Friday, May 11, 2007

"The student now goes to college to proclaim, rather than to learn."

Protein Wisdom has a great post up about the "rhetorical will to power by way of narrative control," but I was most drawn to a Spiro Agnew speech that gets quoted in the comments. In honor of the end of the hunger strike (it wasn't a total failure! an independent committee is being formed! and the college is affirming their committment! and, um, we lost ten pounds!), here it is:
"Sometimes it appears that we’re reaching a period when our senses and our minds will no longer respond to moderate stimulation. We seem to be reaching an age of the gross, persuasion through speeches and books is too often discarded for disruptive demonstrations aimed at bludgeoning the unconvinced into action. The young--and by this I’d don’t mean by any stretch of the imagination all the young, but I’m talking about those who claim to speak for the young--at the zenith of physical power and sensitivity, overwhelm themselves with drugs and artificial stimulants.

Subtlety is lost, and fine distinctions based on acute reasoning are carelessly ignored in a headlong jump to a predetermined conclusion.

Life is visceral rather than intellectual. And the most visceral practitioners of life are those who characterize themselves as intellectuals. Truth is to them revealed rather than logically proved. And the principal infatuations of today revolve around the social sciences, those subjects which can accommodate any opinion, and about which the most reckless conjecture cannot be discredited. Education is being redefined at the demand of the uneducated to suit the ideas of the uneducated.

The student now goes to college to proclaim, rather than to learn. The lessons of the past are ignored and obliterated [...] A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete core of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."

I would make one change, though: the student now goes to college to belong, rather than to learn. That's what the hundreds of different student groups (The Asian American Christian Male Legal Society and Barbershop Quartet, etc.) and movements like the hunger strike are all about - the need to belong, to be part of a club, part of a movement. God forbid that one might dream of being independent, God forbid that one might dare to be alone.

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