Thursday, November 02, 2006

Education, Smarts, and Soldiering.

A commentator the other day left a good comment. Normally, this fellow and myself disagree strongly but not this time. However their is disagreement.

Kerry is a d-bag, but I don't think he was calling anybody and idiot.
Source: Blogger Beer Commentary by Jesusisjustalrightwithme
I agree with the first statement, but the last comment. Early on I gave Senator Kerry the benefit of the doubt
I feel a certain call to speak out on this, as a person at least titularly involved in the creation and delivery of jokes. If you say something to me, and I look hurt, and you say, "Just kidding," that does not make what you said a joke. It has to be a joke in the first place. And Kerry's line is very clearly, both in its wording and in its delivery, not a joke. It's a warning. He's talking to students. He says it with an even graver-than-usual, flatter-than-usual tone, and he's telling them what can happen to them if they don't study hard. Is he warning them that they might someday be President and make decisions leading to a quagmire in Iraq? Of course not. You can get stuck in Iraq. Personally.

Beyond that, if the line were, as claimed, a joke about the President, it would theoretically need to contain at least some tiny reference to the President. I could rewrite it a dozen ways to make it a joke, though never a good one — "You can stay in school and study hard and do well, or you can coast through school like our President and end up stuck in Iraq." But that's not even close to what Kerry said.

Also, I think those who defend the idea that he meant the President are misreading the line "you get stuck in Iraq." It's a subtle matter of inflection, but I don't believe he is saying "stuck" in the sense of "mired." I believe he is saying "stuck" as "unfortunately placed" as in "I got stuck in the worst hotel room." Again, the President could not be placed in Iraq. Soldiers can.
Source: Kerry's "Joke" Dissected The Corner Warren Bell
Viewing the video supports Warren's contentions. After all, as I said before its not like there is no history here.

The Commentator goes on to raise some important distinctions about intelligence and education.
I agree. However, I have one additional criticism. Both Kerry and the people condmning [sic] him have to stop equating "not doing well in school" with "being an idiot." My guess is that more of our soldiers were in the middle or bottom of their high school classes than were at the top. That does not make them idiots.
Source: Blogger Beer Commentary by Jesusisjustalrightwithme
I agree with the first comments but question the later comments. I know PhD.s who are flipping idiots and high school dropouts who are very smart. I am not trying to be "deep" or contradictory just the facts. In fact, most of us know people in both of those categories, nothing earthshaking. Stanley Kurtz at National Review has some interesting comments about intelligence, education, and life outlooks:
Whatever he meant by them, John Kerry’s remarks have struck a nerve. But why? Well, for a lot of reasons. Of course we think of anti-war activist John Kerry’s long-standing tensions with his fellow Vietnam Vets. Then there’s the insulting stereotype of the dumb soldier. But to understand the tensions thrown up by Kerry’s remarks, we also need to have a look at the reverse of the medal: not the “soldiers are dumb” theme, but the notion that smart people don’t become soldiers and don’t support wars. No matter who he meant the dumb folks were, the idea that smart college kids become dovish Dems is a powerful sub-text in Kerry’s remarks.

A big part of what’s going on here is the taken-for-granted sense that young people who correctly absorb the lessons taught on America’s college campuses must be anti-war. More deeply, there’s a conflict between what author David Lebedoff calls “The New Elite” and “The Left Behinds.” According to Lebedoff, The New Elite who populate Blue America aren’t necessarily smarter than Red State “Left Behinds,” but they nonetheless build their identities around a belief in their own intelligence and education. The contrast between hard working folks who rise up through higher education to be smarties against war, and poor dumb schlubs who become soldiers because they aren’t smart enough to cut it in college, is an almost perfect instantiation of Lebedoff’s distinction between The New Elite and The Left Behinds.

I reviewed Lebedoff’s book, The Uncivil War: How a New Elite is Destroying Our Democracy, for the October 11, 2004 issue of NRODT. Here’s an excerpt from that review. (Substitute the example of a soldier for the lawyer named Edward, and you will see John Kerry’s comments come to life.):

...Lebedoff believes that our political and cultural struggles are being driven by a conflict between two groups, "The New Elite" and "The Left Behinds." Let's have a look at a couple of representatives of these competing social camps.

Growing up in Allentown, Pa., Charlene had felt a bit ashamed of her hand-me-down clothes and less-than-cultured parents. Yet this bright girl blossomed in college, proud to be accepted as an equal by a circle of friends who made concerts, foreign films, and lectures their mainstay. On getting her doctorate in microbiology, Charlene married a physicist and moved to Seattle. Charlene and her neighbors are culturally sophisticated and fairly well off. They feel they've earned their position in life by dint of talent and intelligence. Having risen above their backgrounds, they're suspicious of tradition and impatient with those who don't see things their way. After all, Charlene and her neighbors have proven themselves to be among the brightest and most knowledgeable of citizens; they are members of "The New Elite."

Edward grew up in Mankato, Minn., a prosperous town of 30,000. His IQ is actually higher than Charlene's, yet he doesn't see his intelligence as the key to his place in life. Edward's father, like his father before him, was a respected lawyer and leader in Mankato. Edward values his family's place in the town, and returned to Mankato to practice law. After an indifferent performance in college, Edward had applied himself and done quite well in law school. Yet he knew that, either way, a desk would be waiting for him at the family firm. Edward sees himself as a leader in Mankato, heir to the standards of his profession, and an admirer of the American way of life. Although a prominent citizen and financially well off, Edward is part of what Lebedoff calls "The Left Behinds."

What sets these portraits apart from a typical contrast between "blue" and "red" America is Lebedoff's focus on intelligence. Edward may be smart, but he doesn't define himself by his intellectual accomplishments; yet Charlene and her neighbors in Seattle became professionals by virtue of their grades and SAT scores. What's more, they know it. Deep down, these sophisticates take their intelligence and success as proof that their anti-traditionalist world-view is right—and that those who see things differently are both ignorant and mistaken.

This, says Lebedoff, is the downside of our meritocracy. A laudable democratic desire to ensure equality of opportunity prompted us to make tests like the SAT a decisive determinant of success; an unintended consequence of this change has been to create an elite that is suspicious of democracy itself. Democracy depends on majority rule, but—without quite admitting it—our elites have lost faith in the wisdom of the majority. They think they're smart enough to decide what's right for all of us. These elites don't realize that most political decisions depend on values, not intelligence. Their unshakable faith in their own intelligence leads them to mistake their own imperfect preferences for the truth.

The tension between the New Elites and the Left Behinds is everywhere in our politics, says Lebedoff.”
Source: Dovish Smarties - The Corner Stanley Kurtz
Faith again, faith in what? Funny how faith and doubt can reside in the same mind as they do.