Thursday, September 08, 2005

In the first place, God made idiots

West Harrow resident G. Martin, who wrote a letter to our local free paper, is right on top of a vital issue of these troubled times:

In the window of Ottakers, Harrow's most central bookshop, there is a 'back to school' display. Prominent in it is a quote from Mark Twain, 'I never let schooling get in the way of education.'

Working in personnel at a large firm that in the 1960s drew most of its staff intake from school leavers, I soon shared the opinion of my colleagues -- that education begins after you leave school.

There is, however, a difference between formal academic education and adult experience, and the former should not be dismissed.

The influence that Twain seemed to want to convey is in any case a false one.

Family circumstances meant that he has [sic] to take jobs in the evening and weekends but he was properly educated and the experience that he used in the few books that he wrote did not begin until later in life. [This is complete rubbish, as
Wikipedia shows.]

His education shows in his competent prose style but unfortunately, he later became addicted to sound bites - e.g. 'All golf ever did was spoil a good walk.'

In recent months there have been welcome moves to end Yob culture and restore respect. Yobbishness and lack of respect are often most evident in school, probably to the detriment of pupils who are neither yobs nor lacking respect.

In the 1980s, we had Pink Floyd's appallingly irresponsible 'Another Brick In the Wall', with mumbled choruses of 'We don't want no education' and shouts of 'Teacher, leave that kid [sic] alone!'

Perhaps its real intention was not to encourage lack of respect or disparage education but there is no doubt as to the meaning that many children at school put to it.

The same applies to Mark Twain's silly remark.

I heard if you read Pudd'n'head Wilson backwards, it tells you to put on a hoodie and hang around the bus station!

Funny thing is, while the comment 'I have never let my schooling interfere with my education' is often attributed to Twain, there's no evidence that he actually said it. Same goes for 'Golf is a good walk spoiled,' and for many of the other 'soundbites' that are put in his mouth. (The indispensable will tell you whether a particular quip is genuine or not.) This sort of false attribution often happens with well-known wits, since many people think a clever remark is funnier if it has a famous name behind it. As Oscar Wilde observed: 'Most epigrams were invented by the ancients, elaborated by the French and attributed to Disraeli.'


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