Sunday, January 02, 2011

In praise of illiteracy....

As I was desperately looking for comfort, rationalizaton and self-justification for myself and Mrs. Curmudgeon, what with the fact that more than half of the little Curmudgeons are illiterate, I stumbled upon a passage from an "old friend" from graduate school, Richard M Weaver:

What the defenders of present civilization usually mean when they say that modern man is better educated than his forebears is that he is literate in larger numbers. The literacy can be demonstrated; yet one may question whether there has ever been a more deceptive panacea, and we are compelled, after a hundred years of experience, to echo Nietzsche’s bitter observation: “Everyone being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only writing but also thinking.” It is not what people can read; it is what they do read, and what they can be made, by any imaginable means, to learn from what they read, that determines the issue of this noble experiment. We have given them a technique of acquisition; how much comfort can we take in the way they employ it? In a society where expression is free and popularity is rewarded they read mostly that which debauches them and they are continuously exposed to manipulation by controllers of the printing machine…. It may be doubted whether one person in three draws what may be correctly termed knowledge from his freely chosen reading matter. The staggering number of facts to which he today has access serves only to draw him away from consideration of first principles, so that his orientation becomes peripheral. And looming above all as a reminder of this fatuity is the tragedy of modern Germany, the one totally literate nation.

--from Ideas Have Consequences (1948), pp. 13-14.

Take THAT, Barbara Bush!

1 comment:

Alison said...

That was excellent. I am so happy to hear that the Curmudgeons are not into hyper-parenting.

Of the Bush wives, I was always wary. I did kind of like Laura because during her college years, she would stay home on weekends and sit on her bed and read children's books. Then when she was introduced to the Bush family and Barbara asked her what sport she played, she replied, "I sit, I watch and I smoke."