Getting Smart

Headlines, as we all know, which is why the following pedantic instruction and didactic is offered, are sometimes deceiving or, at best, misleading.

The present one, for instance, suggests something about a television program. To at least one age-focused cohort. Alas, readers will find no mention below of Don Adams, Barbara Feldon or the “Cone of Silence.” Except those.

Instead, the essay offers easy-to-follow instructions on how to avoid the lengthy and tedious, time-honored but personally reviled, path to perceived intelligence.

We value education and, even more, intelligence. The nation’s founders thought it significant. Indeed, the whole premise for democracy’s merit and superiority over all other political systems assumes an educated and informed citizenry.

And to make that possible, we institutionalize formal education.

Public education and mandatory attendance by children are fiscally supported by taxes. Taxes paid by those who derive no current, empirical benefit from them.

Indeed, the amount of money from taxes for education makes the budget for national defense and war-making seem puny and insignificant. As though it were a rounding error. By comparison and absolutely.

The cost to educate a kid – or at least send them to public school, regardless of the precise outcome – is remarkable. Public school teachers like to remind the rest of us of this fact every so often. Usually by going out on strike. And with public demonstrations. And they have a long list of what can’t be done, despite the size of the current education budget.

But here’s an alternative. And one for which there will be great appreciation and applause. Maybe a parade and fireworks.

I’ve improved my perceived level of intelligence immeasurably, and I’m being very careful about my word choices here. And with only two simple and inexpensive devices.

A coffee mug and a pad of paper.

The mug was given to me by a former student who probably knows more than me. See: the circle of life in education! The pad I received as a “thank you” for volunteering at an all-day fund-raiser at which I was an antiques appraiser.

The white mug is emblazoned in simple, blue letters: “YALE University.” The pad’s pages are printed with my local public broadcasting station’s call letters.

Now, just as soon as I get one of them there “smartphones,” it’ll be like having a gradual degree.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. I’m much better off for each.

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