My issue with math and science in college is that they tend to be taught in a very hands off manner, which accommodates those already passionate about the material who enter college wanting to major in a scientific or mathematical discipline, but it turns off those who have convinced themselves from 8th grade on they suck at math and science, and he could perhaps change their mind. I’m not saying the classes should be easier. The workload should rightfully be challenging, but a more hands on teaching style may help to convince those who otherwise believe themselves incapable to understanding math and science. Or maybe I’m completely off, and plenty of otherwise smart people full of potential continue convincing themselves they suck at math and science, which causes it to reflect in their work.
Renault – it’s too bad that you experienced this, because I got a very hands-on experience with both disciplines. Lab work in the sciences was one area where I did pretty well and it allowed me to bridge the gap between what I experienced in the classroom in a more rote manner. Similarly, there are examples of more practical applications of mathematics or theoretical examples that do not stress the idea that one must work on solving equations all day. The rote 101 type classes are the ones that turn people off. as you know, people experience information in different ways and sometimes the need to standardize things serves nobody, particularly the teachers who have to go through the motions of instruction.
“Don’t let it get you down Renault, people always jump on the wording of the posts here. I think your question is an interesting one if it were rephrased to say something more like “Why do so many seemingly smart people not care about art?” or something like that since the question isn’t as much about whether any given film is bad or good, but that they don’t care at all. Or that’s how I understood your point anyway…”
For what its worth, I agree with Greg. Part of posing questions in a forum like this should be to find out what, exactly, one is really asking.
“Why do so many seemingly smart people not care about art?”
Even the question that Greg poses isn’t that compelling to me. It’s like asking why people have different interests. It’s simple: some people don’t care about movies or art in general. They might have a passing interest in it, but not enough to actually cultivate it. Sometimes in order to truly develop in one area, you must do it to the exclusion of others. Or maybe you get someone who would be interested in film art, but has only been exposed to all the wrong movies and turned off to it. One can only guess.
I think one real problem with the OPs question is the phrasing of “seemingly smart”. It implies that the individual in question would only truly be intelligent if s/he cultivated an interest in the arts. For me, this implication (intended or not) is absurd. I’m happy to promote people in developing an interest in movies, but I would never assume that a person lacks intelligence or maturity if they don’t. People come in all different shapes and sizes. Intelligence comes in all different shapes and sizes.
I’ve so few opinions to call my own. So, I’ll resort to quoting the ever-fashionable nihilist:
“When associating with scholars and artists we easily miscalculate in opposite directions: behind a remarkable scholar one finds, not infrequently, a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist quite often – a very remarkable man.”
Ha! Funny quote, Tertzak.
Matt said, For what its worth, I agree with Greg. Part of posing questions in a forum like this should be to find out what, exactly, one is really asking.
I agree with this, too. I also would add the attitude and intention behind the OP is important. In this case, I honestly don’t think Renault is trying to be arrogant or condescending—or at least there is enough open-mindedness and willingness to consider other points of view. That makes all the difference to me. Finally, Renault starts solid threads, imo,—threads that often have good discussion. Of course, not everyone is going to find these threads interesting and some may find them annoying, but if that’s the case then one need not participate in the thread. We need more threads that lead to interesting discussions, not less. Renault starts quite a bit of these, so even if some of you find his approach annoying, I think you should cut him some slack. That’s just my opinion, of course. (I guess I’m a little sensitive about this because I feel like Renault’s approach is not really too different from my own.)
Greg said, “Why do so many seemingly smart people not care about art?
Huh. I didn’t really interpret the thread that way, but it makes sense, and I do think this is a somewhat interesting question, too.
Nathan, I can see how “seemingly smart” can be slightly offensive, but I think I know Greg well enough to know that he’s not implying that intelligence depends on a sophisticated appreciation of art. (The thread title uses the phrase, “otherwise smart,” which is not offensive to me.)
What I find interesting is that great artists—people who do have generally have good taste in art (or is that a wrong assumption?)—can appreciate crappy art. They may even acknowledge that the art is crappy or that might just be my opinion. In any event, in the past, when I’ve come across this situation it did give me pause; I didn’t really know what to make of it.
As I said earlier, I think what we enjoy depends on early experiences (which is influenced by the culture and time period we live in) that we have little control over. If my parents only listened to classical music all the time rather than top forty radio, I’m sure that would have impacted the music I like now. I think there are other factors, but I can’t think of them right now.
I have no issue with great artists admiring crappy art, knowing its crappy. It’s called having a guilty pleasure. It’s called a vice, and having a vice is part of being human, which is why it pisses me off when I see anti-smoking campaigns essentially expressing the notion that you smoke, therefore you’re stupid. I’m not a smoker by the way. I have an issue though with supposedly smart people admiring screenwriters like Eric Roth and actually thinking he’s an artistic genius and not recognizing that their admiration of Eric Roth is their own vice.
OK, so let’s remove the qualifiers so that the question is “why don’t all smart people like art?” And I think we’ve more or less agreed that the answer is that one can have qualities that lead to others considering him/her “smart” without necessarily having the qualities that lead to an appreciation of art.
The only other thing I might add is that, according to the old concept of “universal” (as in “university”) education, which I think is where Renault is coming from with the OP, an “intelligent” person would have been educated to also become a “cultured” person as well. Not so much anymore. The paradigm has shifted, and I doubt many people outside of certain circles think in these terms anymore.
@Jazz — “As I said earlier, I think what we enjoy depends on early experiences (which is influenced by the culture and time period we live in) that we have little control over. If my parents only listened to classical music all the time rather than top forty radio, I’m sure that would have impacted the music I like now. I think there are other factors, but I can’t think of them right now.”
That is very true. I was brought up with classical and anything else was considered “junk” in my house. My brother and I used to sneak into the equivalent of an attic to listen to top forty, with our ears practically on the speakers because the volume was so low. This is why I am still catching up on pop culture. My husband likes to joke that it is like I was raised in the woods of Canada.
Perhaps that (growing up only with classical, for example) had a huge influence on my taste in art. What lots of people consider “high brow” I consider normal, nothing to get all hoity toity about. Really. Maybe then I take that taste forgranted. And maybe too, because I was so isolated that way in my upbringing, and well, felt WEIRD compared to most people my age when I was young, I sort of don’t pay attention to people’s tastes so much but am used to going my own way and the devil may care about everything and everyone else.
^ Of course many people entering undergraduate education these days are convinced by humanities/s.s. departments that they are not empty vessels. The likelihood is, to risk reiterating a prior post, that they come into these institutions laden with opinions that make for very fuzzy knowledge indeed. Allowing this tendency to persist is primarily the professors’ fault, who cannot help but insert an opinion into a text they are supposed to be teaching, and in turn encourage the so-called sharing of opinions. There is, then, a tendency of so-called taste and so-called opinion becoming conflated, when in fact the point of the former is to combat against the latter, which will of course always rear its ugly head.
Well the goal of American higher education, even at Ivy-caliber institutions is not to create cultured individuals but rather to prepare people for the working world so they can come back and donate to the institution that provided them a “fulfilling” future.
Ha! Good one, Renault… Sigh…
I can’t pick up on whether you’re being sarcastic or not Odi.
I’m being dead honest, Renault! :) That remark made me shake my head in acknowledgment. It reminds me of all the propaganda that goes on. To me it’s like – hey, I’m going into debt to get this education, so don’t give me any of that crap because that’s all I’m going to get – i.e. outside of an education, I’ll be paying off student loans for years and my degree is NO guarantee that I will have a fulfilling future.
I wish they would stop with the marketing crap and just focus on the fact that education is their main mission, period.
I think the question ought to be, what sort/kind of an education does in fact produce/hone a proper and becoming appetite, and the subsequent knowledge required to identify/know the best/excellent things? For reasons being discussed above by most, it would seem education has basically failed because its relativistic stance has decreed the happy/good/best life to be a bit of a free-for-all. The best things, I should think, are not very numerous and have always existed among us. But what is one to do when even the great works of art are sequestered in relatively recent, historic contrivances such as museums? Perhaps the ubiquity of film makes it an inherently egalitarian medium that simply cannot, but for exceptional circumstances, aspire to true greatness. Too many smart, intelligent people I am acquainted with never cease to amaze me in their ability to, seemingly out of the blue, cotton to utter rubbish (in the Limey sense of the word). And this almost always pertains to the “modern” forms of music and film.
The truth is most students, even seemingly bright ones, don’t care to learn for learning’s sake but would rather get an A at all costs. They’d rather get an A before developing a comprehensive understanding of 19th century French literature, just to give an example. It’s the students just as much as the institutions. It’s all about getting the A or dying. They couldn’t give two shits about what they actually learned in class. The unfortunate truth is that in the “real world” people don’t give two shits about your intellect and your intelligence as long as you look good on paper. The goal of most college students is to do all they possibly can to look as impressive as possible on paper, even at the expense of educating themselves wholly for the sake of developing their own intellect.
This thread title could easily be titled:
Why do so many otherwise smart, intelligent people have such poor scientific knowledge?
Why do so many otherwise smart, intelligent people have such poor grasp of engineering?
Why do so many otherise smart, intelligent people have such poor cooking skills?
… And my answer would be the same: because not every person studies it. If you don’t practice cooking, you won’t become a good cook, if you don’t read scientific books, you won’t learn anything about science, and if you don’t engage with and study art, you’re not going to learn much about art. If art didn’t require a life of dedicated study to understand, it wouldn’t be taken so seriously by people.
The example, given earlier, of the exasperated father is a great one (if I’ve understood it correctly). Doesn’t this run parallel to a fear that (to be pedantic somewhat) spiritual entropy or an evaporation of the soul’s boiling blood is taking place? I think parenting ‘skills’ have a lot to do with one’s education down the line, but the direction this tends to take may have a lot to do with one’s perception of being compulsively social further along the straight and narrow. As far as exposure to the best things go, perhaps Allan Bloom’s example of the midwestern lad who was, utterly oblivious to the historical sense, writing on Plato as though he were actually a contemporary (alive and kicking in the 20th century) is the brightest ray one can hope for. In that sense learning about/from history has many trappings, ill-fitting and otherwise.
MATT: The only people i’ve met that share that view of education are philosophy professors, and some academics in university lit departments. that’s about it
Having said that, the Anglo saxon countries are the worst for this kind of thing. Education is seen as pure utility. European education is traditionally more ‘liberal’, and well rounded. although i’m sure that is changing.
Are you kidding me? In France, if you don’t choose a career by the time you’re 18, you’re life is over, unless you choose a career that doesn’t necessarily have a barrier to entry, such as the arts.
^^I’m talking more about what they learn in schools. not what they choose as careers. I don’t think education is viewed as pure utility in most of the Western Euro countries like it is in the U.S
The thing I find odd, however, is that the US is known for having the greatest higher education system in the world, but that’s probably due to its ability to prepare people for the “work world”. I think people on the continent, meaning the European continent place far less importance on having stable 9-5 job than do people in American society. In the US, you’re judged in many circles by where you “work.” I think it’s less of an issue in Europe where people seem to be judged more readily by their intellectual capability and/or curiosity.
^^there is a closer link between the education and labour markets i suspect. much closer than it is in a lot of europe, particularly Southern Europe.
I would also agree that this is subject to change today. European students (once?) got most of the culture they were going to get from their homes and their public schools/lycees/gymnasiums, where their souls were incorporated into their specific literary traditions. Every Frenchman is practically born either Cartesian or Pascalian. This may not necessarily forge their principles, but it does bear a cast of mind. The two represent a choice between reason and revelation, science and piety, the choice from which everything else flows. As for the lack of an American equivalent to either… the whole world can be said to be their library. The lack may not be, so much, a qualitative concern but, rather, one of necessity. A question of having/needing to have read/lived with such things in order to be educated becomingly.
I must say though that this topic sort of reminds of Summer Hours where Assayas seems to lament that traditional French culture seems to be withering away and is being suffocated by globalization and more superficial, materialistic concerns of the younger generation. I’m sure this is an issue in all parts of the globe, and the fact of the matter is that superficial, materialistic people have existed for centuries. It’s not a recent phenomenon. It’s a cyclical pattern in which the elders constantly will always lament what they perceive to be the grand sweeping flaws of the younger generation. I guess what I’m trying question is whether Assayas’ lamentation was somewhat excessive, since I’ve spent much time in France and still sense an appreciation, even among the younger generation, for traditional culture. The older crowd in France seems to complain that the younger generation is becoming detached from its traditional French root, finding itself enamored with American culture, including music, movies, clothes, etc, but what I have to say is French people were listening to American music and watching American movies 50 years ago, but they still held onto their culture. They act like the notion of European teens consuming American culture is some new phenomenon when in fact it’s been happening for the past century, as if Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable weren’t popular in France,
^^^Renault, what matters is the degree to which the influence exerts itself on local culture, how it transforms it, not whether it exists or not. What they are seeing is not just a change in taste, but in values and attitude. That is the problem. not that they listen to rap music.
i’m not sure whether Assayas is necessarily ‘lamenting’ anything in ‘Summer Hours’, esp since the younger girl at the end seems genuinely sad that she won’t be able to pass the house down to her children.
Really interesting insights, guys, about the value of education in the U.S. versus Europe. One of the things I’ve always found different is that in Europe, you can choose to go into a vocation from the time of high school. In the U.S., it’s general liberal arts education for everyone, whether they want to do that or not. And now, it’s B.A.s for everyone, whether they want to do that or not. There is no dividing line between going into a profession and getting an education.
It’s funny because I went to Brooklyn Tech for high school. It was originally built to turn out people for jobs in industry, i.e. along with a good education you got the skill of say, becoming a machinist. Below is an entry about it from Wikipedia, regarding the idea behind it. They don’t really do this type of thing in the U.S. much, do they?
Original plan: In 1918, Dr. Albert L. Colston, chair of the Math Department at Manual Training High School, recommended establishing a technical high school for Brooklyn boys. His plan envisioned a heavy concentration of math, science, and drafting courses with parallel paths leading either to college or to a technical career in industry. By 1922, Dr. Colston’s concept was approved by the Board of Education, and Brooklyn Technical High School opened in a converted warehouse at 49 Flatbush Avenue Extension, with 2,400 students. This location, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, is the reason the school seal bears that bridge’s image, rather than the more obvious symbol for the borough, the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Tech would occupy one more location before settling into its site at 29 Fort Greene Place, for which the groundbreaking was held in 1930.
BTW, the halls on the first floor are filled with WPA murals, and I specifically remember the figures working in industry.
I’ll have to do a bit more research on this issue and organize my thoughts.