I’ve been spending a lot of time on facebook recently. There have been big steps toward gay marriage, which makes me happy, and some further eroding of the democratic process, which makes me less happy.
I ran across an article about jokes only smart people will get. I know this is just a fluff piece from Business Insider, but something about it struck me wrong (other than the egregiously misplaced comma in the one about the dyslexic). The jokes are about thermodynamics, Philip Glass, the Bechdel test, and other cultural and scientific referents.
(Because I’m a scientific copyeditor, one of the jokes I found the funniest was “How can you tell the difference between a chemist and a plumber?” You expect something horribly classist here, right? “Ask them to pronounce ‘unionized’.” It took me a minute, because I immediately thought of unions. But then I figured it out. It’s all about the ion: un-ion-ized. And it was funny and not classist at all.)
This is the whole cultural literacy argument all over again. Yes, I think that everyone should know the three laws of thermodynamics. Do I know them? Sort of, not really. Do I think everyone who knows who Philip Glass is is smart? No. Are you not smart if you don’t know who Philip Glass is? No. And that is the crux of the problem.
Smart people are often educated. But not always. Just because you have the means to get educated, doesn’t mean that you are smart. And educated people can be ginormous idiots. You should see some of the sloppy thinking I’ve seen in papers and books I’ve edited. But people forget that smart and educated are not the same thing.
All right, enough droning on. What ruffles your feathers?