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We've let ignorance become popular

It could be that we are the problem | Feb. 8 Perspective story by Mark Slouka

We've allowed ignorance to become popular

When I was a young man (I came of age in the '60s), young people generally aspired to be intellectuals. The principal path toward that aspiration was a broad general education at a liberal arts college. As such, we aspired to be like our Founding Fathers, men broadly educated in the principal areas of knowledge: science, arts, language, literature, history and the like.

For most of our history, our leaders were like the founders, conservative men with liberal (i.e, broad general) educations. As such, they were uniquely qualified to lead a democratic country of people who were for the most part not well-educated or sophisticated.

Perhaps as a reaction to the student excesses of the '60s, which undoubtedly proved the concept that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," there was a conservative reaction to knowledge. We went from a society where the best and brightest considered ignorance and superstition to be unacceptable to one where they were not only acceptable, but fashionable. Our leaders went from leading the ignorant to being the ignorant. We were happy to elect them if they were "one of us."

This is a serious problem and will have serious consequences if not addressed. The solution, as with most complicated problems, is not simple or easy. It should start with those of us who admire intellectualism to encourage our children and grandchildren to emulate our Founding Fathers and to aspire to a broad liberal education and become well informed, responsible citizens.

Ed Bradley, Lithia

A narrow, small mind

Mark Slouka's article was so one-sided, so hateful, and he is so eaten up inside because they lost two elections to George W. Bush. Or in his vernacular, Bush stole the elections.

Slouka and his ilk live in some jaded tower.

I'm wondering if they could put two positive words together about someone who does not think like them. Sad. And I'm disappointed in the Perspective section's slant.

David DeRousse, Dunedin

It could be that we are the problem and GOP pushing economy over a cliff | Feb. 8

Policy too often is built on belief

Whether by chance or by design, last Sunday's paper offered a propitious confluence of articles from Mark Slouka and the Noble Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

Slouka described the costly consequences of a culture pervaded by anti-intellectualism and the dangers of "faith-based" policymaking. Krugman confirmed the clear consensus among reputable economists that vigorous government intervention in the form of direct spending (education, infrastructure, etc.) and indirect spending (tax cuts and grants to the states) is the necessary and appropriate way to stimulate our economy out of what may very well be its worst decline since the Great Depression.

What we have seen since the introduction of the stimulus plan is a classic example of the phenomenon described by Slouka. Opposition to the plan has been devoid of serious economic analysis, disdainful of the empirical record, and has offered no viable alternative to the Keynesian solution. Instead, the opposition, some of whom have even admitted to a private wish that our government's efforts fail, has merely put on the record its "belief" in the inherent undesirability of government spending, either out of dogmatic adherence to an ideology that seemed not to apply during the last eight free-spending years or, more likely, simply as a knee-jerk partisan reaction.

In either case, it is time, as our new president has challenged us, to put these childish things aside.

L.E. Brinkley, St. Petersburg

It could be that we are the problem | Feb. 8

We're not unusual

There could be no better examples of what writer Mark Slouka described in this article than the "Reader ideas" you published in the same day's Business section about how to save the economy.

However, I have lived in 16 countries and seen most of the rest and can assure you that Americans are no more or less intelligent than other peoples. I also found Slouka's article itself a perfect example of something coming from the gut instead of the mind.

Leo Cecchini, Fort Myers Beach

Too many words

In What pundits do for government (Feb. 8) Eliot Cohen closes his article with: "A prudent commentator should be modest in his aspirations, conscious of his limitations, and sparing with his exhortations." The emphasis is mine.

Do you suppose that we could get Mark Slouka, the author of It could be that we are the problem, to subscribe to Cohen's idea? If only we could, then the Times wouldn't have to waste nearly a page of newsprint on the exposition of a one-sentence idea.

Palmer O. Hanson Jr., Largo

Local versions

As if on cue, two state legislators offer further proof of Mark Slouka's brilliant essay that asserts that these days "opinion trumps expertise," especially when shouted long and loud enough, as buffoons like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh do day after day. But we have our own versions to cherish.

First, state Sen. Ronda Storms comes back with yet another lame attempt at ramrodding religion into public schools (Bill allows prayers in school, Feb. 10). Has this woman ever read the Constitution, or even about it?

Then, when you think it can't get worse, comes state Sen. Stephen Wise, who wants creationism taught as "the other side" of evolution (Evolution debate may be back, Feb. 10). Please. Does this man have any use for science? He wants "critical thinking"? He should try actually reading The Origin of the Species, and then try actually thinking — it'll hurt at first but he'll get over it — about what he's read.

David Alfonso, Largo

Lincoln, Darwin | Feb. 8

No comparison

How dare the Times compare Lincoln to Darwin. Abraham Lincoln was a man ahead of his times, a man who made difficult choices in a difficult time.

What did Charles Darwin ever do? He created a "theory" which is just that, a theory. Many scientists disagree with his findings, which have more holes than Swiss cheese. Please, if you're going to compare Lincoln to someone, at least pick someone with some credibility.

Marlen Martin, Pinellas Park

Charles Darwin

Human specialness

It never ceases to amaze me how "experts" conflate acceptance of Darwin's theory to having definitively established conclusions about two totally independent things such as humankind's position in nature and the nature of humankind.

Darwin certainly did not establish that we are part of the natural world; anyone who lives in it can tell you that. What he did was promulgate a theory for how natural life may have come into being, allowing those who don't believe in God to feel intellectually satisfied.

Whether we as humans are something special or not remains a matter of faith, and certainly Darwin and his modern acolytes, with their antecedent positions, are a most unlikely lot to look to for the "definitive" answer to that question.

Howard Glicksman, Spring Hill

We've let ignorance become popular 02/14/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 4:00am]
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