Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Would you like to be known as 'smart'?

You may aspire to being someone who is known as a smart person. But Jeffrey Williams, in his incisive article, Here's the Problem With Being So 'Smart', explains how being smart has come to replace such things as soundness and rigour. For Williams, it is about the market rathern than scholarship.
The promise of smart is that it purports to be a way to talk about quality in a sea of quantity. But the problem is that it internalizes the competitive ethos of the university, aiming not for the cultivation of intelligence but for individual success in the academic market. It functions something like the old shibboleth 'quality of mind,' which claimed to be a pure standard but frequently became a shorthand for membership in the old boys' network. It was the self-confirming taste of those who talked and thought in similar ways. The danger of smart is that it confirms the moves and mannerisms of a new and perhaps equally closed network.
I guess we'd better rethink our desire to be smart!

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