American Elephants

Books to Enrich Your Life: Not Always the Newest Ones by The Elephant's Child


I don’t know if you are familiar with the works of Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian. He was a professor at Glassboro State College and wrote broadsides on the problems of our public schools under the title The Underground Grammarian. His four books are: Less Than Words Can Say, The Graves of Academe, The Leaning Tower of Babel, and the Gift of Fire. I recommend them all highly. Here’s a brief sample:

We are people who imagine that we are weighing important issues when we exchange generalizations and well=known opinions. We decide how to vote or what to buy according to whim or fancied self-interest, either of which is easily engendered in us by the manipulation of language, which we have neither the will nor the ability to analyze. We believe that we can reach conclusions without having the faintest idea of the difference between inferences and statements of fact, often without any suspicions that there are such things and that they are different. We are easily persuaded and repersuaded by what seems authoritative, without any notion of those attitudes and abilities that characterize authority. We do not notice elementary fallacies in logic; it doesn’t even occur to us to look for them; few of us are even aware that such things exist. We make no regular distinctions between those kinds of things that can be known and objectively verified and those that can only be believed or not. Nor are we likely to examine, when we believe or not, the induced predispositions that may make us do the one or the other. We are easy prey.

He also remarks that:

In fact, the destiny of this land, of any land, is exactly and inevitably determined by the nature and abilities of the children now in school. The future simply has no other resources. And, an even more dismaying fact, because it tells of us, not them, this land as it is today is the exact and inevitable result of the nature and abilities of the schoolchildren that we were. And the things that you think important, everything from the politics to the rapes and murders and fires, are what they are and have for us the meanings that they have precisely because of what we were.

Your Public Library should have them, and Amazon does, or your local bookstore may. Mitchell died in 2010.

The Great Unlearning: How Our Society Became So Stupid. by The Elephant's Child

Bill Whittle takes on the big problem.

Parents? The Schools? Television? Social Media? The Press? Hollywood? Absence of knowledge of history, math, economics, in favor of gender, sexism, racism, inability to read? What is most important and what should we tackle first?

A Truly Remarkable Enterprise! by The Elephant's Child
February 14, 2011, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Education, Politics | Tags:

Many voices on the internet have been suggesting lately that the idea that every one should go  to college is false.  Some have suggested that college is simply not worth it any more, that the debt that students would be saddled with is too much, and more than they can ever repay without ruining their lives. Richard Mitchell, whom I just cannot keep from quoting, had a thing or two to say about public education:

American public education is a remarkable enterprise; it succeeds best where it fails.  Imagine an industry that consistently fails to do what it sets out to do, a factory where this year’s product is invariably sleazier than last year’s but, nevertheless, better than next year’s.  Imagine a corporation whose executives are always spending vast sums of money on studies designed to discover just what it is they are supposed to do and then vaster sums for further studies on just how to do it.  Imagine a plant devoted to the manufacture of factory seconds to be sold at a loss.  Imagine a producer of vacuum cleaners that rarely work hiring whole platoons of engineers who will in time, report that it is,  in fact, true that the vacuum cleaners rarely work, and who will, for a larger fee, be glad to find out why, if that’s possible.  If you discover some such outfit, don’t invest in it.  Unfortunately we are all required to invest in public education.

You might like to print that quotation out and take it to the next school board meeting. Or you might consider that the book in which the quotation appears was printed in 1979, and nothing much has improved.  Nothing at all. Or you might consider printing out Richard Mitchell’s books which are available for free, and can be printed out with only a small investment in paper and ink, or can be obtained from for a very modest price indeed.  You would be glad you did.

The federal government has no business in education.  They have been increasingly involved in education for most of my lifetime, and they have consistently made it worse each year, as they increased federal spending.  It’s time to call a halt.  Spending is not the answer to the problems of education.

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