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A WORRY A DAY: The growing gap between the stupids and the brilliants June 13, 2011

Posted by lizrosenberg in Uncategorized.
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I know there’s been a lot in the news lately about the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. It amazes me that anyone would try to defend that gap as being “good for business,” as I heard reported this morning.


What’s bad for humanity is bad for business.

But that remark only highlights, for me, the almost equally disturbing and ever-widening gap between the stupids and the brilliants. Is it just me, or do the smart people seem to be getting exponentially smarter, while the dopes are growing amazingly dopier? I see it in my own classrooms, where one student writes a publishable paper while another dismisses Shakespeare  as “disgraceful” and “unacceptable.”  (Or, as another pompous ass once told me, “I find Shakespeare quite the boor.”) On the one hand you have Francine Prose passionately disputing the notion that women can’t write. On the other hand you have Nobel prize winner V S Naipul, arguably the dullest man who ever lived, contending that all women writers are all “unequal” to him ; critiquing their “sentimentality” and “narrow view of the world”, and slamming Jane Austen for her “sentimental ambitions.”  You have Al Gore and the Prince of Wales trying to save the universe, and Congressman Weiner trying to save his– well, never mind.

This gap occurs in unlikely as well as likely places. I’ve lately encountered brilliant taxi drivers and dim-witted academics; genius eight year olds and computer “geeks” at my local computer store who can’t read the side of a box. It doesn’t matter so much at the micro level, but we see it on the macro level as well, which means that even the people who run the world are evidencing this new and troubling gap.

Where does it start? I don’t know. Possibly we’re putting something in the water. Maybe it’s like the last days of Rome and there’s more lead in our pipes, more poison in our food, more chemicals in our atmosphere. I’d like to see it end. My son, as a child, used to look around him in NYC, the beggars shaking coffee cups full of change in the faces of the Guccied and 18 karat gilded customers. He used to tell me, I want to be just–middle. Not too rich, –but no shaking of the cup, either.

The world will always present us with a few bona fide geniuses, people who seem to have landed from another planet, like Einstein and Mozart and Jane Austen and the “disgraceful” Mr. Shakespeare. A few will be born with genuine intellectual limitations. But I’d like to think that the rest of us can close the gap a little. We might of course start by testing less and teaching more; watching less tv and reading more; talking less and listening more.