The Conversation

Careless America

In response to University Offers Course On Trayvon Martin Case, Misspells Name:

It's not all that surprising that a university would misspell the extremely well-known name of Trayvon Martin in the title of a class about the case.  Close enough is good enough in careless America.  Editorial review is such a chore.  The Atlantic recently published a list of lazy mistakes from a Long Island school district's summer reading list, which included such recommendations as "The Great Gypsy" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  

Disaffection and carelessness are the root causes of folly.  I thought about that while watching the testimony of the Zimmerman prosecution's now-legendary train wreck star witness, Rachel Jeantel.  I doubt she's truly "stupid."  She just... doesn't.... care.  The gravity of a murder trial, in which the death of one man was examined while the life of another hung in the balance, seemed utterly lost on her.  To cite one of her most widely-repeated statements, she didn't care enough to learn cursive writing, or personally write the letter she originally claimed to have written in the cursive she later admitted she can't read.  Whatever, man.  Are we done here?

I spent many years training people in the use of computer software.  It's common for people in that line of work to blow off steam behind closed doors by laughing about the stupid things people do with their computers.  But very few of even my most difficult students were really "stupid."  They were either careless, or actively alienated - they didn't really want to learn how to use a new program.  They would take few notes, or play with their phones during class.  Of course they didn't absorb or remember everything from the training sessions.

Intelligence requires effort, and diligence.  Even the most well-tuned engine is useless without fuel.  Too many people have grown either lazy, or alienated by the conviction that society will not appreciate their efforts.  Those who seek to recruit foot soldiers for the reconstruction of society actively encourage this alienation.  

The end result is a widespread rebellion against what works, and the active embrace of what doesn't.  Everything gets sloppy, and therefore weak.  Standards are lowered, and expectations reduced, in matters both large and small.  It reminds me of the "broken windows" theory of crime prevention: why should people invest heavy effort into defending and maintaining a culture that makes a fetish out of not giving a damn about anything?


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