Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Who was Jack Kerouac? If you don't know, is ignorance bliss? Plus one more thing on the Paris riots...

J Peder Zane recently in The News and Observer (North Carolina) wrote:
Over dinner a few weeks ago, the novelist Lawrence Naumoff told a troubling story. He asked students in his introduction to creative writing course at UNC-Chapel Hill if they had read Jack Kerouac. Nobody raised a hand. Then he asked if anyone had ever heard of Jack Kerouac. More blank expressions.
. . .

The floodgates were opened and the other UNC professors at the dinner began sharing their own dispiriting stories about the troubling state of curiosity on campus. Their experiences echoed the complaints voiced by many of my book reviewers who teach at some of the nation's best schools.

All of them have noted that such ignorance isn't new -- students have always possessed far less knowledge than they should, or think they have. But in the past, ignorance tended to be a source of shame and motivation. Students were far more likely to be troubled by not-knowing, far more eager to fill such gaps by learning. As one of my reviewers, Stanley Trachtenberg, once said, "It's not that they don't know, it's that they don't care about what they don't know."
. . .

Here's where it gets really interesting. In comforting response to these exigencies, our culture gives us a pass, downplaying the importance of knowledge, culture, history and tradition. Not too long ago, students might have been embarrassed to admit they'd never heard of Jack Kerouac. Now they're permitted to say "whatever."

When was the last time you met anyone who was ashamed because they didn't know something?

Lack of curiosity is curious by J Peder Zane (6 November 2005)

Utterly shameful. My human recounted to me that when he was working in the federal education department a few years ago, they did some work on the education minister's trip to the United States. The minister wanted to meet with Peter Singer (the ethicist). My human's boss had no idea who Professor Singer was. One other work colleague did, and my human and her were quite incredulous at the lack of intellectual capacity of people working in government.

As a very knowledgeable cat, I also like to keep my human well informed of things. He also told me once that when he contributed to some discussion on China-Taiwan relations (in some considerable depth I might add), the other people were incredibly surprised by his knowledge and asked why and how he knew so much. His response was, why not? He did admit to them that he studied post-graduate international relations.

My human told me that other people always seem to be surprised by the things that he knows (I know how he feels). He can usually guess the language being spoken by taxi (cab) drivers by listening to it (these are their private conversations on mobile (cell) phones when they should not be using the phone whilst driving), and they always react in surprise too. Mind you, he said that they are usually delighted, especially one taxi driver who appreciated my human's understanding of the issue over Macedonia, when 90 percent of people would be asking where it is on the map.

And who was Jack Kerouac? If you don't know, I am not telling you. Look it up yourself .

Jack Kerouac - official website

One last thing on the Paris riots, President Chirac has finally made a statement. I hope people with uninformed opinions will now reconsider before they open their mouth or write anything ignorant. This bit is poignant:
Nous le savons bien, les discriminations sapent les fondements même de notre République. Une Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations a été créée. Ses pouvoirs sont considérables, puisqu'elle pourra désormais infliger des sanctions. Mais ne nous y trompons pas. Ce combat ne pourra être gagné que si chacune et chacun d'entre nous s'y engage vraiment et personnellement.

Les entreprises et les organisations syndicales doivent se mobiliser aussi sur la question essentielle de la diversité et de l'emploi des jeunes issus des quartiers en difficulté. Il n'est pas question d'entrer dans la logique des quotas, qui montre en quelque sorte du doigt ceux qui en bénéficient et qui est injuste pour ceux qui n'y ont pas droit. Il s'agit de donner aux jeunes les mêmes chances face à l'emploi. Combien de Curriculum Vitae passent encore à la corbeille en raison du nom ou de l'adresse de l'intéressé ? Je rencontrerai sur cette question les représentants des partenaires sociaux dans les prochains jours.

Déclaration aux Français de Monsieur Jacques CHIRAC, Président de la République - lundi 14 novembre 2005

*As always, please check out Cooper and Camilla who always have interesting things to say.


I had such a great long brush of my fur last night. My human also gave me extra long pats and cuddles just before bed time. I now declare him fully trained.

I spent some of the morning on my mat on the deck, then I went inside to nap on the couch. It was cooler today and it also rained a little bit.

Tonight we are listening to Green Day's International Superhits which comes highly recommended by my dear cat friend Camilla.



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