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A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

    -Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

That's probably the most often half-quoted aphorism I've ever heard.

So, what am I going to rant about today?

Well, seeing as everyone has Intelligent Design on his or her mind these days (don't you?), I thought I would rant thusly:

  • 1. 06 Nov 2004 - Concerning creationism: If you're going to offer to teach creationism under the rubric of science, be scientific: admit scientific inquiry, state testable hypotheses, and draw sound conclusions based upon logical interpretation of facts. If you can't do such a thing, don't purport to.
    As one of my favorite professors, Gerard G. L. Meyer, said: "calling something by a name does not make it so". Saying that you have faith, an insight, or a burning in the bosom is all well and good, but by definition, that is not science. Ingenuousness is the first step towards building trust, and isn't that what faith is about? Trust?

  • 2. 06 Jun 2005 - Concerning the "dumbing down" of curricula: I'm becoming increasingly resistant to the pressure to lower my standards. From prerequisites to vocabulary to fundamental mathematical concepts (including basic lexicons and frameworks), this problem is becoming endemic. By a show of hands, is anybody else ready to say, "enough is enough"?
    Whence cometh this rant: I told my folks and my colleague Dan Andresen that while I do not feel alienated from the children of the early 1980s such as masaga and zengeneral, nor from children of the late 1980s and early 1990s, I feel increasingly alienated from people born between 1984 and 1988. I can't say why this is. This is, of course, a Broad Sweeping GeneralizationTM and there are always exceptions to such things, to paraphrase darana. However, I really do think there is something of an anti-intellectual bubble in American culture that lasts at least through those years. On the plus side, I think it's cyclic; I think such things swing back, like tie widths and skirt styles. On the minus side, I'm worried that this trend is self-perpetuating and that the energetic people aged (say) 12-16 right now will end up being pulled into the assiduous know-nothingness that seems to have swallowed some segment of their immediate elder generation. (By the way, what do you call the generations after X? I hate to use the term "Emo Generation", as it sounds so pejorative.)

Well, there you have it. This week's rant has been brought to you by a round of homework and exam grading and comparisons with the same work given out in past years. Yes, I realize this has been the lament of teachers (a group of which I consider myself a member) and adults (well, yeah, I guess) since time immemorial. Yes, kids have been whining about homework since at least Nineveh, courtesy of some dialogue wedged into clay back in someone's day. And no, we haven't seen The World go Down the Tubes yet. I'll go out on a limb, though, and say that it's in spite of "epistemallergy" rather than because of it.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 26th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)

I was born in 1984. But I hear what you're saying.

I was frustrated when I told my advisor that I while I was a bio major, I wanted to take math for math majors. He discouraged me from taking math major courses. To his dismay, I did so anyway. To date, I've gotten 4 Bs in college. Two are in chemistry, one is in microbiology lab, and one is in expository writing. Mathematics and computer science are far too fascinating for me to pass up at the expense of appeasing my advisor.

I agree about the anti-intellectual element in American culture though. But I disagree that it's cyclic in a short time span. I feel as though it's a pendulum swinging. I'm not sure if we've hit the peak yet, or if we're still in the swing pattern about to reach the maxima (minima?)

It scares me though.
Nov. 26th, 2005 05:23 am (UTC)
The Generation after X is Y. Really.
Nov. 26th, 2005 07:00 am (UTC)
Generation Y
Y I've heard of; what comes after Y?
(And if it's Z, what comes after that? I think we're past Z by now...)

Nov. 26th, 2005 07:06 am (UTC)
Re: Generation Y
I think they've named it Generation Me (me as in not you, not as in Microsoft, at least I don't think so), because it's all the preteens that get their own cellphones and do speed and get pierced at 13.
Nov. 26th, 2005 05:42 am (UTC)
We children of the seventies can be morons too, you know.

Your hybrid word reminds me of two alternative definitions I thought up for metallurgy:  an intolerance to New York's baseball team or a disease caught by diseases.  Think about them.

As for anti-intellectualism, one thing I have noticed is a tendency to portray anything that cannot be immediately understood by an ordinary person as deliberately obfuscatory.  This is my major objection to the postmodernist push against scientific and educational elitism.  While the idea that knowledge should be kept locked up and used as a power-base is hateful, trying to devalue its perceived power by denying that it exists or has value is potentially massively damaging, to my mind.  I don't know if it is a coincidence that it follows the broader trend towards "if I can't understand it it's just high-faluting nonsense" but it worries me that this could spring up in academia.
Nov. 26th, 2005 09:37 am (UTC)
In 1984 MTV started. Coincidence? ;)
Nov. 27th, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
It is my intention to misuse this trend to appear of near magical proficiency to this coming generation, just as the kernel hackers who grew up on early micros appeared to my generation...
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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