Thursday, March 15, 2012

In praise of stupidity

There's long been rhetoric in politics and society in general about the importance of education, but let's face facts: No matter how much we lead a horse to a book we cannot make it learn. No matter the opportunity presented some will be disinclined to integrate knowledge.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting we give up on our public education system. It's far from perfect but it's still important that we offer it so all children (and heck, adults) get a chance to develop their minds.

But for those who won't, let's acknowledge that they provide society with an important function as well.

Just as there's no good without evil to contrast it, there's no smart without stupidity. Admit it, smart people: we wouldn't think our education was worth all the effort if there weren't others who, while they may other skills and could be very nice, provide a yang to our intellectual yin. We fancy that we're above such petty reinforcement, but even the most secure among us have moments where we need to feel better about ourselves, and let's not pretend that stupid people don't provide an easy boost.

And here's the true beauty of it: Smart and stupid are not two buckets but ends of a spectrum, and a spectrum along which all of us fall somewhere—and even at that, it varies depending on the criteria used; we all have areas where we have greater or lesser knowledge. So we all get to be the smart one or the stupid one relative to someone else. The extent to which we could feel condescending superiority toward certain others we would be providing that same feeling to different others. Or heck, by switching the subject it's possible for the first group to be looking down their noses at us. It's ultimately very leveling.

If you don't believe that such is how it operates, clearly you don't spend a lot of time on the internet, particularly in the comments section of virtually any website or on Twitter. Sometimes it seems like any utilitarian purpose the world wide web may provide is subordinate in value to the way it offers up the stupidity of others for our entertainment (and derision, spoken or unspoken). And it's marvelous.

Politics? Oh, let's not sully this with that low-hanging fruit. We can have some standards here.

So, I offer sincere applause for all us/them stupid people.

Do stay in school, kids. If for no other reason than it should later afford you more people who are lower than you on the smart-stupid continuum to whom you can think, Look at all those idiots.


Might a better education for me have improved that appropriation of the horse-to-water idiom back in the first paragraph? Perhaps. But here's the thing: If you thought it poor—and I wouldn't argue against you if you did—it was precisely as you'd want it, whether you consciously agree or not.

You're welcome.

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