Quote of the Day

Whenever I hear it said that people are ceasing to [be] told about something tremendously important at school – like history, classical music, foreign languages, Latin and Greek, ancient history, etc. – I react with the suspicion that, far from this presaging oblivion for this or that discipline or body of knowledge, for something to be ignored at school is a prelude for a significant if not huge revival of popular interest in the thing.

Brian Micklethwait

De-Institutionalizaton, Update

Observations and graphs of numbers institutionalized are discussed by Bernard Harcourt guestblogging at Volokh. His conclusion:

What is also clear is that Seung-Hui Cho probably would have been institutionalized in the 1940s or 50s and, as a result, the Virginia Tech tragedy may not have happened. According to the New York Times, the director of the campus counseling services at Virginia Tech said of Cho: “The mental health professionals were there to assess his safety, not particularly the safety of others.” It’s unlikely we would have taken that attitude fifty years ago.
But the problem is, we would also be institutionalizing another huge swath of humanity — and it’s simply not clear how many of those other lives we would be irreparably harming in the process.

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Knowledge vs Knowingness

Lead and Gold excerpted a very interesting article by Michael Kelly, the Atlantic editor who was killed during the early days of the Iraq war. In the article, published in February of 2002, Kelly draws a distinction between knowledge and knowingness;:

Knowingness, of course, is not knowledge—indeed, is the rebuttal of knowledge. Knowledge was what squares had, or thought they had, and they thought that it was the secret of life. Knowingness is a celebration of the conceit that what the squares knew, or thought they knew, was worthless.

(go read the entire excerpt)

It strikes me that many trends in today’s society–especially in academia but by no means limited to it–are at least partly about enabling the attitude of knowingness.

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One of Those Things We Forget About the 50’s & 60’s

When I was young, mental hospitals sprinkled the countryside. My parents read Freud in hypochondriac mode and neuroses were part of growing up – indeed, nurtured in certain groups (say among drama majors & yes, creative writers). I don’t know what percentage of the population was housed on those wards, but considerably more than today.

Update: Jonathan Kellerman, a man who went through med school as these changes were taking place, describes the arguments for de-institutionalization by doctors & ideologues such as R. D. Laing and Thomas Szasz. That in this case even those of us on this blog, non-experts, could see the problem indicates how extreme are the problems in contemporary treatment. As Kellerman notes

That is not to say that anyone who pens violence-laden poetry or lets slip the occasional hostile remark should be protectively incarcerated. But when the level of threat rises to college freshmen and faculty prophesying accurately, perhaps we should err on the side of public safety rather than protect individual liberty at all costs.

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