THINGS YOU DON'T LEARN IN QUEER CHICANA LIT 101
Re "The Credentialed Society":
In days of yore, you would not be considered "uneducated", Mark, because you went to a good public school. And of course you do know a lot; in particular about Middle Eastern history and things which are not widely known in North America. I would assume that your teachers suggested readings, you found others on your own, and that you then rubbed shoulders with people who also knew such things. (But no credentials!)
If any single idea marked Obama as a stupid and reckless incompetent, it is the idea that every American should go to college. An advanced society needs— absolutely needs— electricians and plumbers, various other specialized mechanics, computer technicians, truck drivers, aircraft pilots, etc. Indeed, it is only a nasty snob who will look down on supermarket checkout clerks, who are also essential.
Also, most of the skills needed for oilfield work are not taught in any university; offshore oil adds further skills necessary for the marine environment, and these skills are uncommon and justly very well remunerated. Some of the most intelligent and capable men I have ever met work in the offshore oil patch.
Nor can we overlook the military trades.
My enumeration is so incomplete that it is almost ridiculous; I would suggest that Obama might watch such TV programs as "Ice Road Truckers" and "The Most Dangerous Catch" to get some idea of what is necessary in today's world.
You will notice that I have not included "theoretical physicist" in the above list. Try as I might, I cannot get my own profession into the list of essential trades, crafts, and professions.
St John's, Newfoundland
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Other societies have reached the collegiate goal Obama has set for America. In France, 77% get a Baccalaureat. In Algeria? Don't fret— it's at 62.5%! And what do they have to show for it? This is in the news these days in France and some rightfully wonder: What is this Bac for, when you need a Master's degree to match the Bac of 30 years ago?
So this is not a question only for America, it's one for the Western world. And when you look at the list of the great entrepreneurs of recent decades, it goes on and on to show college dropouts, if not high-school dropouts. Of course, it is not preferable, but the most successful people were rarely those who went through the whole educational system. At its worst, education can corrode rather than nurture creativity. It makes for good public servants, but it's not at all the engine through which we build successful entrepreneurs and artists. Those are usually people who are willing to go the distance and do much more work than the schools would ask of them.
We'll always need doctors and engineers, yes, but we'll never need a large segment of society to fill these roles. What does France have with its credentialed citizenry? What are all these people with degrees doing? What's more, what has it given Algeria?
THE OTHER BITTER CLINGERS
"Selective Shaming" was a great piece, Mark. The stimulus money has done more harm than good, yet the left argues that the failure is because the government hasn't done enough.
To paraphrase President Obama, in these times of utter failure of the stimulus and the exposure of the shameless corruption of public unions, one can understand why the liberals from the coastal cities desperately cling to their Keynesian economics theories and Statist ideologies.
GATHER ROUND, CHILDREN
I just read your latest article on column— "Selective Shaming". Unbelievable. Two of my daughters were close by and I made them read it, too. They can vote, so I figured they would benefit, and I just wanted someone else in my house to read your brilliant article.
San Antonio, Texas
WE ARE THE MOTOR CITY, AND THIS IS WHAT WE SPEND
Thought you'd like to know, Mark, that today's shiver-inducing headline in the Detroit News proclaims: "Federal government to help direct Detroit's rebuilding."
According to the article, next Monday a Development Secretary for HUD will announce a plan to "embed in Detroit officials from at least three federal departments to lend expertise to Mayor Dave Bing's effort to improve the city." Three to five other cities will be included with Detroit in what will be known as the "Strong Cities Initiative."
The article notes (with no apparent irony) that "Spending federal money quickly and effectively has been a problem for Detroit."
DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Monsieur T (and I wonder how well the French-dubbed version of The A-Team played), Francis Veber has been employing this character, Francois Pignon, in various movies (Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe, A Pain in the Ass, Le Chevre, The Dinner Game, The Closet, among others), played by various actors (Pierre Richard, Jacques Brel, Jacques Villeret, Daniel Auteuil, and more) since 1972. The name was Francois Perrin for years, then became Pignon in '98's The Dinner Game, but under either name the character is a seeming born loser who ends up a winner (usually); an oaf who somehow fails his way upward. He might be spectacularly accident-prone (Richard) or a suicidal depressive (Brel), but he almost always shambles his way to success or, at the very least, friendship with the straight (in the old-fashioned sense) man he's been tormenting throughout the movie.
And I wish Billy Wilder had subscribed to his own thesis. Did he make very many movies after the early fifties that ran less than two hours?
Thank you for your kind (and unkind) letters from America, Canada, Britain, Australia and around the world. Mark reads all mail, but especially enjoys the vicious ones. Each day Monday to Friday we pick six of the best for our Daily Delivery. So drop a line to Mark's Mailbox, and on Friday if you're chosen to be the one and only Letter of the Week you'll join our roll of winners from four Continents and receive a copy of Mark Steyn From Head To Toe. It would help if you could indicate your city or town, or, at any rate, your state, province or country. If not, at least let us know what planet you're on.