Thinking like a critic

I had forgotten this passage. Will use it Thursday and Friday:

A.O. Scott:

Are you serious? Anti-intellectualism is virtually our civic religion. “Critical thinking” may be a ubiquitous educational slogan—a vaguely defined skill we hope our children pick up on the way to adulthood—but the rewards for not using your intelligence are immediate and abundant.

As consumers of culture, we are lulled into passivity or, at best, prodded toward a state of pseudo-semi-self-awareness, encouraged toward either the defensive group identity of fanhood or a shallow, half-ironic eclecticism. Meanwhile, as citizens of the political commonwealth, we are conscripted into a polarized climate of ideological belligerence in which bluster too often substitutes for argument.

There is no room for doubt and little time for reflection as we find ourselves buffeted by a barrage of sensations and a flood of opinion. We can fantasize about slowing down or opting out, but ultimately we must learn to live in the world as we find it and to see it as clearly as we can. This is no simple task. It is easier to seek out the comforts of groupthink, prejudice, and ignorance. Resisting those temptations requires vigilance, discipline, and curiosity.

A. O Scott, Better Living through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth (New York: Penguin Books, 2017).

(Introduction is online)

Saturday used books/ walk

From Girard Avenue Bridage
From 34th Street near the zoo.
Outside the Parkway Encampment.
I’ve been meaning to read more Wallace Stegner, having loved Big Rock Candy Mountain and Angle of Repose. John McPhee’s books I will always buy in good shape. Starting a unit on thinking like a critic, happy to see Wilson’s book, however battered; similarly, DFW anything, well I’ll buy, even if this one is a bit faded. $12.85.

Gish Jen

As a teacher and parent, I seem to encounter this a lot. Perhaps I’m speaking on a frequency that’ s inaudible to teenagers.

Listen, then, if you have ears.

Gish Jen, Typical American a Novel (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), 4.