The problem stems from multiple sources by which we classify, categorize and emphasize intelligence.
As an example my test scores are mundane. I took the GMAT prep course and started in the 400’s and got to the 600’s. I took a month off before the test to cram and sure enough got caught up in work and didn’t. I took the test and scored in the 400’s. In college I scored B’s and C’s in the first two years and A’s and B’s in the second two years. There was a change in the last two years from one system to another that changed my GPA from a 3.4 to a 2.98.
My experience in academia was wonderful grades from papers and B’s from multiple choice tests. I then would go in and explain why I chose the answer I did and would promptly be told my logic was sound but it was the best answer that was need not a good answer. Imagine my surprise that there are best answers in theory. Imagine my surprise when knowing what is taught well enough to convince the professor that it is wrong does not automatically earn ones self a proper grade. Go figure.
My ultimate goal is to make it back to academia Mr. Mead but it is a difficult road to traverse these days. I was one of the generalist of which you speak and refused to be anything else, despite the behest of relatives, friends and professors. It made it exceedingly hard to find a job but incredibly easy to keep it. So here I sit, having automated everything I do and spending the rest of my time reading. I read this, The Economist, philosophy and religion. As I read I find myself knee deep in a wikepedia pages or a taped book from archive.com talking about the Fibonacci number, pie, the golden ratio, physics, biology, chemistry, history, linguistics or theology. Given all of this Mr. Mead in the current system part of me knows that I’ll never make it to the things I want most and so I’ve instead turned to different avenues of education. Those, though esoteric, still possibly more in line with the historical imperative.
So there it is. The intelligentsia thinks that theory is law and law is silly because history isn’t present and the present will pass into history. And around and round we go and where we’ll stop God only knows. I’m reminded of a quote from one of the most brilliant men of all time: “And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually”.
1. A major problem with American foreign policy is that it’s too dominated by twits from the Ivy League.
2. “The health and strength of American society is essential, not only for our own continued freedom and prosperity, but to ensure that we can make our necessary contribution to the peace, development and well being of the world.”
Ah, is this part of the contemporary version of the ”White Man’s Burden,’ Mr. Mead.
Soon we will learn about Mead’s struggles with the masters of the glass bead game.
Congratulations on your retirement. I hope it now frees up more time for you to write on your blog and publish books on policy. I’ve enjoyed your writing for years!
“….A people without history
is not redeemed from time., for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments.”
As the poet says, “Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyager.”
The farther away from polemics, the better your writing is. It’s obvious you took your time writing this post. I would suggest taking the same time per word in future posting. Quality over quantity.
Of course, I have a few critiques, but you’re right, complaining is easy. I’ll leave you to your hard work. Good luck with teaching and writing.
Dear Mr Mead
Since I came across your blog following a link from one of the guys blog of The Atlantic , I am a regular reader of it. I have enjoyed and benefited a lot from the issues you discuss and the perspective you bring on this page.So I would like to say thank you and also ask if we could have more on books as literary Saturday is my eagerly awaited weekend treat. As a late comer to proper reading and learning, I have a plan to engage in serious reading in order to have the foundation that enables me to fully engage on issues of the times.
I find myself frequently bringing your blogs to the attention of others. As I did this one. Thank you again for a thought provoking piece.
You long for the meaningful work of an intellectual. You long for ideas to matter to democracy. You resign your blog. Excellent. Go further. Resign your university sinecure.
You can still trade on your bona fides with regards to the publishing houses. But, now, in American discourse you will speak to the very self-same audiences. Though you may feel better about it.
I teach in a penitentiary, a crucible of politics if there ever was one. We need you here. Your frame remains too narrow and is part of the larger dessication of the intellectual that you articulate.
America needs you elsewhere brother. Beware the toleration of your own intellectual comfort.
You’re right. Democracy needs the intellectuals and we don’t have them.
But I think you are going where you are comfortable, and you will speak, not truth to power, but something that only echos in the world you seek to distance yourself from.
“the failure of internet journalism to produce much revenue further complicates the task of those who want to make a living by writing intelligently about important issues for the public at large”
Nobody likes to ask for money, but talented bloggers who have attracted faithful readers might consider asking for voluntary contributions. Either that or you stop feeding their habit. I’d be willing to pay to keep reading you for instance.
Alternatively Google or Paypal might develop an automated system of micro-payments; the first paragraph would be free, but if they want to read the whole post it would cost them a nickel (of which you get, say, 4.5 cents). It would all be a matter of counting the clicks, and of on-line paperless credit card statements at the end of each month. Isn’t this obvious? I’ll take the patent if not.
Best of luck. I’ve found your blog very enlightening. Your thinking extends far beyond most today, and you have a knack for uncovering what I think are the real forces at work in the world today. As another commenter also said, I often send links to your posts around to me friends. Thank you!
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I’d like to offer my warm wishes to Prof. Mead during his transition. Repairing America’s broken discourse will be a hard job, so it’s great to have someone of his talents pitching in.
You have omitted a 4th important pillar from the above that provides both a standing place and the best place to develop that vision in my opinion — the US intelligence community. While largely out of sight and with little role to play in informing public perceptions, it is in the best position to provide the clarity often lacking from the others.