Putting The Ew In Euphemism

« July 2008 »

Memo to John Derbyshire: YOU ARE DUMB. STOP BEING PROUD OF IT.

One of the reasons I run this place is to try to provide a certain amount of counterweight to something that's even worse than the rampant stupidity that our society is infested with. And that's the constant REVELING in our stupidity. Being stupid and wrong should have shame attached to it. There should be social consequences for saying shit that makes no sense. You shouldn't cheer it, you shouldn't worship it, and you certainly shouldn't spend your time coming up with new nicknames for intelligence that make it seem like something to shun.

We've seen it with "elitism", which, as we all know, is the official nickname for "knowing anything that isn't Twinkies or NASCAR". But John Derbyshire, one of the raving fuckwits who make the National Review Online such a rich source of comedy for this space, has one-upped them all with his newest pro-ignorance linguistic broadside. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Educational Romanticism".

Isn't that just fucking lovely? "Elitism" just makes intelligence seem like something that sets you apart... in a bad way, mind. Educational Romanticism actually manages to make learning sound femmy. Foppish, even. Like the "Physics For Poets" bit from Patton Oswalt's standup routine. What's that? You want to learn something? Well, here, let me dig out a frilly-necked shirt for you and send you off with a copy of an Oscar Wilde book, because Oscar Wilde was gay, and so are books. Or instead, you can get your head out of the clouds, forget about that impractical, romantic idea of "education", and get your ass down here with the rest of us. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is on lap 480, and these Twinkies aren't going to eat themselves.

And what prompted Derbyshire's bit of slander-by-neologism? The Obama-Spanish controversy. Now, there have been a whole lot of stupid, stupid, stupid fucking controversies surrounding Barack Obama in the past week or so. So many that they caused my brain to engage its sanity-protecting Fuckit brand apathy circuits. Jesse Jackson said the word "nuts"? Fuckit! The New Yorker had a cartoon on its cover? Fuckit! Barack Obama suggested Americans learn Spanish? Fuckit!

But you know how it works, especially if you've seen "Fantastic Voyage". In the body politic, there is an organ known as the Islets of Malkindobbs, which produces R-Cells. R-Cells are incredibly sensitive antibodies that swarm and attack anything they even remotely perceive as a foreign invader. To the R-Cells, there's no difference between a small child learning the language of the Invading Brown Horde, and a teeny tiny Raquel Welch in a wetsuit. They'll mindlessly pile on until the "threat" is eliminated.

In Derbyshire's case, this means some incredible mental gymnastics in order to justify staying stupid. Never mind that if he'd put the same amount of effort into learning things as he did in justifying not learning things, he'd speak Spanish, Korean, and Arabic by the end of the month. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"The cold fact is that absent exceptional circumstances — the most common of which is, total immersion at a receptive age — not many human beings can learn another language. Oh, you can learn enough to stumble along and get by on a trip abroad, but if you can attain fluency in a language not your own, without those exceptional circumstances, you are an unusually smart and gifted person."

Yes, folks, a right-wing pundit is arguing that learning a second language is damn near impossible unless you are unusually smart and gifted. So the next time some nutjob (like John Derbyshire) wants you to be concerned about a Mexican "invasion" of people who refuse to assimilate, and want to keep their own language, try to remember how some nutjob (like John Derbyshire) thinks that learning a second language is like the toughest thing ever. At least the computers in Star Trek had the common decency to fucking explode when they thought like that.

But wait! Can Derbyshire go even farther overboard? Perhaps with an oblique reference to "The Bell Curve", the modern racist's best friend, which Derbyshire loves to pieces? I believe he can.

"Obama suffers from the fallacy — extremely common among high-IQ lefties — that everyone else is just as smart as he is, or could easily be made so with a few educational reforms. In fact, below some cutoff point, which I'd guess at around minus one standard deviation in IQ (that would encompass sixteen percent of the population), education beyond the three R's is a waste of time, and foreign-language instruction a total waste of time."

I'm not sure why Derbyshire stops there. I mean, if learning a second language is so difficult, learning the first one can't be that easy. I bet there's a part of his bell curve that wouldn't even benefit from the "Three R's" - since two of them help you learn a language, and mastery of the third makes you realize that "The Bell Curve" is a steaming pile of shit.

But I'll cut Derbyshire this one, small bit of slack. If I spent all day hanging around National Review Online with Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and John Derbyshire, I too might come to believe that getting people to learn things was a complete fucking waste of my, and their time. But I still wouldn't find it romantic.