Bob Somerby of the The Daily Howler lets slip the secret to getting things right:
Sometimes, readers ask us how we manage to get these matters so right. Folks, our secret is known as “reading.” You hold the key document up to your face. Then you say all the words to yourself.
I tell my students that it often pays to read difficult documents — and the Constitution! — out loud. But judging from their reactions, I think it’s pretty safe to say it will never catch on.
While I was lecturing on FDR, polio, Eleanor visiting various people for him–“I am my husband’s legs,” and the role of First Ladies, one of my students said, “How do you know all of this stuff?”
I said, “Well, I read.”
“Gosh, I mean, how? I mean, how do you like remember it? Where do you find this information?”
Exasperated, I said, “It helps if you are as brilliant as I am.”
That seemed to satisfy him.
It happens every semester. Students don’t read and it is a life time habit. They aren’t curious.
A student asked me why corporations would chose to pollute the air that they have to breathe. I remarked that their sole duty is to their shareholders. The student replied that it doesn’t make sense to destroy the environment, why would anyone make unsafe products, etc. I asked him if he thought that institutions always had his best interests at heart. He said that if things were as terrible as I said they were someone would do something about it.
I’m nervous about the jeremiad style. It’s so common for middle aged people to bemoan ‘youth today’ that I think one has to presume it has always been this way.
I think your pollution student has the sort of innocence one has to treasure — when salted with some hard facts about the world, it can lead to healthy reformism.
And while I understand your exasperated response to your sycophant, I hope that isn’t the state of the art response. Because in fact it isn’t about brilliance at all in an awfully large number of cases — at least in the law field. After a certain level of basic smarts and common sense, it’s mostly about hard work.
Common Sense is Hindsight