Sunday, September 18, 2011

Poor Analysis

"Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.

"Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. “Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.

“His other D’s,” Richard Oppel wrote in The Times, “included courses in the principles of economics, Shakespeare, ‘Feeds & Feeding,’ veterinary anatomy and what appears to be a course called ‘Meats.’ ”
He even got a C in gym.

"Perry conceded that he “struggled” with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated “in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.”

"It’s enough to make you long for W.’s Gentleman’s C’s. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale. Even Newt Gingrich’s pseudo-intellectualism is a relief at this point.

"Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president."

These quotes are from a Maureen Dowd column in the NY Times, Sunday, September 18th.

This illustrates the problem with some of the analysis that is done in the U.S. today. The title of the article is "The Stupid Party" and here you can read Dowd's main argument. Well, the problem is that "stupidity" is not a political category. Being stupid does not impugn one's politics and you would think that those who have criticized the likes of Reagan and Bush II and other for being stupid, without denting their political followers very much, would learn this at sometime. This is why Reagan was called the "teflon president," why so much of the criticism of him did not "stick." It did not stick because it was not actually political criticism! Those who liked Reagan's politics did not care that he was at times or seemed at times "stupid." Ditto with Shrub or Bush II. What we need are critical analyses of Perry's politics, not his college transcripts.

There is another, lesser problem here as well. Everyone knows that "good grades" don't mean that much when it comes to evaluating a human being and her intelligence. Some of my best students were "C" students and would always be such. Some of the most intelligent of my students, as evidenced by what they did once they got to law school or went to work in a job that required independent thinking, pretty much blew off college in terms of grades and yet have done quite well in the later stages of their lives. In fact, some of my best friends now - and fraternity brothers in college - did this and yet they are far more intelligent than I am in many, many ways and have functioned quite well in the world. Dowd shows her ignorance, and I mean that word precisely, when she writes that "Average SAT scores are falling." Well, Ms. Dowd, that may be but it also may be a good thing and would be if it were deliberate. I think the most intelligent students would be all too glad to say, "Fuck SAT scores! What bullshit!"

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