Finishing schools

There used to be, and possibly is, a mysterious institution for young ladies known as a finishing-school. The chief case against it was that, in certain instances, it meant finishing an education without ever beginning it. In any case, this is what is the matter with a great many modern institutions…. The curse of nearly all such judgements is the journalistic curse of having heard the latest news; that is, of having heard the end of the story without having even heard of the beginning. We talk of people not knowing the A B C of a subject, but the trouble with these people is that they do know the X Y Z of a subject without knowing the A B C.

—G. K. Chesterton, All I Survey

I draw just one distinguo. The latest news, in such affairs, is seldom or never the last news. Journalists, and the sort of people who take their opinions from journalism, are much more likely to walk into the middle of a conversation, hear the L M N of the subject, and suppose that it ends there; or project its ultimate outcome without ever inquiring about its grounds or origins, and hastily conclude that it will end with something like Ayin, Psi, Wum. The eventual arrival of X Y Z, so predictable to those few sensible people who inquired into the whole of the subject, nearly always leaves the journal-minded in a state of indignant surprise.

Johnny can’t

The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.

—Thomas Sowell

‘Dear verminous cretin’: Smiggy replies to a reader

In response to ‘Theyocracy: The argument’, Nancy Lebovitz writes:

I realize it’s unreasonable to expect a demon to supply links or evidence.

I looked up Cruz’s speech, and it seemed like a bunch of insults, and lacked a description of what Obama had done which was so awful.

I found the above, which claimed that Cicero was pushing for insurrection, and Cruz quoted him with that in mind. This may or may not be true, but it’s certainly not a general attack on politicians using classical quotations.

What are your sources?

H. Smiggy McStudge answers for his own purposes, not for Ms. Lebovitz’s benefit, so you must excuse the whiff of brimstone. For my own part, I apologize to Ms. Lebovitz. It is not that Smiggy lacks manners; he understands them exquisitely, and when he is offensive, he always does it on purpose. But Smiggy will be Smiggy, and if I edited out his rudeness, half of his meaning would be lost along with it. If you took all the malice out of him, you could not see him without an electron microscope. I hold you in high regard, Ms. Lebovitz, whatever a McStudge may please himself to say.

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Conservatives, progressives, and educational methods

First the text, from the immortal Chesterton:

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine.

And now the sermon. This is from ‘docargent’, a commenter on Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog. I offer it with the caveat that the teacher cited cannot be reached to confirm the story:

I worked as support staff in a middle school once and, having been left almost innumerate due to the New Math, asked a teacher nearing retirement if anything done since the New Math had worked as well as the methods used before it. When she said no, I asked why public schools never went back to the pre- New Math method.

“There’s no money in it,” she said.

According to her, school districts receive federal grants to use new and experimental teaching plans. If these fail, and they usually do, no effort is made to correct the damage done to the education of the students used as guinea pigs; they’ll have to pick the subject up themselves later on. The school districts need the grants to pay for various unfunded mandates.

I thought this over and asked her if this meant that if an experimental teaching method did actually work, the district would still abandon it in a few years for something totally untried in order to get a new grant.

“Yes,” she said.