Ilan Morgenstern, Bass Trombone
Dr. Know, or Is Ignorance Bliss? Jill, Miles, Pop-Tarts, and Tropes.
What a week for education. It started off with the Wall Street Journal’s bizarre editorial about Jill Biden’s terminal degree (www.wsj.com/amp/articles/is-there-a-doctor-in-the-white-house-not-if-you-need-an-m-d-11607727380). Then continued with the head of the editorial board doubling down on the entire thing (www.foxnews.com/media/jill-biden-doctor-wall-street-journal-editor-liberal-backlash.amp) continued with Tucker Carlson joining the cause (https://news.yahoo.com/amphtml/tucker-carlson-says-jill-biden-153830511.html), and finally Kyle Smith, the former movies critic of the New York Post, and now a writer for the National Review joined the idiot chorus (www.nationalreview.com/2020/12/jill-bidens-doctorate-is-garbage-because-her-dissertation-is-garbage/amp/)
The mystery of the selectiveness of the criticism and shrillness of it all is only amplified by fact that the current first lady was caught, you guessed it, lying about her credentials, and doing so under oath (www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/feb/20/blog-posting/claim-about-melania-trump-touting-false-credential/).
These are the same people who can’t be bothered to trust any science or scientist that is inconvenient to their short-term financial interests, who feel mask wearing in a pandemic somehow hurts their personal freedoms, who look the other way as hundreds of thousands, including a former presidential candidate, die from that same disease (www.factcheck.org/2020/07/herman-cain-died-of-covid-19-not-cancer)
These are of course also the same types that are so concerned with the supposed media machine financed by George Soros they don’t seem to realize they work for an actual media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, who also owns significant shares in, you guessed it, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal (www.forbes.com/profile/rupert-murdoch/?sh=7ad8841b1af6). Small world.
It’s always hard to believe people trust the information they get from such hypocrites, with such an obvious agenda, shameless distortion of the truth, with motivations that openly include the preservation of their position of political influence and related financial gains.
Don't think all this profitable lying is a problem yet?
Now we find ourselves at yet another intersection where knowledge is the difference between one future and another. At a time where trust in credentials, science, and authority are eroded (https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/12/17/media/tucker-carlson-fox-news-vaccine/index.html), after being lied to consistently for political and financial gain, we depend on our fellow citizens to trust the words of these undermined scientists and politicians about a vaccine with a very short track record. What a grand time to attack the idea of getting a doctorate, with a focus on higher education nonetheless.
Speaking of harmful ignorance, this week it was announced that Saudi-Arabia agreed to remove Anti-Semitic content from their school curriculum (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/16/leap-attitudes-saudi-school-textbooks-lose-anti-semitic-hardline/amp/). This, shortly after reportedly Norwegian lawmakers voted to cut necessary aid to the Palestinian people over exactly that issue (www.ynetnews.com/article/ryDEM21hP). Now I'm not going to argue that Palestinians aren't deserving of aid or that it isn't desperately needed, far from it, but I do think that as a people, the choice to prefer tropes over a far-less threatening reality bares a striking resemblance to what I feel I'm witnessing half a world away. Maybe we aren't so different after all.
Not to be left out of the ignorance party, in our corner of the world we were treated this week to a little respite from the truth as well, when the Jacksonville Symphony, my former employer and an orchestra that includes many fine musicians, claimed in an advertisement that The Rat Pack included none other than Miles Davis. That’s right, ladies and gents, when it comes to black figures who play some trumpet, Miles Davis must be it.
I don’t know what this all adds up to. A reminder that good arts administrators aren’t easy to find? That talk radio is trash, that Rush Limbaugh is a for-profit fear monger and that Pop Tarts contain more breakfast than InfoWars information? Maybe, but for me it's that ignorance isn’t bliss in any way. On the contrary, our lives literally depend on distilling actual truth from all the information we are constantly subjected to.
For us as educators, I hope we can instill in students a healthy respect for our knowledge through our personal conduct, work to run our universities with integrity and transparency, and be honest about our own credentials, actual expertise, and financial interests.
Let's all do our part to combat the shrill chorus of the willfully fact-illiterate.