freedom, it is possible to jeopardize everyone’s religious freedom by encouraging and supporting intolerance.

Spiritually and individually, we are free to think and worship as we wish as Americans, and that is a precious right.  We are even free to require others who belong to our group to conform to a set of ideals or code of conduct, providing they CHOOSE to join our group.  The worry I have is removing that choice to join the group, which some evangelicals openly believe.  This results in a Christian theocracy, which is no better than an Islamic theocracy or any other form of religious dictatorship.

That is why maintaining the difference between stating that “America is a Christian nation” (untrue) and “the majority of Americans are Christian” (true) is of significance.  It goes back to the rules of formal logic in discourse.  When we cease to acknowledge the difference between those two statements, we can kiss our democracy and the tenet of the separation of Church and State goodbye.

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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

Stephen SmoliarL

You are correct in that the Bible is not a single work of literature, but an abridged compilation, the list of books which is called a codex, the most common Christian version of which was produced by the Councils of Nicaea (which produced the Nicene Creed) in 325 AD, the of Rome in 382 AD, and of Trent in 1546—all of which consisted of meetings of church elders and scholars who negotiated which books and which versions would be canonized (officially accepted) and what would not.

The Tanakh consists of 24 books. Tanakh is an acronym for the three parts of the Hebrew Bible: the Torah (“Teaching/Law” also known as the Pentateuch), Nevi’im (“Prophets”), and Ketuvim (“Writings,” or Hagiographa), written primarily in ancient Hebrew, but also some in Aramaic.  The Torah consists of five books: Genesis, Ge—Bereshit,  Exodus (Ex—Shemot), Leviticus (Le—Vayikra), Numbers (Nu—Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (Dt—Devarim).  The eight books of the Nevi’im, or “Prophets,” tell the story of the rise of the Hebrew monarchy, its division into two kingdoms, and the prophets who, in God’s name, warned the kings and the Children of Israel about the punishment of God. It ends with the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Collectively, the 11 books of the Ketuvim contain lyrical poetry, philosophical reflections on life, and the stories of the prophets and other Jewish leaders during the Babylonian exile. It ends with the Persian decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.  In addition to the Hebrew Bible (equivalent to the Old Testament, but in a different order), there are Apocryphal or deuterocanonical books which are included or excluded from various Christian denominations.  The New Testament includes The New Testament is a collection of 27 books, of 4 different genres of Christian literature:  Synoptic Gospels, one account of the Acts of the Apostles, Epistles and an Apocalypse, most of which were written in Koine Greek (some argue Aramaic primacy).

Translations and interpretations of all these books and attributions of authorship vary with denomination and have changed due to archaeological/scientific discoveries, advancement in ancient linguistics and translations, etc.

So, in conclusion, generically speaking of the “Bible” can be, from a scholarly point-of-view, very misleading, since the number of books, identity, version, translation, canonization, and even authorship can vary considerably from one denomination and even one Biblical scholar to the next.

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

FENWICK—I agree, especially about the “charter” schools! Governor Bob Taft (who, with Ken Blackwell,handed the election to Bush in 2004),  jumped into the charter school movement with both feet. Our urban public schools are much the worse for it.

I was hoping that the Dems would see them for the failure at “inducing choice and equality” that they are, but apparently not. They actually want to EXPAND the charter school movement,. which, in this urban area, has increased segregation and resulted in many “faith based” (religion-based) schools that dont teach much else.Many operations saw the cash cow and just took money, never even bothering to set up more than a storefront. Kids showed up on teh first day to locked doors!!

Governor Strickland is trying to investigate some of them, but, with the standing GOP in Columbus, fighting him all the way.

(Mike Turner’s wife has pocketed millions for “helping” to come up with a “chant” to lure business to this Rust Belt city—she came up with ““Get Midwest!” I am not kidding. Turner funnelled millions to her “group?” for that one)

How her business was related to schools, I have no idea.But, Turner is in a very gerrymandered district. We just cannot seem to shake him!

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

Thanks Laura—everyone should check out this website. It looks very interesting.

Perhaps “consumerism” is being dismantled, as we speak. Few can afford to buy or borrow now…it just concerns me when all the pundits say that “Americans need to learn to live within their means”, when, for many, the very goods needed for survival are continuously bought “on credit”.Sure, obnoxious McMansions were built—but many more just had teh “audacity” to think that they coudl own a place to live, or took equity out to pay for necessities. The Reagan era trickle down caused this and contributed to Dubya’s Friedmanesque model—which, he is touting in the background, on somone’s tv as we speak..gawd!! That is why I argue against teh “Reagan nice guy” image at every chance—to me, he helped kill off alot of people.

The multi-natls will not care, they will just “move on the other markets”—like Colombia.

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2008 at 11:23 am Link to this comment

Laura Schneider stated:

“our society has willing accepted the substitution of BELIEFS for FACTS and IDEOLOGY for SCIENCE, especially with the growing influence of evangelicals in politics”. 

Evangelicals my concern as well, but we have a double edged sword aimed at our throats, “The Christian Science Monitor via Huff Post”, states the Saudis are quietly shoving through the U.N. a law to punish blasphemy, a measure would effect people throughout the world, not just countries were they love religion mind control.  So some of us who may not believe as they do are going to be attacked from two sides, for belief is to be accepted or else, be punished.  We are returning to the dark ages.  Read the whole article below, maybe TD will address this also.


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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous and KDelphi:

We seem to be on the same page.  BTW, my website is not up-to-date, but it is  I particularly wish to reinforce the importance of parenting in teaching critical thinking.  For this reason, we have to save disciplined thought one mind at a time.

Regarding Obama, do not misinterpret my efforts to bring clarity to our expectations with condemnation “before the fact,” so-to-speak. 

My comment regarding GroupThink was more contemporaneous than the larger historical context.  Winthin my lifetime (I’m 55 y/o), education has arc’ed in that I was born in the later stages of conformity and experienced adolescence and came into adulthood during the social revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Today in comparison to the ‘60s has reverted considerably to GroupThink, which is surprising since we once linked GroupThink to conservatism and so-called “free thinking,” rebellious, individualism to liberalism.  That link does not really exist for the youngsters today.

And, TimS, your perceptive point regarding individual filters is well-taken, but I suggest that part of critical thinking and analysis is understanding what filters are at play both in the sender and the receiver.  It requires maturity and self-awareness to understand even our own filters.  And for all of us—voters, opinion leaders and decision-makers, especially political figures—it is a critical skill in the decision-making process.  We could devote a robust article on this subject alone.

And, as for consumerism, I fear that we must employ the same strategy as in saving disciplined thought—we must save the world from this neurotic, superficial lifestyle one soul at a time….

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By Stephen Smoliar, November 13, 2008 at 10:51 am Link to this comment

I have a lot of trouble addressing the Bible as a single work of literature, primarily because of the problem of so little evidence of coordination among the authors.  From this you may assume that I do not attribute the authorship of the Bible to any divine being for whom any mortal authors are nothing more than mindless scribes.  You know that the authorship question arises not only BETWEEN books but also WITHIN some of them.  Through text analysis, for example, we know that there were probably two Isaiah’s;  and one does not have to be an expert in those analytic techniques to appreciate that the book of Genesis is an interleaving of three radically different ways of writing (called Judean, Ephramite, and Priestly in my copy of THE OXFORD ANNOTATED BIBLE WITH THE APOCYRPHA).  I have no problem with reading the Bible;  I only take issue with those who would read it as the fundamental word of God, which reveals a single truth that does not allow for interpretive opinion.  All literature is always open to interpretation!

P. S.  If some of this was duplicated, don’t blame God;  the fault was entirely with Firefox!

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 10:38 am Link to this comment

Folktruther:  yeah, and brain eating won’t work either.  Dang, gotta go, but just know you will say something more erudite.  I’ll look for it.

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By Folktruther, November 13, 2008 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

Laura, thank you for supplying the opposite of ‘consumerism’ but ‘intellegent consumption’ has too many sylables.  It wouldn’t work on TV. Anarchists who are reiventing the wheel are too impatient for long words or phrasses, even those of us with a “desire for excellance and a thirst for knowledge,” should any appear.  Inquiring minds want to know, Laura, but not too much.

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2008 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Now that we have enamored ourselves with discussion on Fenwick’s proclivities regarding his experiences in the Men’s room. I would like to comment and ask several questions, but will start with a very real serious concern. 

The 3000 year old goat herders manual. (the bible for those not inclined)  My question is it literate or not?  Many in our society follow this book like it is not a fairy tail and believe it to be fact?  Words to die by. If Long John Silver had written a book, it would have been a literary problem for some, but colorful writing for others.  I wonder do attorneys haggle over grammar in their own language? Over time literature has evolved to become quite different than it what was previously. Accepted by the periods of time.  I suppose there were always critics.  Do our blogs fulfill a definition of literature evolving?  Of course, we may never know.

Stephen Smoliar,  appreciate you comments and thanks for the reminder of using the discipline of READING THE ENTIRETY of any text by reviewing our posts before sending them off.  Many times I have whipped out posts while running out the door. I will be trying, (does take discipline)  to give up the whipping them out.

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

Once again, Laura Schneider, a very sober post.  Guess we have to be hit in the hyperbolic knees sometimes.  I don’t think GroupThink has increased.  The lemming model has been around since ancient times.  Just look at the crowds in the Coliseum.  Thumbs up or thumbs down, they most often watched what the Emporer did.  And of course, to satisfy the religious here, the crowd that yelled for the crucifixion.  A thirst for knowledge is instilled by several ways, the parents being the first influence.  If not gotten in that quarter, school teachers (not as much as we would like) and others, close relatives, churches (rarely but it does occur), and just a natural need to find out.  Several literary giants went through that self-motivating process.  The desire for excellence was first significantly noted in the literature by the Greeks and their notion of arete.  I often write that word on the blackboard and have the class discuss what it means in terms of their education.  It sometimes takes as a vaccination since in the hallways, a student will say to me en passant, Arete!  It is quite fulfilling to hear that.  I think tertiary with respect to education means post high school education, college, etc., since it was part of the statistics of the rank of educated countries.

Without common sense, abstract thought has little meaninig.  There are just as many intellectuals that see more than the leaves on the trees, they see whole forests.  They also bring to light what is missed in the undisciplined mind.  There is what is called the vulgar wisdom, that coming from experience and from the common people.  It could be called practical wisdom, or pragmatic way of making it in the world, and I would suggest most people do that.  Seems that what you are saying when you say it takes the interface between the concrete and the abstract is that the concrete is this pragmatic, vulgar (not meant in any pejorative sense) needs tempered by the abstract, do I not read this correctly?  I would agree that is what needs done and taught to do.  I also do not have a problem with religion being taught in designated religion classes and I do, as you do, have a problem with it required to be taught in science classes.  Yes, the effects of allowing that to happen can be seen in what appears to be a deficiency in the ability to think with careful and evaluation by the common folk.  What are the signs of this inadequacy?  When one view is squashed out-of-hand by an opposing view as happened to me on the morning after the election.  Intolerance from a religious-based faction that has the power of numbers and the wealth to exert that power.  I will refer and open a topic here about the efforts of Islamist to call for a ban on criticism of religious beliefs at the United Nations.  This is not an effort only by Islamist by the way.  Evangelicals want to eliminate criticism of their Christian view of life as well!  Stifling criticism is an anti-intellectual effort to prevent evaluative (albeit, critical) thinking.  Using the phrase critical thinking is taking on a kind of social stigma these days probably due to overuse. But regardless that is exactly what is needed in all societies.

I suggest we wait and give Obama with his transition team then Cabinet and administration a chance to see what they do.  We are all second guessing and giving arm-chair guidance.  We will see then we will criticize as needed.  The card game still has cards to play, and the Jokers are still wild.  The back-pedaling may be to find a way to step through the feces of deceit and misinformation.  There is a mound of stuff hidden by the Bush administration.  I say, Intelligenia, give Obama a chance to show his mettle before condemning him.

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By optipessi mist, November 13, 2008 at 10:04 am Link to this comment


None taken.  I just assumed that we are so close to the present unpackaging day, that you were in a Holiday mood.

Had I had been in my sanguine presence of mind, what I could have said is, “Well, one never knows what one’s proclitvities are, and one is always changing one’s mind, when it comes to unpacking omnipresentist. But, I prooomise NOT to liiike it! LOL

I’m glad you liked Dr. Lene Hau’s link.  With my next post I will cite a link about an amazing discovery concerning an ancient Greek mathematcian.

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Two trips in 25 years.  I thought I was doing good.
Oh my gawd FENWICK, are you full of piss!?  Do you need a quarter to go to the men’s room.  Where can I send it? 

Aw, just kidding.  You have your own metaphorical, and/or literate where words get writ or just thought, or did I mean literal and written, bathroom, right?

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Here are some exampoles of “highly educated” surveys….

The Daily Show, on the crawl on election night. “Polls show that 70% of people think that 70% of other people think that they are soooooo smart”.

(This one was “real”) MSNBC polls showed that 35% of people polled {no sample N or description, no margin of error give}
know someone who will not vote for someone because of their race”.

Stupid polls….

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

Laura Schneider—Very well said. Do you have a web site?

She-I was not taking up for anyone—I just did not want my comments construed as “serious criticism”—although I am sure you would never take me seriously.

This thread is just too long to back track, but, I submit that correcting “grammar”  and spelling, is easily done with a dictionary, but correcting rhetoric is somewhat harder. Especially when it suits what one woudl like to believe. That is why it is so difficult to do and most dont even attempt it. Sometimes, people correct grammar and spelling or typos, because they dare not attempt the latter.

Getting an editor would work, also.

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 8:50 am Link to this comment

KDelphi, you said what I would have about the nature of TD posters and their committing misdemeanors against the language.  But I would say that it is awfully hard to look within the soul of a country.  Argumentative opinion often rages which says that it is not even possible.  Looking within oneself however, is the Socratic edict and the least behavior man engages before opening his mouth, here using man and his in the collective sense. And oh, come on KDelphi, poor Outraged, he and I can duke it out between ourselves.  I think.  He is much more intense and meticulous than I, even though my last name is Meticulous.  My middle name is Hyperbole.  That should give you a hint.  Levity, you know…

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Why think, anima, that the Internet would be any different than the other developments in humankind.  Only difference is that those with computers who can actually surf the net and are able to type even with two fingers will be the denizens.  Actually I think more learning will occur and the more we humans read and write (and the Internet demands both)the more perhaps understanding will improve?  I donno, maybe?  The definition of literate is changing.  Twenty or so years ago, the nomenclature computer literate was nonexistent.

Oh yeah, FENWICK, butt in all you want.  TDers, at least enlightened ones, love it.  She knows Shenonymous always needs a comeuppance, f’sure f’sure.  And you are certainly one of the ones to give it to her royally.  Way….ell we will see over a quantum span of thyme.  And don’t forget that the observer always influences what is seen.

And Leefeller, always with profound insights, has a point that he didn’t quite make probably because he is a gentleman, but sort of inferred, and since ahs em not a laidy I will say it; you, FENWICK, spend a lot of time in the men’s room.  Is it diarrhea or the frequent urge to pee?  Might check out a doctor….of philosopee.  hahahahaha We laugh together don’t we?

Yes, Anarcissie, well-said.  That is precisely how the language gets expanded.  I do love to corrupt the language.  I love to watch the ersatz literati scramble to trounce me and all the other lovelies on these forums.  I’m sure you have felt this at least once.  No?  I’m not really complaining because their pickiness, or I should say “Their Pickinesses’,” huge attention to the creative and not so creative violations are what allows the corruptions to become permanently embedded in the language.

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By Anarcissie, November 13, 2008 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

It seems to me much of the richness of the English language comes precisely from its “misuse”, that is, “errors” or innovations of grammar and vocabulary.  The learnèd notion that we have achieved some kind of linguistic pinnacle from which we deviate only to our disadvantage seems rather naïve.  If adherence to some unchaged standard is so desirable, should we not all be writing in Sanskrit—or rather, Proto-Indoeuropean?

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By Laura Schneider, November 13, 2008 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

I suggest that the opposite of “consumerism” here might be “intelligent consumption” (perceiving the difference between real needs v. neurotic needs/”wants” or between rights v. privileges) rather than “subsistence culture;” education is not child abuse unless you are an anarchist and love reinventing the wheel; and decision support technology is only a tool, not a product, and is no substitute for creative thought, but if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And GroupThink is increasingly a problem in our young.

Hedges appears to refer to both functional literacy, the ability to think analytically and creatively and their products – wisdom and positive outcomes. This latter require a thirst for knowledge and a desire for excellence, not just a desire to achieve the minimal functional knowledge produced by minimal effort. Not to encourage expending needless effort, but rather to work “smart” not just “hard.”

But it is the desire for excellence, which by its nature requires us to have a thirst for knowledge, to not “settle,” that our society has lost. With those we would not be satisfied with being fifth or even second – only winning. And measuring this societal “achievement” quantitatively, not qualitatively, does not identify the real problem. I would suggest to Outraged that “tertiary” here used indicates order (primary, [intermediate], secondary and tertiary)?

Concrete and applied knowledge, or “common sense,” is just as important as abstract thought or “book sense.” I know many intellectuals that can’t see the forest for counting all those individual leaves.  Wisdom, achieving this balance between a disciplined mind and common sense, is what has been lacking in our society and our government. Academia tends to live in a bubble, preoccupied with semantics or the etymology of philosophical definition of the word, losing the connection between the abstract and the concrete, which is required to develop a realistic, pragmatic, but innovative, solution to our very real problems.

But the greatest concern I have in our collective societal consciousness and in public education today is that our society has willing accepted the substitution of BELIEFS for FACTS and IDEOLOGY for SCIENCE, especially with the growing influence of evangelicals in politics. I have no problem with creationism being taught where it belongs – in religion class, but I have a big problem with it being taught in science class. We have already seen how political ideology has been substituted for scientific analysis in our government to our detriment. It won’t take but one generation of confusing ideology with science for the difference to become obscured beyond recognition.

It is corporations that produce textbooks, textbook companies spend a great deal of time and energy marketing their product, and school boards, which are often elected, not appointed officials of varying competence, make the final decision to purchase. It only takes one large public school system like Texas to include creationism in science curriculum to impact the content of science textbooks nationwide by virtually every company competing for their business.

I have come to realize that both parties, being controlled by their extreme wingnuts (left or right), are equally guilty of propaganda and media manipulation (controlling the message) in playing to the lowest common denominator of voter intellect. Obama, intelligent though he may be, is not the all-knowing, all-powerful Messiah/God that the hopeful extreme left has promoted him to be, nor is he the anti-Christ that the extreme right sells us. I have noticed that he and his transition team are back-pedaling fast in an effort to downplay the high expectations the public now has and that he advertised during the election.

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

Somehow this got left off of my copy/paste, so pardon me but I am posting it cause ahs wants to.

Wonderful! optipessi mist. (I hope you don’t mind that I bastardized your TD ID name, it was meant in a good spirit)

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

Wonderful!  Thank you, amazing isn’t it?  An awfully cold atmosphere, maybe we ought to inform straight_talk_11 about how tight assed he is about GraHmmer?  Here is a quote that might unpack your most generous gift-link.

“In the end, all that was really left was nature, a nature that dissolved little by little in a boiling cauldron until it vanished completely.” Robert Bolano, Chilean author and poet.

I knew I should have subscribed to Nature Magazine, but couldn’t afford it.  I will pool my pennies together and do so at once!  The light has to stop sometime!  Way…ell, maybe not.  (Oh, and yeah, straighass, I did mean pool not pull, and will post later on the lofty subject of grammar).

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By KDelphi, November 13, 2008 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

“The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth from lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying. Obama used hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funds to appeal to and manipulate this illiteracy and irrationalism to his advantage, but these forces will prove to be his most deadly nemesis once they collide with the awful reality that awaits us….”

Is this about “sentence structure”?? Grammar? Spelling? These are not essays to be corrected by teachers. Hedges is hardly discussing peoples’ posts or essays, or, at least not their print value. He was discusing the quality of thought and expressing oneself. One need not know how to spell every word, nor have an advanced degree to be able to have, as Hedges puts it, common sense thoughts that somethng is wrong! The gut or “blink” is seldom wrong on this one, and you ignore it at your own peril.

On this site, people self congratulating about how literate they are; arent you missing the point? On the Vidal thread, talking about how great it is to be “elite”—it’s not supposed to be a “compliment”!!

“... within a large society, which enjoys a privileged status envied by individuals of lower social status….

.. However, in spite of the pressures, the existence of the elite social stratum is usually unchanged….”

The point of Hedges’ article might have been to look within oneself; or to look within the soul of our country; or other things. But just using it as an object of furthering your own feelings of supriority, is pathetic. If someone thinks I am speaking of them personally—they are probably wrong.

Outraged—I did not mean to start a thread about which rhetorical questions you might ask next. I thought there was “much ado about nothing” developing on here, and I was trying to make light of someone answering a rebuttal with “i knew you would say that”, like a 3rd grader, which is no answer at all. It is alot like “well, just shut the f*c* up..and stuff”.

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By Stephen Smoliar, November 13, 2008 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

I stand with with Karl Kraus and Robert Musil, who, from their vantage point in Vienna during the early twentieth century believed passionately that the decay of the proper use of language was an omen of the decay of the culture speaking that language:

(It is said that Musil spent the better part of his daylight hours marking out all the errors in the daily newspapers!  However, in the context of Leefeller’s concern for common courtesy, I believe he kept those critical marks to himself!)

I also hold to the principle of the medieval TRIVIUM, which is that communication rests on the triple foundation of logic, grammar, and rhetoric.  Thus, there are ways in which we can push the envelopes of grammar and even logic in the interest of rhetorical impact.  All that really matters at the end of the day is whether the communicating agent really has something to communicate or is just “wasting air” (in deference to DUKES OF HAZZARD fans).  We can all “read through” texts that would be torn apart by a writing professor at “some mid-western or southern state school;”  but those texts still lack the clarity of expression that most of us would prefer.  They would benefit from good editing, but this is not a forum in which content is edited before it is released.

A little over a year ago I wrote a post entitled “The Illiterate Blogosphere” on my own blog:

It was a reaction to a similar argument over the importance of the correct use of language that took place on Huffington Post.  I take comfort in the fact that the discourse here has not gotten as ugly as it did over there.  (Check out the hyperlink for some of the more vivid examples.)

When we are engaged in personal correspondence, we usually know how to behave in response to a poorly worded text:  We try to convey what we understood, possibly explain why we read the text that way, and try to confirm our understanding.  That is the best we can do in the absence of a third-party editor.  (Editing one’s own text is always a risky matter for a variety of reasons.)  This forum, however, is a bit like personal correspondence where everyone gets to look over everyone else’s shoulder.  It is seeking clarification that can sometimes be maddening, rather than getting caught up in typos!  Still, we all do what we can, because we all seem to share the conviction that this stuff is worth reading.

I share Leefeller’s distaste for what I would call pedantry for its own sake.  However, I also believe there are times when clarification would serve the flow of discourse.  If that clarification involves raising what appears to be an error in logic, grammar, or even rhetoric, then the error should be raised.  The responsibility of raising it, however, also carries the responsibility of doing so with the “tone of voice” (so to speak) appropriate to the occasion.  In the pre-Internet days this was called “netiquette;”  and it has basically died off with the enormous inflation of participants since those Dark Ages.  Perhaps it can be reestablished within this more modest community!

One final point:  I have tried to live by the discipline of READING THE ENTIRETY of any text I write before hitting Submit or Send or whatever.  It does not take a lot of time, and I catch a lot of those little things (about half a dozen of them in this particular case) that are easily repaired.  If each of us is a bit more patient with the process of “speaking to the world,” we might then discover that “the world” is more patient with us!

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2008 at 7:41 am Link to this comment


You seem to receive some of your enlightenment while in the Mens room, you have mentioned this before on another thread. Since you referred to MIT, I submit to you the writing would hopefully,  be of higher quality than at my local tavern. Some of us do not have your advantages. 

Words of wisdom come to different people in different ways.

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By I.M.Small, November 13, 2008 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


“We live in two Americas”
Chris Hedges has declared,
But while he makes a careful case
I know which one´s preferred.

“America the Illiterate”
With endless waves of boredom,
Not only inconsiderate
Are people turning more dumb?

Ah, Chris! so we are losing ground,
Our numbers fast diminish
Of who would read—a change profound
To see a culture finish.

Yes, these “core values” you express
Of our society
Devolve to something meaningless
To the majority.

Unless our forces can retrench
Of those who seek the truth,
Not brands sold by a comely wench
In crafted image smooth—

So we must face an awful loss
Or silently bear witness
As words admonishing we toss
To ears and brains sans fitness.

The Mind in this America
Is fast becoming mush—
To our compatriots I call Whoa!
And question, What´s the rush.

Your images belie the truth,
And render substance false:
Though you may seek eternal youth
It´s childishness befalls.

Chris, keep the secret to ourselves.
They scurry into mere
Irrelevance, as pixies, elves
Scatter their stardust drear.

Yet we who love the written word
Or crisp articulation—
Rational logic—have preferred
The truer, if minor, nation.


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By anima, November 13, 2008 at 7:21 am Link to this comment

If you are not perplexed you should be. We live in two Americas not black and white nor rich or poor. We live in one America that a big make up the world culture not only by different race, Were now the minority how are brought up with internet ( grandparent learn it from there kids or grandkids) , Who functions the most in a print-based world? (Reporter) .

We are increasingly unnerved about what we might have unleashed on internet. Nobody can’t control it. A book is no better then TV You can leave information out what you think might lead your viewer to think otherwise.

Some people just can’t deal with complexity and haven’t got the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth by having Internet, TV, and communication skills. The other America, which does no constitutes the mainstream, exists in a non-reality-based belief system where they think people are ill informed and trick by TV and mainstream channels. there is no

This America and the rest of the world population, don’t dependent on skilfully manipulated images for information,  They try to find collaborating information through the internet and through people face to face who have a bigger set of skills to this medium and how are in touch with people out of there box on block.

TV has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture long enough.
TV no longer have infectus “Doomsday Flu” on are way of living and are decision making . Why can’t some people make the separate between lies and truth, is it fear or is it sentiments “to know” or “to recognize”? 

Will the web promote democratic collaboration and creativity? Or will it be a malign influence, rendering us collectively stupid. or worse promoting bigotry, thoughtlessness, criminality and terror?

Everyone and someone will use there skills for it potential what they see to fit too good or bad. But there nobody in control of it outcome what make are cognitive process of life.

It not what you know, We can find al the answers,  but it about what you do with the truth knowing to make thing better.

The 2008 winning election campaign 4 november
was truly “design with a breath of soul” for a Pluralistic Society.

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By optipessi mist, November 13, 2008 at 7:20 am Link to this comment


Unpack this,

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By SusanSunflower, November 13, 2008 at 7:00 am Link to this comment

I think survival would be a greater motiviation.


But that’s part of the point—as far as I’m aware NONE of our diplomatic service (and in fact very few non-combat Americans) have been killed or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan ... I suspect state department “casuality” figures are higher in the Washington DC area ...

If you’re actually interested in diplomacy, nation building, history ... you calculate your risks and go ... just like journalists ...

Did they go into the diplomatic corps to impress people at swanky cocktail parties?  Apparently.

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2008 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

As a common courtesy, one should try to argue the opinion or comments of other posters or even agree if one finds comments enlightening and maybe how about this;  occasionally discussing the article. 

We have seen plenty of us and them from politics, why add to it?  Snobbery, as posted by some about grammar and literacy,  seems especially self congratulating and does come off as being quite full of one’s self. 

If one person is more literate than another, it would be courteous to keep it to yourself, being more literate than others,  does not manners make, nor being a self proclaimed literate mean capabilities to utilize reason. 

From one of Hedges mass illiterate and rude posters,

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By SusanSunflower, November 13, 2008 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

Certainly this “illiteracy” is not new ... nor is American anti-itellectualism (intellectuals being faintly pinko and liberal, donchaknow)

While I suspect most often we visualize some sort of “lumpen proletariat” when we think of the “illiterate” ... doing medical transcription, I can tell you that even doctors are increasingly using bad grammar, slang and “unprofessional” vagaries that were extremely uncommon even 15 years ago when overwhelmingly the doctors I encountered were well dressed, well groomed, status seeking, approval seeking conformist “professionals” with a small minority of genuinely interesting or just peculiar creative iconoclast types.

After 09/11, it was revealed that the United States had virtually no “human intel” in Arab speaking countries ... had a terrible shortage of translators for the region (which never stopped them for discharging gay translators)... that NOBODY (well, hardly anybody) wanted to learn arabic (too hard) or be posted in Moslem countries (no booze, religious puritanism, etc.) 

So, even “careerism” seemingly could not entice even say, Mormons and/or Fundies to serve their country (and have vast professional opportunities working in an underpopulated field) by learning Arabic and volunteering to work in the Arab Middle East. I haven’t heard any update, but even last year, irrc, the State Department was having trouble staffing the new Baghdad embassy—you might think that the people within the diplomatic ranks would be motivated by professional opportunism, sense of adventure, even curiousity, sense of duty in service of the natioanal mission or obligation to volunteer to serve in that fortress for a couple of years… apparently too few.

Wonder how those programs to remedy the translator shortage are coming along?

What does it take to motivate people?

I think this correlates as a white-collar version of this national malaise.

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By WorkingMan, November 13, 2008 at 4:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Once again, Chris Hedges presents a great, well-reasoned piece that I think, once again, goes too far.

He rightly lambasts the Christian Right for being “unmoored” from reality, but he suggests that Obama’s slogans of “hope” “change” and “Yes we can” are cut from the same cloth.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Yes, I understand he has appealed to the less-literate with a somewhat simplistic campaign, and a TV blitz. But what was he supposed to do? Educate the population first himself, and THEN run for office?

You play the hand you’re dealt, and he found a way to promote the support of education and science while bringing some reality back into the picture regarding energy and foreign relations.

Perfect? Not even close. But to suggest, as Hedges has repeatedly, that Obama and the Republicans are two sides of the same coin, is to ignore reality. It seems like a betrayal of Hedges’ own formidable intellect and education.

As disturbing as the literacy rates are in this country, I will allow myself the relief that should definitely ensue when Sarah Palin is not a heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world.

I wonder if Mr. Hedges feels that same relief.

I refuse to believe that a former editor of the Harvard Law Review would address the literacy problem in the same way as the former Mayor of Wasilla.

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By nrobi, November 13, 2008 at 3:46 am Link to this comment

I am appalled at the lack of grammatical skills that have been manifested in the discussion of this article. Many if not a majority of the people who now post on any blog, have a problem with the idea of not only grammar but sentence construction as well as the spelling of words.
Given the lack of courteous discourse that surrounds us in the world today, I would like to think that the people who post on the blogs, especially this one, would have the common sense and knowledge to make their arguments in a sound and cogent manner.
This discourse has been very enlightening for me as the ideas that have been bandied about have some things to do with the article at hand.
We must as a nation demand that the public as well as private school system again start to teach the critical thinking skills that are necessary to become good and productive citizens of the world and especially the U.S. Surely the teachers that are in today’s schools, can teach this subject, and if not then we must demand better teachers. Our common lack of thinking and reading skills is deplorable and without precedent in this nation.
An informed electorate is the defense against an imperial presidency and the authoritarianism of an ideology that ever constricts the rights of its citizens.  There must be a reawakening of the ideal of critique and rebuttal, for these skills are paramount to this nation.
If we as a nation, fail in this task of passing on to our children, these skills, then we will have seen the least of our worries come to pass. For if our children cannot think for themselves, but only think in soundbites and thirty second bits of information then, our nation is at risk of becoming that which we have so long fought against, an authoritarian, dictatorship, run by one or two families that control and constrain the people to certain jobs and withhold the compassion of the people for each other.
I am truly ashamed at the way the school systems are training our young people to be passive and complacent about the way in which government is run.
Even in the school systems, consumerism is the main focus and the leading ideal taught today.
Certainly there are some teachers that are fighting against the tide, but there are not enough of these special people to make a difference in the long run. If we are to have some chance at the ideals of the founders of our country then we must demand that teaching become a profession that is highly valued and paid in a way commensurate with the value of their service to our country.
Yet Mr. Hedges, has it wrong when he says that this is by far an illiterate or semi-literate country. As shown in the postings to this article, people all over have more than a modicum of interest in the subject and are more than literate in their thinking and ability to counter his arguments.

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By Sepharad, November 13, 2008 at 3:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fadel Abdallah—Literate Americans do spend too much time thinking about the wrong stuff. Because I don’t have a TV, don’t enjoy spectator sports or celebrity news, I will NEVER complete the whole Sunday NYTimes crossword puzzle. Get most of it but there are these annoying gaps with blanks for sports figures, celebrities, tv show references. 

Leefeller, True, Hedges should have said he was talking about common sense—a damned rare commodity. But it’s also about the ability to think critically, considering alternative perspectives, and communicate the results clearly. Poets distill and clarify to a point where it almost hurts to read them—like John Donne, richer intellectually but far less enjoyable than Shakespeare.

So much depends on teachers and principals who can do much to restrict or free up the teachers’ abilities to lead students into strange and beautiful fields—particularly in public schools. I remember some exciting elementary teachers. Even a principal. Somewhere in first grade, I began ignoring the teacher and did nothing but to make up, print out and illustrate story after story. Finally, in second grade, the principal made a deal: if I’d do the classroom work, every day I could hang my drawings up in the hall and he’d read one of my stories over the public address system. Much later, when I became restive in fifth grade, he had me sent to his office and would give me a book to read at home that I could discuss with him personally, again in return for doing work and behaving in class. Hello, Joseph Conrad! Other teachers were brilliant with history in class. We’d have the approved books, about, for example, the Civil War, but the teacher also taught us songs associated with the period, took us to the downtown library to look through historic photos of the Civil War. She also brought in Uncle Remus stories, explaining that they were tales made up by slaves who told of outwitting the slave masters through the exploits of Bre’r Rabbit, A few teachers like that, and the world suddenly gets bigger.

Re curriculum: Early on during the 15 years husband and I edited and published a magazine of California history, a bunch of teachers wanted it added to the state’s official curriculum for teaching California history. Years of bitter debate ensued between teachers and the state curriculum committee, who in the end decided the magazine was Not Suitable. Basically, it included work by academics but also people who’d spent their whole lives researching a family or a town or someone’s career; we published diaries and letters; another department featured 19th-century interviews conducted by a historian, and included people such as a woman who lived through the Spanish, Mexican and early American era, witnessed an Indian massacre at a mission, etc. Another subject was the wife of a Native American chief who became a lieutenant for General Vallejo’s conquest then rebelled. California Pastorale was written by a 90+ year old man who had ridden as a vaquero for some of the big ranches, taught himself to read in the bunkhouse and obtained a camera and photographed working vaqueros over 30 years. Husband spent much time finding photos to illustrate articles. Some board members tight with the Catholic Church were so upset by Native American board members who regarded the missions as colonial imperialism were so hostile to each other than they refused to attend meetings if the other was to be present. We’d run articles giving two or even three perspectives of the same event. It was a lot of fun, not terribly lucrative, and we only stopped because our son had what was thought to be an incurable and rare cancer, our combined annual income would have covered maybe several weeks of treatment (he was in the hospital six months). So we folded the magazine. I still misz it. But if the stupid state curriculum board had accepted it, we might have been able to squeak by. Barely. Tant pis.

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By Arius, November 13, 2008 at 3:13 am Link to this comment

By straight_talk_11, November 12 at 10:36 pm #

What the hell are you talking about!  I simply said I found the article by accident on that site and read it.  I obviously clicked the link they offered back to this site where the original article is, and posted the commentary here, since the original article and author are here.  I also thought it would be polite to offer the link I was talking about, where I had orig found the article and had read it.

As for this nation being one of the most literate, I’d like to see the actual stats on that.  Any ranking site I’ve come across the last few years, when listing the ranking of countries on everything from education, wealth, life span, literacy, birth rates, etc.. when they list “industrialized nations” in those rankings, on pretty much every category the US is way, way down there.

I again say the article above imo is dead on. It is frightening to see just how stupid the people around me are. They can’t spell, can’t read, can’t comprehend what they do read, grammar’s gone down the toilet (and yeh I blame rap for a lot of that), and today’s young people don’t have a clue the correct way to write something even if they had to (let’s say for a resume).. they think online abbreviations are ok in the business world.  it is astonishing.  and, someone posted below (above) about editors not knowing proper literacy either (in order to correct their writes).. that is very true too.  I quit buying newspapers long ago but even back towards the end when I did, I was stunned at the writing style that had become acceptable for print in this new age…

nuff said :(

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By Shenonymous, November 13, 2008 at 1:35 am Link to this comment

I have to unpack omnipresentist, let’s see, would it take a match with both ends burning to light a candel that burns at both ends?  Just curious.

Yeah, I guess Emily would be the one.  And Moe might say Willie wrote silliques like to be a nut or not to be a nut?  Silly Willy.  I get bard at bard meetings.  yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk   And I wonder if the cat food got eaten before Shroedinger’s cat died? or mayyyybbbeee it didn’t die. Shall we take a peek?

Hey magouche, do they ever use the term Early Antiquity?  Or Middle Antiquity?  What exactly is an ‘elitist’ term? 

Let’s see, maybe Outraged would say, “When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty,” or how about “What if there were no hypothetical questions?” or “Is there another word for synonym?” (Thanx GC)

straight_talk_11, You are right, of course, but I wouldn’t give myself too many points off.  I marked my use of relative and replaced it with relevant, in red ink!  Rushing the comment and didn’t edit.  Life happens.  Outside of your circle, I would be considered exceptionally literate!  Nevertheless, we always appreciate a lesson in English, don’t we Dr. Abdullah? wink wink (I hate emoticons) We aren’t too bothered by elitism, especially when the best English grammar is involved?  I get all wigged out over prepositions myself and the use of semicolons.

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By straight_talk_11, November 12, 2008 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

Naturally, the people who haven’t bothered to acquire this level of knowledge of their own language don’t think it’s important to do so. Catch 22: Most people don’t value what they don’t know, so that’s either why they don’t know it, or it’s how they make themselves feel better about their lack of knowledge.

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By straight_talk_11, November 12, 2008 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

Regarding this comment:
By Arius, November 12 at 10:07 pm

Well the link you gave leads to the article above and about which we are all commenting, but simply repeated at, which gives (this Website) as the source, of course. So glad you liked the article. Wonder why you didn’t read the one on which you are commenting first, or are you just putting us all on?

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By straight_talk_11, November 12, 2008 at 10:24 pm Link to this comment

Concerning Shenonymous and Fadel Abdallah:

“What Outraged is really your point?  That my numbers are specious?  I certainly wouldn’t die by them but they are relative to the question of the rank of the educated.”
~ Shenonymous, November 12 at 6:58 am

“..they are relative (????) to the question…”

Shenonymous apparently means “relevant”...? “Relative” is NOT an acceptable substitute for “relevant”.

So -

“I find myself disagreeing with Chris Hedges generalized statements about the illiterate and semi-illiterate America. In fact, if we follow the technical definition of literacy, America would rank among the top countries in the world on this issue.”
~ By Fadel Abdallah, November 11 at 7:41 pm

You see, Fadel, it’s all relative. So you’re right that “illiterate” technically means unable to read. And the U.S. is somewhere among quite a few of the highest ranking countries for literacy if we just mean how many know how to read. However, some so-called third world countries like Argentina are just as high or higher.

Nevertheless, “literate” means more than just being able to read. It implies being well read and able to handle the language well also. “Relevant” and “relative” are quite different words, yet people who are not very literate but can still read and write mix that kind of thing up among other things. Also, even having a college education does not add up to being literate in that sense any more. Basic language skills are in the dumps these days.

Things that would have been marked down on my senior high school English assignments are common even in major, high-ranking publications these days because they can’t find truly competent editors any more. For example, some things differ FROM others. They do not differ than each other. That makes no sense at all. Yet instead of saying these same things are different FROM each other, almost everyone now says they are different THAN each other. If they are truly different FROM each other, because they differ FROM each other because of their size (and don’t differ THAN each other because of their size), then they are different because one category of these things is bigger THAN the other. “THAN” here is used to contrast a specific characteristic in direct comparison, such as John is stronger THAN Jack (is), and so they are different FROM each other in that way because they differ FROM each other in that way. “DIFFER” and “DIFFERENT” signal a RECIPROCAL relationship and so use “from” as the preposition to denote that relationship. “Than”, in contrast, signals the asymmetrical aspect of their relationship by showing that a particular property is more characteristic of one THAN it is of the other.

By the way, my degrees are in music, not in English. I just happened to be old enough to have had the advantage of literate parents and literate English teachers, too. I don’t see much of that any more. Admittedly, only a few of my fellow students really took advantage of this to actually learn what they were taught, but it’s almost impossible now to find anywhere close to that number today, even if we include the teachers in the count.

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By Arius, November 12, 2008 at 10:07 pm Link to this comment

...and I read a lot (books and online.. is that ok?) smile

I found this article on Alter Net-  I don’t know how I ended up there and found it, but I did!—_it’s_the_educated_vs._people_easily_fooled_by_propaganda/

What a wonderful piece. Not one word of it do I disagree with. It’s what I’ve thought for a long long time and when you try to get the point across to others, it goes right over their heads.  You (I) write in to complain to the cable (so called) news channels and bitch about their dumbed down reporting limp on facts and of course they ignore us because in the long run it’s all about ratings for them.

This is a fantastic article.  First we had the Bush sheep and then sadly we sat by and watched the Obama-bots.  They were all the same.. thanks to our dumbed down society. 

It scares me, it angers me to sit by and watch what is happening to my country.

This article needs to be spread far and wide and I’ve already linked it to 3 blog forums I chat on. 

Wonderful, wonderful piece… even if you did leave the “e” out on the word “cliche” in one place smile 


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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment

Hey Nannie—-how goes it…

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By Tim, November 12, 2008 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Neil Postman has been writing about this since the 1980’s - please see his excellent book “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

Dump your TV.

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By drjay1941, November 12, 2008 at 6:16 pm Link to this comment

My daughter is a “language arts” teacher and her experience so far verifies precisely what you are saying.  The illiteracy of the US public,coupled with its general anti-intellectualism (described, naturally, as “elitism” and thus dismissed) is leading us to a world increasingly mono-cultured, dimensionless and distanced from reality.  Wish I knew the cure for the illness; perhaps the recession will be severe enough to get us on a healthy footing.

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By troublesum, November 12, 2008 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment

More evidence that people do not know how to process the information they recieve from tv:

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By magouche, November 12, 2008 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

“Late Antiquity”.

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By magouche, November 12, 2008 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

I am reading this term a lot lately in the literary publications and thought it to be, perhaps, one of those “elitist” terms again.

Sadly and frighteningly,  it appears that it’s ba-ack!  Right here in our 21st century.

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By Nannie, November 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment

My Mother use to always say:

“You can lead a horse to water,but you can’t make him drink”

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment

Outraged—I will be Nostradumbass..maybe you will say “much noise on stairs no one appears” , ie Democrats?

No…no… will say, “Never buy anything from someone who is out of breath”?

No… will say, “Si se puede”?? Or “Yes, it can be done”??

Wow..I guess I dontknow..

What ARE you gonna say??


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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm Link to this comment


No, I am claiming that Emily Dickinson is that one.

Also, remember you wrote it, I get to be right and wrong simultaneously.  I am the light and the way.  A wave and a particle. But, be ye warned collapse not the wave.  For that way lies the Quantum Mechanics, the uncertainty principle and Schrodinger’s cat.

Stratford on Avon?  Are they like Laurel and Hardy,  Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Penn and Teller. Oh yeah the Bard.  The Three Stooges think the Bard is silly because he writes sililoquies like, “To be, or Not To Be”  Good luck with thaat!
As Chico Escuela(Garrett Morris), Saturday Night Live, would say, “Baasebol I know. The Bard I don’ know. He play for Chankees?”

Enough of this Bardolatry for now.

My sentiments for now
Movie: Patch Adams
As Robin Williams zinged the psychiatrist who told him he would write A.M.A. in his medical file if he left the mental institution without permission, “Oh yeah, well I’ll write I.D.G.A.R.A. in my file.  When the psychiatrist asked what that meant Robin said, “I Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass.”

But, this my absolute favorite:

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, “A Few Figs from Thistles”, 1920
US poet (1892 - 1950)

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By Outraged, November 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

Re: Shenonymous

Your comment: “Although Outraged, so glad you read the wikipedia.  I knew you would and knew what you would say.  So my reply, Eh.”

Well… I for one am curious, what will I do next and what will I say….

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By Stephen Smoliar, November 12, 2008 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

Warren McCulloch, one of the earliest pioneers of what we might now call “wet brain theory” was fond of saying, “Don’t bite my finger;  look where I am pointing!”  (See the collection of his papers, EMBODIMENTS OF MIND.)  Thomas Kuhn would have done well to say the same to his own critics.  THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS was a controversial book, because it tried to support the hypothesis that science progresses through revolutionary spurts, rather than the gradual change of Karl Popper’s LOGIC OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY.  In order to explain what it was from which a revolutionary spurt departed so abruptly, he introduced the terminology of “normal science” and “paradigm,” through which he could describe a scientific revolution as a paradigm shift.  His critics chose to bite his finger by picking away at the fact that he could not characterize either “normal science” or “paradigm” through a logical specification of necessary and sufficient conditions;  this absolved them of the need to look where he was pointing, which was at the proposition that change was not gradual.  Folktruther is right that Kuhn’s terminology was mangled beyond all recognition, basically by folks who never bothered to read him with any sense of understanding (which, I am afraid, includes bumper sticker designers)!  These days Popper still has supporters among the positivists;  but those who are now willing to recognize that there is a social dimension to the practice of science (such as Bruno Latour) tend to show a bit more respect to Kuhn.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Quite right KDelphi, when I have a twinge of conscience, I do not mistake it for religious conviction, and I never ever have the reverse.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

Ah, yes, KDelphi, but Hedges version did not match mine! Therein lies the problem. Oui?  My book translator, A. J. Krailsheimer

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

I was not trying to discuss “infinity”.

The only point I waas making in “correcting” the quote (it seems it has been tranlateed as either/or) was that, I dont think that it is appropriate to equate religious conviciton with conscience.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment

How nice, we have taken a Bardian turn!  I love it so much more than all this talk about textbooks. 

Although Outraged, so glad you read the wikipedia.  I knew you would and knew what you would say.  So my reply, Eh.  Most textbooks are selected by school boards. Believe it or not, and it does not matter whether or not you do, it is even moot.  and as far as OECD, again?  inconsequential to anything important. You focus on really the minor things of life.  I make no claim to be omnipotent.  And I often am mistaken and downright wrong.  The textbook content with which I am always concerned is that which pretends Creationism or Intelligent Design has any place in a public school curriculum. If narrowminded Christians want to teach that, it is their prerogative in their own funded schools.  Not mine!  And when a school district demands that the curriculum include such nonsense…way…ell it is time to call on the Flying Spaghetti Monster to put a stop to it.

But back to Stratford on Avon. 
You are right optipressi mist, and you are wrong.  If what you say is true, then what you say also is subject to the logic.  It is also flawed and hypocritical.  If it is not true, then there is no argument worth any comment.

Of course what science says is not ultimately provable.  It actually admits that.  But the study and research for its hypotheses and theories are so much more convincing than the alternative, the religious.  Of course that is a personal view and that is all it ever is.  There is no one ultimate Truth with a capital T.  And since edges do not exist, we are always dealing with infinities.

The paradigm, you say what that might be.  Humans are irrational to a degree, but then it would take someone rational to make that assessment.  Are you claiming to be that one?

Not only are words like crystals, but all ideas, those string of words that embody some meaning.  But I like the diamond image better.  Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

Two of my favorites:
Taming of the Shrew (II, i, 200)
“Asses are made to bear, and so are you”
The Tempest Act 5, scene 1, 181–184
  O wonder!
  How many goodly creatures are there here!
  How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
  That has such people in’t!
  ‘Tis new to thee.

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

She—Since the article was by Hedges, I assumed his version would be suitable. (From his book “American Fascists”)

Actually, there are several tranlations.

“Jamais on ne fait le mal si pleinement et si gaiement que quand on le fait par conscience.”
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it conscientiously.
Variant: Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction (trans. W.F. Trotter)

Men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience Blaise Pascal

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction Blaise Pascal

They are both listed in the discussion about him.

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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

Secular conscience or religious conscience.  It fails to account for infinite perspective.  Therefore it is flawed and hypocritical

The virtues are gray.  NOT Black and White.

Words are like crystals.  Turn them one one way and they mean one thing.  Turn them another way and they mean something completely different. 

You are dealing with infinity.  Control is an illusion tenuous and fleeting.  Your paradigm looks great on paper.  But it suffers fron the paralysis of analysis.  You are dealing with infinity and irrational human beings.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Sorry KDelphi, please check your Pensees, page 245, Chapter XXIX Relativity of human values.  The Bible and its truth.  “We never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience.”

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Sorry KDelphi, please check your Pensees, page 245, Chapter XXIX Relativity of human values.  The Bible and its truth.  “We never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of conscience.

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

She—Sorry. Misquote. It is:

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictiohn” Blaise Pascal

I know you were parapharasing, but, I dont think you can equate religion with conscience at al. To the contrary, most violence in the world is, at least partly, based on religion.

That may be arguable.

9/11, the “war on terror” (“Islamo fascism”), Israel/Palestine, the Crusades—you get my drift.

And, just ruminating on Hamlet’s “conscience” as regards religion. (Although Shakespeare may have believed in purgatory)

“....thematic content, this speech is important for what it reveals about the quality of Hamlet’s mind. His deeply passionate nature is complemented by a relentlessly logical intellect, which works furiously to find a solution to his misery. He has turned to religion and found it inadequate to help him either kill himself or resolve to kill Claudius…”.

In any case, it is a curious use of the word “conscience”.

Anyway….not nitpicking, just messing around.

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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment


You like to quote Shakespeare, how about this one
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167

Or maybe your prefer La Rochefoucauld

“...Hypocrisy is thus the tribute vice pays to virtue…”

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 11:58 am Link to this comment

I don’t KDelphi, I will let the round ring of truth tell us as he proceeds to be president.  Gotta give the guy a chance, after all he was given a mandate.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

Yabutt butt a good conscience is a continual feast.  And a good conscience is the sentinel of virtue.  But then men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as wehn they do it out of conscience (In this case a bad conscience?)  And not to leave out Willy Shakespeare, Conscience doth make cowards of us all. 

I am not one to argue with Camus.

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 11:49 am Link to this comment

She—Seriously. I am not being confrontational. How DO you sqare Obama’s claims of egalitarianism and change with his corporate finanacing and his militaristic stance?

I may not agree with your explanation, but I wil accept it at face value.

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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 11:29 am Link to this comment


Albert Camus would respond,

“A conscience is evidence of hipocrisy”

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

Folk—I should have been more concise. I would have thought it was clear I was referring to a type of Social Democracy. I put LOL in reference to your comment taht , when one is “educated enough” (para-phrqazing—this thread is gettin too long to backtrack), one need not make sense.

What I would prefer to subsistence or consumserism might be somethgn else. But the article I referenced was clearly positing Social Democradcy. Which woudl be a big imoprovement over what we have today.

People are getting awfully touchy on here..

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Well, now you can support Obama’s militarism, Zionism and corporatism in good conscience now.

I always have a good conscience, Folktruther.  How about you?  About Kuhn, sometimes what you say or do, comes right up and bites you on the ass!

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By Outraged, November 12, 2008 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

Re: Shenonymous

Your comment: “it has nothing to do with opinion of faculty with regard to textbooks.  You obviously don’t know much about how textbooks are selected. And I agree the content is often specious.”

Which was a response to my comment: “It depends on the particular school district as to how much weight they put upon the opinion of their faculty members.”

From the Wiki link you provided: 
“Curriculum in the United States varies widely from district to district.”

So the question is not what was MY point…what was yours…?  Curriculum is chosen by any number of means, which was my point.  And the amount of weight given to the opinion of faculty members depends upon the PARTICULAR DISTRICT.  I know faculty members where I live have a great deal of influence regarding textbook selection, but this would depend on the particular district.

You acknowledge that regarding textbooks “the content is often specious” yet haven’t addressed the “Why is that?, question”.  Actually, I’ve read two books regarding textbook content, selection and the controversy surrounding it.  So… not that that’s everything, however the overall picture is disturbing.  I will say, that in this regard, it wasn’t necessarily the fault or premise of the publisher to include or omit facts.

Your comment: “It has little to do with the fact the OECD might be connected to corporate activity.”

Well…maybe and maybe not.  This is something which would need to be examined.  Could they have a biased opinion? How was the data collected?  What did they use as standards? and the like.  But yes, the FACT that they are a group of corporate interests is something to question.  Your claim that it has “little to do with the fact” is…again...specious.

Your comment: “That kind of logic is expected from you.”

Thank you.

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By Leefeller, November 12, 2008 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

“Subvert the Dominate Paradigm”. 

All one really need do,  is read Tao Walkers first post on this thread.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Yes, I did know that about Kuhn.

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By Folktruther, November 12, 2008 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

My God, Shenonymous, I didn’t realize that you were such a flaming radical!  “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm”!!!  Not only on your office wall but on your car bumper too!  And here I thought you were just a conventional schoolteacher mouthing fashionable slogans.

Well, now you can support Obama’s militarism, Zionism and corporatism in good conscience now.

You may or may not know that the notion of a paradigm was initiated into the liberal echo chamber by Thomas Kuhn in THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLTIONS.  He was so dismayed by its cooptation by New Agers that he repudiated the concept.  Served the fake progressive fucker right.

KDelphi, I’m glad you’re amused by our
Educated discourse and it’s countering by those of us who ain’t got nu culture. 

Did you have another label for a progressive economy to counter those characterized by Anarcissie as a consumer or subsistence economy?

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By Skruff, November 12, 2008 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The educational situation could be better, BUT I have this problem with folks who wish to allow 12 to 20 million illiterate illegal aliens into the country, and at the same time criticize the teachers students, and parents who are attempting to cope with this situation.

How is a teacher to teach, or a student to learn when half the class doesn’t speak English? Where is the federal government with the funds to back up their stupid “open boarder” (only the southern one) policy?

Then there is the absolutely absurd contention that every student MUST be academically prepared to accept a society where “hand workers” are no longer needed. News flash… despite the “...all men created equal” bullshit, many children are not going to college no matter the policy from above.

When you left wing wacko’s can insure a safe stable classroom in a school where learning a step toward economic freedon, instead of a prison with dog-eared books, then you can come back and pick a fight with the teachers, criticize the students, and vote out of office anyone who has the timarity to suggest that one size does NOT fit all.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

Oh, I think JLL would love it if he heard his music was called sturm and drang.  But it is pretty funny.  God I love ‘im too.  Who’s Kenny G?  Haha.  He ain’t my cup o tea.  More like Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen is the sturm and drang stuff I really dig.  And I’d drink to them or with them any day.  I’ll try the “where in the world did you come?” from next time I’m in a writing class and hope they don’t think I meant it biologically.  Just kidding.  I’d have to make that clear, I’m schoer.

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By TimS, November 12, 2008 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
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The rate the humans communicate is directly proportional to the rate of change on planet Earth and both rates are increasing. Decisions ARE now more based on images and poor decision-making is the result. A picture may be worth 1000 words, but a different set of words for each viewer, based on their individual experience and perspective. Humans will always remain attracted to images and, incidentally, music, based on our evolutionary past. How do we slow ourselves down and make better decisions? We have “eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil”, been expelled from the Garden and cannot return to live in natural peace with other species. We bear the burden of responsibility for how we treat this planet. Will we become increasingly rogue? What is the future of democracy if we cannot break out of this evolutionary pitfall?

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By DownriverDem, November 12, 2008 at 10:10 am Link to this comment
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We were warned in the 1970s about the dumbing down of Americans and we are reaping what we sow now. So many Americans lack critical thinking skills.

Americans do not even know their own history. Why else do so many insist that this is a Christian nation?  It is not. It is a nation where the majority are Christian. That is a big difference. No wonder so many do not comprehend the separation of church and state.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

No confusion between consuming and consumerism.  KDelphi. 
And I think we are closer to subverting the dominant paradigms than you might think.

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By KDelphi, November 12, 2008 at 10:04 am Link to this comment

Folk—LOL! Couldnt help it! Like my dad used to say, “If you cant impress them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”, or something like that.

She—you seem to be confusing “consuming” with “consumerism”.Of course people have to consume to surviee. And, I am not necsessarily advocating “subsistence”.

“Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with the purchase of material possessions and consumption…

...Opponents of consumerism argue many luxuries and unnecessary consumer products are social signals allowing people to identify like-minded individuals through the display of similar products. Some believe relationships with a product or brand name are substitutes for healthy human relationships lacking in societies and along with consumerism are part of the general process of social control[2] and cultural hegemony in modern society…consumerist societies are more prone to damage the environment, contribute to climate change and use up resources at a higher rate than other societies.[3].....

... the consumer’s needs and desires never be completely or permanently fulfilled….. It is even better for the product to be part of a continuously changing fashion market, where items in a nearly-new and good condition must be replaced to stay current with the latest trend. In this way steady profits are assured, but consumers are not comfortable or satisfied for very long with what they have.

There are many models taht are not “consuemr driven socieieties” nor “subsistence societies”:

“Equality, Sustainabailityand Community”

“.. it is a failure if the Left to allows itself to be limited to a defence of the welfare state. It is only by reconstituting community in new forms, from the ground up, within cooperative forms of self-organization that we can form the social relations that might sustain us in the moment when we are abandoned to environmental ruin and social marginalization by the shiny forces of globalization. These forces will indeed abandon us in the moment when it becomes more profitable to do so. At that time, we need to be prepared with an alternative conception of property, wealth and citizenship that could extend the achievements of the welfare state into a new stage. In my view, subsistence and sustainability must be the watchwords of this new socialist ideal…”

“Subsistence as a Social Right” (goes intot alternative definitions of subsistence, and Social Democracies)

BTW—I have that bumper sticker on my car. We must be interpreting the quote differently.

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By Alex Krupp, November 12, 2008 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
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1) Why do you use Gatto’s analysis of the 1993 NALS, even though there was a new NALS released just a couple years ago?

2) Do you have a source for your other statistics, other than the unsourced claims of ?

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By nancyjune, November 12, 2008 at 9:46 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Hedges, as a high school teacher I also bemoan the antipathy of students (and almost everyone else I know—I live in a small East Texas town) to reading.  It is their loss that they are not exposed to your wonderful mind nor to your shimmering prose.
(How’s that for a paean!  I am a fan.)

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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 9:08 am Link to this comment


I was agreeing with you.  The quote was aimed at someone else.

It would added a sense of completeness if you had added the kitchen sink to your list of flying objects.

My friends call me PSD for short.
PSD stands for Professional S—t Disturber

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Yeah, Folktruther, where there is one deviant (uh, me) a million follow.  Just remember that my bumpersticker says loudly, Subvert the Dominant Paradigm. And you are trying to develop a dominant paradigm of rottenness in education.  And of course you know I won’t let you do it!  There was a time when I would agree when Catholic schools indoctrinated the young and engaged in corporal punishment unbelievably.  The nuns should have been staff and quartered and parts sent to the Pope in brown paper bags.  The same thing goes on in Islamic schools today and I doubt the Catholics have changed much. Then there are the Evangelical schools that have their own brand of brainwashing.  But public schools are not oceans of punishment.  Left to their own devices, unschooled children have more a tendency to crime.  Not that there isn’t a vast amount. But it would be anarchy. And I for one think that is death to a civilization.  Anarchist may exists as individuals and as outsiders of a sort, and there are all kinds of outsiders, but for a society, anarchism does not work very well or if it does, it only works for a relatively short time. 

Education is what you make of it.  If it is binding of the mind, it is also a freeing of the mind.  Depends on how lucky you are.  and that is pretty much in the words of Aristotle.  Education reform.  I would agree with.  I would restructure education but then ahs em retired!  Ahs jes sub now and then whens ahs feel laik it and then ahs tries to subvert da dominant paradigm bess ahs could.

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By Stephen Smoliar, November 12, 2008 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

FENWICK, the answer to your question is that this forum for comments is what Joyce Rothschild-Whitt called a “collectivist organization.”  You can find a quotation and citation on my old Yahoo! blog at:

The quotation refers specifically to the high level of stress experienced by participants in a New England town meeting that Rothschild-Whitt studied.  However, what she writes about applies to the behavior of any group of vastly disparate interests that is trying to deliberate some significant matter.  What most business schools (particularly the ones with a strong faith based not in some Divine Power but in information technology) fail to teach is that serious deliberation is a messy process;  and the level of the mess increases with the number of people doing the deliberating.  As the mess increases, it takes its toll on the psychological well-being of the participants;  but those who take such deliberation seriously soldier on, because they know the outcome will be more effective than the results of any number-crunching “decision support technology!”

My guess is that this nature of deliberation has been around since the early days of Athenian democracy and that both Plato and Socrates were well aware of the messiness of it all.  This is probably why the “Republic” preferred the philosopher-king as a “preemptive strike” against such messiness.  Writing with a broader temporal perspective, Hegel came to the same conclusion in his PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY.  Anarcissie seems to imply that Kristof is of a similar frame of mind;  but my reading of his column is that he is only interested in a reversal of the tide of anti-intellectualism.  As to my own opinion, given the choice between messiness and a philosopher-king, I go for the messiness;  it is part of our very humanity, which is what I felt Hedges was disregarding when this discussion was first building up steam:

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By Folktruther, November 12, 2008 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

Steady, Fenwick, don’t weaken.  Your question of whether a consumer or subsistence culture, Anarcissie, is very provocative, as so many of your questions are. 

Shenonymous, your ruminations are highly Educated so they don’t have to make any sense.  In the math language, a variable ranages over….  what on earth am I doing, trying to introduce lucidity into the Educated swamp.  I’m becoming increasingly senile, combating Education with reason.

Education throughout history has been a systematic exercise in child abuse.  This physical, emotional and intellectual abuse has been inflicted on the young to train them to do what they are told by oppressive power.  To this end the Educated classes have imposed on the young the inherited misconceptions that legitimate their power. 

Learning and imposing these misconceptions on others is referred to among the Educated classes as Intelligence, Creativity and Originality.

Instilling the Educated truth requires the learned repression of the ideologically diviant truths that subverts it.  And distraction by complicated bullshit and trivia to divert attention from the crucial power interests of the population.

Except for you, Dr Shenonymous.  You, in your shimmering glory, have managed to surmount the indoctrinated liberalism that American learning instills. Wonnerful, wonnerful, as that old band leader used to say.

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

The fever in the human spirit, maybe?  Are you trying to squash our ‘clean’ fun, FENWICK?  I’m not sure about the strum and drang of Jerry Lee Lewis but when an irresistable force meets another irresistable force, it is usually kaboom!  More than metaphorical chairs go a flying.  I wonder at times if face-to-face meetings would be so angst laden?  Probably not.  The computer interface provides a buffer to the violence that might but probably would not happen.  We are more brave with our armour of computer chips and a bag of Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.

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By optipessi mist, November 12, 2008 at 8:15 am Link to this comment


Finally! I wonder if Thurber is the author of the well known westerns’ quote,

“——you and the horse you rode in on.”

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By Red star, November 12, 2008 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Although I agree with the premise of this article, being that Usans depend to a high degree of visual images and repetition to understand certain ocurrences correct or false, I disagree with the author’s view trying to single out Obama, as one that took advantage of the ignorance, misinformation and gullibility of the electorate.
Don’t both parties have done the same for decades?
Aren’t the republicans the masters of malicious artifice?
What did the authir expect?....that we continue with 4 more years of disastrous , incompetent, corrupt “lidership”?
Mr. Hedges, there are only certain ways to make your point across. People demanded CHANGE. Can you fault them for that???

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By Shenonymous, November 12, 2008 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

What Outraged is really your point?  That my numbers are specious?  I certainly wouldn’t die by them but they are relative to the question of the rank of the educated.  It has little to do with the fact the OECD might be connected to corporate activity.  Unless of course you are hypothesizing that the data collected for the survey was biased somehow and that the content of textbooks are somehow influenced by this survey???.  I think that is really stretching and ridiculous.  But that is all right.  That kind of logic is expected from you.

Tertiary means after secondary or college level education!

No, it has nothing to do with opinion of faculty with regard to textbooks.  You obviously don’t know much about how textbooks are selected. And I agree the content is often specious.  Especially where teachers are being now made to include Intelligent Design as part of science classes.  Nor have you ever sat in on a school board meeting where arguments raged as to which books will be used.  I suggest for convenience sake that you check out the wikipedia page at
and scroll down to Curriculum Issues for a succinct description of how it is done.

In other words KDelphi, consumerism will suffer a death due to natural causes.  I don’t think so.  Things always have a way of revision and humankind is in the business (literally) of changing itself to fit the circumstances.  Humans have come a long way in the millions of years since they evolved from primitive forms.  They have the ingenuity to repair the damage they have done from their ignorance.

And Anarcissie, true to form, to what degree do you think Kristof was suggesting a monarchy styled government would solve what problem exactly?  And where did he say what you are accusing?  The crux of his article ended with this: Yet as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they’re caught with brains in their heads.  You only see what you want to see, in the words of a famous thinker: Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true ~ Sir Francis Bacon.  How is it you always try to add 1 + 1 and come up with 3?  Interesting, She says stroking her metaphorical beard.

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By Bryan M McGuire, November 12, 2008 at 6:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How else could Sarah become an overnight sensation? This article is right on intellectually, but I recommend “The Political Brain” by Drew Westen of Emory University who establishes that people vote emotionally, not intellectually…brains or not! That’s why Republicans focused on the “WHO”, while Democrats were busy with the “WHAT”.

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By Leefeller, November 12, 2008 at 5:48 am Link to this comment



Checked out the article by Nicholas Kristof, they must have changed it, he discusses the change of having a leader with a brain and comments on intellectuals in general.

The closest comment to a Monarch would be his comment about Nero, and I particularly like Nero’s burning the Christians to light his garden part.

For what it is not worth, I prefer a benevolent despot, concerned about the inbreeding thing.  Anyway we have had eight years of the king and Cheney, not worthy of repeating, unless one is into self inflicted pain.

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By Anarcissie, November 12, 2008 at 5:14 am Link to this comment

Nicholas Kristof suggests that the problem on intellectuality may be solved by having the right monarch:

In any case, what’s the alternative to consumer culture, other than subsistence culture?  Basically, those are the two the human race has had experience with.

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