|25 August 2000||Listening to: The West Alabama Icehouse CD Jukebox for much of the evening|
At the Icehouse tonight, I saw, for the second week in a row, my old grad school buddy Chris Cookson. Chris was a year ahead of me in the program, but we became fast friends because of similar interests (libertarian/conservative political outlook, a passion for American political thought, an ability to think broadly and conceptually about the study of politics, and a passion for ideas and conversation). Tonight, we had a chance to talk and get caught up a bit, which was quite a good thing.
At one point in the conversation, we were talking about people who were in the program with us and what they were up to. He asked if I ever talked to JA. I told him no, that JA was a disappointing scholar and intellect, someone I had stopped talking to ages ago. Chris responded, "I'm a lot more tolerant of people than I used to be. Now, I don't care if people are brilliant intellects or dumb as can be, as long as they do their best."
I do not disagree with Chris, as I made clear -- indeed, I've always felt that way, despising the sort of intellectual snobbery and condescension that is all too common in academia (or even among the highly educated in general). But that last part he mentioned is critical: "as long as they do their best." If one is in a Ph.D. program because of an alleged love of political philosophy, and American political thought in particular, is it doing one's best to plant one's ass on the couch and watch ER instead of participating in an excellent APT discussion group? To plant one's ass on the couch in front of the television instead of sitting in on a graduate seminar by Don Lutz that illustrated (for really the first time since either of us had been in the program) his brilliant approach to textual analysis and the study of founding documents? To plant one's ass on the couch in front of the television rather than reading any of Harry Jaffa's voluminous works on the American regime (incidentally, how this person passed comps in APT not having read Jaffa, or Kendall, or Carey, or any of the other significant APT theorists blows my mind)? To plant one's ass on the couch in front of the television instead of devising a dissertation topic and research agenda?
No, I'm sorry -- to me, that is NOT an example of someone with a passion for APT "doing one's best." It's either laziness or a complete betrayal (or maybe both). I have no tolerance for people like that. I don't want them in my world. And I hope -- and suspect -- that I will always remain intolerant in that regard.
Copyright (c) 2000, Kevin L. Whited