Quote of the day—William Penn

Universities are signal places for idleness, looseness, profaneness, prodigality, and gross ignorance. We are at pains to make them scholars but not men. To talk rather than to know which is true canting. We pursue false knowledge and mistake education extremely.

William Penn
From Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History)
[He was referring to the Universities of England in the mid 1600’s but it appears to me it could be said with a fair degree of accuracy about the universities of the United States today. Many of the professed elite are profoundly ignorant of the application of the subjects they teach in the real world.—Joe]

11 thoughts on “Quote of the day—William Penn

  1. What makes things much worse than in Penn’s time is the fact that today’s self-declared elites are not only ignorant of the application of the subjects they teach in the real world, they are ignorant of their ignorance.

  2. “…they are ignorant of their ignorance.”
    That reminds me of the Left media heyday/freak-out after SECDEF Rumsfeld said ,”We don’t yet know what we don’t yet know”. I though it was an insightful comment, and of course it was, but it really put a burr under the saddles of the radical Left. It struck far too close to home, methinks.

    When I started reading this post, I assumed it was a recent comment. It fit then and it fits today. Windy is right of course. I hung out and partied with college professors back in the 1980s and ’90s. In their butt ignorance, they consider themselves to be at the cutting edge of knowledge, intellectual enlightenment and wisdom. It is contagious too. It need not even be spoken, and their victims (which they refer to as “students”) will adopt this belief with very little actual dialog.

    Such is the power of the Authoritarian System– Its power is both mesmeric and virulent.

  3. “Many of the professed elite are profoundly ignorant of the application of the subjects they teach in the real world.”

    As the saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

    • And those who tried and couldn’t, seek positions where they can tell those who do how to do it. That is to point out the difference between passive dysfunction and active revenge against the functional. Both exist within the Authoritarian System, and it is the latter who have risen to the “top” in the chain of command. They do it because we let them.

  4. It’s likely true that some are ignorant, and of those a lot don’t realize it. I suspect there are also a bunch that know perfectly well they are teaching lies and do so intentionally.

  5. So, basically, nothing has changed since the time of William Penn.

    I have some “letters” after my name, but what really matters is common sense. Some of the greatest idiots I have ever met, have PhD initials after their name.

    • “Piled Higher and Deeper”. Heinlein wrote a wonderful essay on how easy it is to get a Ph.D. without doing any work of substance. (One line summary: make Education your major — a field in which the merit of your work is measured by the weight of your papers, rather than their content.)

      • Made me think of the Rodney Dangerfield movie, “Back to School” where he held the astronomy report (prepared by NASA for him) and asked for it to weigh more.

        Heinlein surprises me all the time with his genius. The political idea in Starship Troopers that only those citizens who served in the military being eligible to vote is a neat idea. Who better than those who put country first and with personal sacrifice to direct how we are governed?

        • In one of his essays he suggested a number of different criteria. If you’re smart enough (solve a quadratic equation, you get to vote). Variant of the above: improve the species (fail the test, the booth opens, empty). Money as a measure of competence: you pay to vote. I’m sure there were more that I don’t remember right now.
          Also: pass any law by 2/3rd majority, repeal any law by 1/3rd vote. (I think that one was in “the moon is a harsh mistress”)

  6. I find it ironic that the guy who wrote Albion’s Seed (and The Great Wave) exemplified the sort of man exemplified by Penn’s quote.

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