Last thoughts on John Kerry

Today is turning into a ridiculously busy day, which precludes any deeply thoughtful blogging. (And anyone who is thinking snarkily that this fact makes today like any other day at my blog can just keep that thought to him- or herself.) I do want to take a minute to add one more thought to Kerry’s statement, and it’s a thought equally applicable whether he meant what he actually said, or he botched an anti-Bush joke.

Let me quote Kerry’s statement again:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

What that remark does is conflate education and intelligence, something that should never be a given. Thus, Kerry’s statement shows a reflexive belief on the Left that academic achievement is the same as smartness. Or, at least, the same as useful smarts. In fact, we’ve all known brilliant people who don’t have a good education, and we’ve known plenty of damn fools who have achieved prominent positions in education (right now, Ward Churchill springs to mind, but I bet you can add to that list).

I’d rather have a brilliant plumber in my life, than someone who is a maven in UC Berkeley’s women’s studies department. The latter may have the high IQ; the former is an infinitely more useful person to know.

We now know that the traditional IQ test ignores many, many types of intelligence, putting a focus on certain verbal and mathematical skills. At it is, I test off the charts verbally, but am a borderline idiot in more areas than I care to count. If you had to have one person on a desert island with you, unless you would be satisified with someone who can deluge you with charming chit-chat, you wouldn’t choose me.

So, while I’m all in favor of getting everyone to optimize their educational opportunities, because I do think those opportunities maximize choices in life, the assumption that all educated people are smart galls me (especially as education seems to be a fairly degraded commodity lately).

The other problem with Kerry’s statement (assuming that he meant, in fact, to denigrate the military) is his assumption that the military isn’t, in itself, an education. The obvious educational factor is the useful skill sets people learn in the service. I’m under the impression that, increasingly, young men and women can get an education in technical skills that are useful outside of the military as well. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

The less obvious education is what I call the backbone education. I’ve known many young men and women, bright people lacking in discipline, who credit the military with helping them become strong and focused so that, when they left the military, they were able to embark on a career trajectory that would never have been available before their stint in the military. Indeed, I number among those a dot.com millionaire who was a brilliant slacker before the term was even invented. After his mother finally kicked him off the couch, he enlisted in the Army for want of something better to do. With external forces requiring him to shape up, he proved to be perfect officer material. He went into officer’s training, served his full time in the military and came out with skills that turned him into a millionaire. In other words, the military itself was the education he needed.

UPDATE:  I must be right, because Mark Steyn says much the same thing, only in a more amusing way.  (Giggle.)

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  • jg

    BW, I had not followed Kerry. He’s past history.

    This quote is unworthy of an American elected official. I am deeply ashamed– which is nothing new– of Kerry.

    He represents the worst of this country mouthing off against the best.
    Nothing new.

    I know of many National Guard troops who serve, or who have served, in Iraq. Their personal records, family, church, civic, educational, are beyond the scorn of such trash as Kerry.
    He demeans his background, wealth, career and his state.
    John Adams would hold beneath contempt.

    John K. lost his fight against the enemy decades ago, and lied about his cowardice.

    Hopefully, one day some Swift Boatian will confront Kerry physically and give him the thrashing much deserved and to long delayed. I suspect many of our younger Seals/Special Forces would draw straws about helping.

  • jg

    Please note my mis-typing:

    “John Adams would hold him (Kerry) beneath contempt.”

  • jg

    “Fool’s words, like fool’s faces, always appear..”

    Sanity has a picture from the troops and a message.

    http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2006/11/help-us-jon-carry.html

  • Zhombre

    Wonders never cease. Kerry has issued an apology to members of the U.S. military. It is a rather brief apology, and I believe was posted at his Senate website. But it is an apology nonetheless. I am deeply moved by this display of sincerity, humility and contrition. John Kerry moves to a whole new level. Those close to Kerry should closely monitor the Senator for signs of stigmata.

  • Oldflyer

    DW you are exactly right about the educational and emotional benefits of the military experience.

    Over the course of twenty-five years I came in contact with people whose educational level ranged from those with a high-school GED to others who graduated from prestigious universities. Educational achievement prior to entering the Navy was certainly not, in and of itself, a predictor of future accomplishment. In many instances the technical expertise and discipline gained from the Navy substituted very well for early college experience. In other cases, it provided the spur to pursue formal education. At any rate, there were more than a few who initially fit John Kerry’s pejorative description, but ultimately rose to very high Naval rank; e.g., three stars, or went on to exceptionally successful careers in civilian life.

    Kerry, may have a point in one sense. There are no doubt some in Iraq because, at least in part, they had not prepared themselves for success in the civilian world. But, he is dead wrong to use them as examples of people without options. They freely exercised an option; one that will provide many of them with the experience, discipline and motivation to achieve very rewarding lives.

    Meanwhile they serve us with selfless courage. God Bless them all.

  • Al

    BW is right.It has been a very lomg day. Kerry’s comments are a product of his ethnic background. Liberal, white, egotist. There are many from his part of the world with Kerry’s attitude. When I interviewed at Harvard Medical School, the interviewer asked about my military experiance. When I mentioned I had worked with nuclear weapons in the old Strategic Air Command, he asked “Did you meet very many intelligent people in the service?” My answere of yes was apparently incompatible with attendance at Harvard.
    I remain continually amazed at the breathtakingly ignorant attitude of the libs toward the US military.
    Al

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Scientists are naturally pacifists, or if not pacifists, simply libertarians that hate war.

    After all, they are the ones interested in technology and solving problems with technology and words. War is about smashing your opponent’s spirit and morale so that they would rather get on their knees to beg you for your life, than continue fighting you. Not very scientific.

    It took WWII to get the scientists like Einstein, to help the US create the ultimate weapon of annihilation.

    The hard sciences, like physics and chemistry, are still pretty much conservative. One way or another, even if they are not pro-war or Jacksonian. But the other stuff going on in academia? That is nowhere near Einstein.

  • http://helenl.wordpress.com/ helenl

    “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” —Albert Einstein

  • jg

    “mediocre minds..” or perhaps does Kerry show the effects of long term drug use?

    His early photos during his Congressional testimony might suggest that environment.

  • http://benningswritingpad.blogspot.com benning

    I agree. I may be every bit as intelligent as the men and women serving this country in the Armed Forces, but I am woefully shy of the skills these folks have. A literate dunce, I suppose.

  • Pingback: The troops appeal to John Kerry, etc. ;) « Ponderosa Hill()

  • BigAL

    “at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.” The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.”

    to read the whole thing by David Corn…http://www.thenation.com/blogs/capitalgames?pid=1336

  • BigAL

    I guess Bush just has a better sense of humor…..when joking about his reasons for leading us into a war that has killed over 2800 American soldiers…he’s owes nobody any apologies.

    “at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.” The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.”

    to read the whole thing by David Corn…
    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/capitalgames?pid=1336

    And since he never went to Vietnam, nor Cheney, nor Rumsfeld. Nor does he have any children in Iraq or Afghanistan, nor Cheney, nor Rumsfeld.

    Yeah, these guys have a lot of room to talk????????

    Once again, I think you people are all crazy!

  • BigAL

    “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

    Einstein

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    What are these people going to do when Bush is not there for them to pick on? Total nuclear combustion time or what.

    Again, people try to fit these Einstein quotes out in the dark of beyond, as if they can encompass all that is, has been, and will be with a few lines of text from some guy that isn’t even alive to refute the misinterpretation and misuse of his words.

    As the Quantum Theory figured out awhile ago, you can try to determine the possible state of things until the End of Time, through however many quotes, people, and “facts” you wish to gather, but in the end, the only thing that really matters as to which state of reality an object is, is observed through the action of observation.

    It is utterly erroneous for people to grab a bunch of stuff that appeals to them, and then set it up as some strawman blowing in the breeze, in order to point to it and say “look what I built out of this base material”. It is not much better than the raw materials themselves.

    For example, Al could grab quotes until the end of humanity and the sun goes red giant. It don’t really matter, he still will get it wrong when he tries to fit the pieces together with some kind of meta-conclusion. Because he is talking about theoreticals, what things “should be” according to Al, rather than how things are. How things are, are determined by observing the quantum state of an object, an event, etc. And you do so, by forcing that object into a specific quantum state through your observation. Meaning, while there are infinite possibilities and what not, instead of calculating for infinity, just observe what goes on in this reality, and that should be enough.

    So instead of observing events and actions in this reality, such as Einstein’s providing the nuclear weapon to America. Al instead chooses some Einstein crackola quote that says what Al likes to hear. In this case, Einstein’s quote decides which reality Al lives in. Cause after all, all you have to do is find a quote from Einstein that contradicts Al, and you can switch Al off and on like a light switch, right?

    But you can’t do that with Einstein’s actions. You can’t take an Al in quantum 1, and BigAl in quantum state 2, and then say “oh, if we 1, then Einstein didn’t support America, and if we get 2, boohoo”.

    Which is why quantum states are solid, definitive, and rather final, if observed. Einstein’s actions are his actions, regardless of what words are floating in the realm of theoretics and possibilities. And we not only can observe Einstein’s actions, we have already observed it.

    It isn’t about semantics, people, it is about physics.