Gingrich the Wise?

Paul Nachman writes:

Here is an interesting paragraph from an interview with Gingrich, where he says that two different wings of the left have emerged:

First, Deweyism is the creation of an educated class which knows nothing. Dewey wrote about this: “You don’t want them to know too much history, because that limits their plasticity”; “you don’t want them to know too much math or science, because that limits their plasticity.” I keep arguing that the most important political phrase of the next ten years is that “two plus two equals four,” which the Poles used against the state. It partly came out of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the state torturer says to the citizen: “If we tell you that two plus two equals five, it equals five. If we tell you that it equals three, it equals three,” he says. Deweyism, in that sense, wanted to create plasticity. William Ayers in that sense is a legitimate disciple of Dewey. How do you get to a revolutionized society? You make sure the people don’t know anything.

LA replies:

I’ve written two responses to this:

1. I don’t like giving Gingrich credit for saying anything insightful and worthwhile, because I think he is biggest gasbag in the galaxy, but this is good.

2. This is a good statement, but Gingrich is still full of it, because he himself, while making conservative sounding noises from time to time, is a proponent of the Marxist-like techno-utopianism of Alvin (The Third Wave) Toffler, and as such he rejects any notion of a stable human nature and sees people as infinitely plastic and changeable.

And of all people who are plastic and changeable, Gingrich is the worst. Anything he says, no matter how impressive it may sound, you can be sure that within a few days he will contradict it. The man is a ceaseless generator of verbiage who lacks any intellectual substance within himself.

- end of initial entry -

A. Zarkov writes:

I didn’t know that Dewey once wrote,

“You don’t want them to know too much history, because that limits their plasticity”; “you don’t want them to know too much math or science, because that limits their plasticity.” [LA replies: You know, I had that thought too, that the statement was too straightfoward for Dewey, that it sounded more like a critic (Gingrich?) characterizing his view than Dewey himself. We need to check this out.]

At least ten years ago, I concluded that it’s no accident the American educational system does such a poor job in some subjects. Having a “plastic” citizenry serves the interests of politicians, the media, the schools, industrialists, doctors, lawyers etc. If Americans knew more history—their own as well as others, they would realize how mediocre their leaders are. They would also know how incompetent their teachers are if they understood math and science better. Here’s an example. After sitting in on my daughter’s high school chemistry, physics and calculus courses, I volunteered to teach (free of charge) supplementary courses in these subjects. The high school would have none of that. The students would then see how little their teachers knew about what they are teaching. BTW the teacher’s unions have a response to this—they say “we teach students, not subjects.” In other words, education is all about style, form and propaganda, not imparting skills, knowledge and abilities.

I’m waiting for Breitbart’s “Big Education” to launch. The education industry in the US is the biggest racket of them all. The worse they do, the more more money we are supposed to spend because their poor results show we didn’t spend enough!

Paul Nachman writes:

That quote of Gingrich apparently directly quoting Dewey is copied and pasted straight from this NRO article by Robert Costa. I googled one part of the Dewey “plasticity” quote itself and found nothing but the Costa article.

Maybe we have to wait for that Google book-scanning project to advance.

Also, I’m surprised by what Mr. Zarkov writes about high school physics teachers. I don’t doubt that there are some slugs, but physics isn’t a mass production course, since a relatively small fraction of students take it. So I was thinking that the schools could hire mostly competent people for this …

Marco Jawsario writes:

Just whom among the conservative writers do you like? I am curious. I ask this because, while I like you, I also like Newt Gingrich, Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, David Limbaugh, Heather McDonald—all for various reasons. I LIKE them, which does not mean I agree with everything they say. Newt has had some off the wall ideas from left field, but I did enjoy some of his books, as I am with Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.”

LA replies:

Well, I think I regularly refer to books and articles that I’ve gotten a lot out of. At the same time, I guess there aren’t many contemporary conservative whom I could say that I like. If I thought about it I suppose I could put together a list. There are writers I read more than others. I tend to give credit to the person’s works and the ideas, not to the person himself. Maybe that’s a flaw on my part.

In my Readng LIst, I discuss many authors, including conservatives, who have meant a lot to me.

However, more fundamentally, it’s not logical to expect me to admire lots of contemporary conservatives. Your question assumes that there is a viable conservatism in existence, and lots of sound exponents of it. But my view is that our civilization is sick and in crisis, that it is heading toward destruction, and that conservatives are active or passive participants in that. Which means that there is no sound and viable conservatism in existence and that if one is to exist, it must be created. From which it follows that the better known exponents of contemporary conservatism, such as the individuals you name, Gingrich, Steyn, Goldberg, are part of the problem.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 08, 2009 11:53 AM | Send

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