American Consequences - September 2021


And now, with mask mandates either enforced or banned by the states, we have posh private school parents and MAGA types joined together (finally) in a war over Critical Race Theory, and in all this fresh hell, the children gaze down at their devices, lost in the shuffle. As Mark Twain always said, never let a pandemic get in the way of a proper interview ... Heeding the words of this literary beast, I sat down with another guru to try to decipher the wicked core of American miseducation: Our esteemed Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke, who dripped this maxim... Never let politics interfere with a classroom . It starts with cliques in high school and ends with a Holocaust. And here we are, America. This year, the virus of politics and a politicized COVID-19 will be on roll call with our (grand)sons and (grand)daughters in grade schools... Meanwhile, college remains a bloated, money-hemorrhaging vampiric business while most adults in the country can’t even agree on what reality is anymore. All this considered, I thought it was time for P.J. to school some wits into you... It may not help, but it will hurt.

A KINDER GARDEN If you ask P.J. what the apple of knowledge is, he’ll claim it’s all distilled to awareness . P.J. O’Rourke: You need to be aware of everything : science, math, literature, and most crucially, history. You don’t need to understand all these, and certainly not in detail. Nobody’s that much of a polymath. But you have to acknowledge that they exist, and you have to grasp a few of the fundamental rules and precepts. And you don’t have to know all of history, but you have to know that it’s there and that maybe you need to know how to look it up. And not just on Google. And if you were to try and put your finger on one precedent of what makes a well-educated person, it’s someone who knows what they don’t know. AndrewAmundson: Do you put much stock in an academic pedigree? Do you care, either way, if someone went to Harvard or Yale? P.J.: Aside from maybe picking some possibly valuable social contacts, it’s meaningless. You can always find those hanging around bars, too.

AA: Favorite teacher(s)?

P.J.: I’m not sure it matters that much. My theory on college and high school, and for that matter, grade school, or getting a PhD, is that you come across two or three teachers that have a real influence on you. And that could be your music teacher... it may be the theater-arts teacher. It may not have anything to do with what you end up doing in life. I mean, for me, it was a


September 2021

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