Showing posts with label Mencken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mencken. Show all posts

Monday, February 6, 2012

Notable Conservatives: A Crossword

More fun! Again, I think I made it moderately difficult. All answers are last names. Click to enlarge. It's an 8.5x11 image if you want to print it out. As usual please post any questions, comments, or corrections in the comments section below. Have fun and good luck!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Choice Mencken

Selections from A Mencken Chrestomathy
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York. 1949.

XIV. American Immortals: Mr. Justice Holmes

I find it hard to reconcile [Holmes's opinions] with any plausible concept of Liberalism. They may be good law, but it is impossible to see how they can conceivably promote liberty. My suspicion is that the hopeful Liberals of the 20s, frantically eager to find at least one judge who was not violently and implacably against them, seized upon certain of Mr. Justice Holmes's opinions without examining the rest, and read into them an attitude that was actually as foreign to his ways of thinking as it was to those of Mr. Chief Justice Hughes. Finding him, now and then, defending eloquently a new and uplifting law which his colleagues proposed to strike off the books, the concluded that he was a sworn advocate of the rights of man. But all the while, if I do not misread his plain words, he was actually no more than an advocate of the rights of law-makers. There, indeed, is the clue to his whole jurisprudence. He believed that the law-making bodies should be free to experiment almost ad libitum, that the courts should not call a halt upon them until they clearly passed the uttermost bounds of reason, that everything should be sacrificed to their autonomy, including, apparently, even the Bill of Rights. If this is Liberalism, then all I can say is that Liberalism is not what I thought it was when I was young. . . To call him a Liberal is to make the word meaningless.

Let us, for a moment, stop thinking of him as one, and let us also stop thinking of him as a littératur, a reformer, a sociologist, a prophet, an evangelist, a metaphysician; instead, let us think of him as something that he undoubtedly was in his Pleistocene youth and probably remained ever after, to wit, a soldier. Let us think of him, further, as a soldier extraordinarily ruminative and articulate – in fact, so ruminative and articulate as to be, in the military caste, almost miraculous. And let us think of him still further as a soldier whose natural distaste and contempt for civilians, and corollary yearning to heave them all into Hell, was cooled and eased by a stream of blood that once flowed through the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table – in brief, as a soldier beset by occasional doubts, hesitations, flashes of humor, bursts of affability, moments of sneaking pity.

XVI. Economics: Capitalism

All the quacks and cony-catchers no crowding the public trough at Washington seem to be agreed upon one thing, and one thing only. It is the doctrine that the capitalistic system is on its last legs, an will presently give place to something more "scientific." There is, of course, no truth in this doctrine whatsoever. It collides at every point with the known facts. There is not the slightest reason for believing that capitalism is in collapse, or that anything proposed by the current wizards would be any better. The most that may be said is that the capitalistic system is undergoing changes, some of them painful. But those changes will probably strengthen it quite as often as they weaken it.

We owe to it almost everything that passes under the general name of civilization today. The extraordinary progress of the world since the Middle Ages has not been due to the mere expenditure of human energy, nor even to the flights of human genius, for men had worked hard since the remotest times, and some of them had been of surpassing intellect. No, it has been due to the accumulation of capital. That accumulation permitted labor to be organized economically and on a large scale, and thus greatly enhanced its productiveness. It provided the machinery that gradually diminished human drudgery, and liberated the spirit of the worker, who had formerly been almost indistinguishable from a mule. Most of all. it made possible a longer and better preparation for work, so that every art and handicraft greatly widened its scope and range, and multitudes of new and highly complicated crafts came in.

XVII. Pedagogy: The Educational Process

That ability to impart knowledge, it seems to me, has very little to do with technical method. It may operate at full function without any technical method at all, and contrariwise, the most elaborate of technical methods cannot make it operate when it is not actually present. And what does it consist of? It consists, first, of a natural talent for dealing with children, for getting into their minds, for putting things in a way that they can comprehend. And it consists, secondly, of a deep belief in the interest and importance of the thing taught, a concern about it amounting to a kind of passion. A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams it – this man can almost always teach it with success, no matter how little he knows of technical pedagogy. That is because there is enthusiasm in him, and because enthusiasm is as contagious as fear or the barber's itch. An enthusiast is willing to go to any trouble to impart the glad news bubbling within. He thinks that it is important and valuable for to know; given the slightest glow of interest in a pupil to start with, he will fan that glow to a flame. No hollow hocus-pocus cripples him and slows him down. He drags his best pupils along as fast as they can go, and he is so full of the thing that he never tires of expounding its elements to the dullest.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Choice Curmudgeonry

With a hat tip to Gerard Van der Leun of American Digest. . .

John Derbyshire, author most recently of "We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism," had in the WSJ a few weeks ago a short list of books for the curmudgeon.

It is a fine list and includes H. L. Mencken and Gulliver's Travels. As such I was reminded of some of my favorite curmudgeonly passages from Mencken and Swift.

Gulliver's Travels. Part III, Chapter VIII.
A further Account of Glubbdubdrib. Antient and Modern History Corrected.
Having a desire to see those antients who were most renowned for Wit and Learning, I set apart one Day on purpose. I proposed that Homer and Aristotle might appear at the Head of all their Commentators; but these were so numerous, that some Hundreds were forced to attend in the Court, and outward Rooms of the Palace. I knew, and could distinguish those two Heroes, at first Sight, not only from the Croud, but from each other. Homer was the taller and comelier Person of the two, walked very erect for one of his Age, and his Eyes were the most quick and piercing I ever beheld. Aristotle stooped much, and made use of a Staff. His Visage was meagre, his Hair lank and thin, and his Voice hollow. I soon discovered that both of them were perfect Strangers to the rest of the Company, and had never seen or heard of them before; and I had a Whisper from a Ghost who shall be  nameless, "that these Commentators always kept in the most distant Quarters from their Principals, in the lower World, through a Consciousness of Shame and Guilt, because they had so horribly misrepresented the Meaning of those Authors to Posterity." I introduced Didymus and Eustathius to Homer, and prevailed on him to treat them better than perhaps they deserved, for he soon found they wanted a Genius to enter into the Spirit of a Poet. But Aristotle was out of all Patience with the Account I gave him of Scotus and Ramus, as I presented them to him; and he asked them, "whether the rest of the Tribe were as great Dunces as themselves?"

A Mencken Chrestomathy. XVIII. Pedagogy. The Education Process

If I had my way I should expose all candidates for berths in the grade-schools to the Binet-Simon test, and reject all those who revealed a mentality of more than fifteen years. Plenty would still pass. Moreover, they would be secure against contamination by the new technic of pedagogy. Its vast wave of pseudo-psychology would curl and break against the hard barrier of their innocent and passionate intellects– as it probably does, in fact, even now. They would know nothing of learning situations, integration, challenges, emphases, orthogenics, mind-sets, differentia, and all other fabulous fowl of the Teachers College aviary. But they would see in reading, writing and arithmetic the gaudy charms of profound knowledge, and they would teach these ancient branches, now so abominable in decay with passionate gusto, and irresistible effectiveness, and a gigantic success.
A Mencken Chrestomathy. XVIII. Pedagogy. Bearers of the Torch

This central aim of the teacher is often obscured by pedagogical pretension and bombast. The pedagogue, discussing himself, tries to make it appear that he is a sort of scientist. He is actually a sort of barber, and just as responsive to changing fashions. That this is his actually character is now, indeed, a part of the official doctrine that he must inculcate. On all hands, he is told plainly by his masters that his fundamental function in America is to manufacture an endless corps of sound Americans. A sound American is simply one who has put out of his mind all doubts and questionings, and who accepts instantly, and as incontrovertible gospel, the whole body of official doctrine of his day, whatever it may be and no no matter how often it may change. The instant he challenges it, no matter how timorously and academically, he ceases by that much to be a loyal and creditable citizen of the Republic.