February 1, 2013

Was Hagel "just not very bright" or "too professorial"?

Weird that both things are being said... 

.... unless you think professors are not very bright....

... which actually does make a certain kind of sense. (Professors may employ their brightness to delve into some intellectual matter, leaving behind the world's practical affairs, which are geared to and conducted by men and women of average and just-above average intelligence. Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart, taking them out of the running so that humanity's shared enterprises — business, politics, culture, family life — will be suitable for the vast majority of people. That's my theory anyway. But I'm saying that as a professor, and I'm really out of touch, here in my comfortable cul-de-sac, where I can only be right paradoxically.)

87 comments:

Saint Croix said...

Lindsay Graham obliterates him. Ow. That's gonna leave a mark.

bpm4532 said...

Dumb and mal-educated.

Pogo said...

Being "professorial” is the excuse given for a foolish or bizarre response.

As in 'entertaining a hypothetical for classroom discussion'.

garage mahal said...

Dumb and mal-educated.

He is a Republican.

Bob Ellison said...

Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart...

That's a tell.

MayBee said...

Has anybody previously mentioned this professorialism of Hagel's? h
Has he been known to be a professorialite?

chickelit said...

I remember when professors and teachers were undervalued and underpaid to the point where people worried about retaining them and not losing them to more lucrative professions, particularly in STEM fields. So things changed--salaries and compensations rose accordingly. Now the perverse situation has developed where the best can smugly assert superiority and wonder why the private sector can't "just be like us."

bagoh20 said...

Assuming you have reasonable intelligence, isn't Professor really a job you end up in by being very compliant from an early age. If you do what your parents expect from you, and society respects, then Professor is the slot you will eventually roll down.

That in no way diminishes the value. In fact, people push you that way because they highly value it, but it is major brown nosing.

Nonapod said...

I think there's certainly a tendency amongst academics to believe that since they've got a great deal of focused knowledge in one area that it therefore somehow translates to having more general intelligence. Some of the biggest idiots I personally know have PHDs.

bagoh20 said...

You have to be homeless and smell bad to really be an individual.

traditionalguy said...

You nailed it, Professor.Academia is a safe place for brilliant minds that set a high standards for the students.

But a brilliant mind is a threat among most human activities like the drug sniffing dog is a threat to drug smugglers.

gerry said...

Professors may employ their brightness to delve into some intellectual matter, leaving behind the world's practical affairs

But couldn't he at least have crammed for the interview?

I hope UW doesn't cancel your health insurance and cast you into the collective...that would transform your comfy cul-de-sac into a dingy oubliette.

MayBee said...

Wow, he actually is a Professor in the foreign service school at Georgetown.

Mitchell the Bat said...

It's nice to know there are varying degrees of professorialitudinessness.

bagoh20 said...

Being a good hunter, or a plumber, or wood worker takes a similar immersion and time, but we don't consider them really "smart". They are skilled, and experienced, but is it really any different? You have information that you must assimilate, skills to practice, have sufficient of both to be able to navigate new challenges. I don't see much difference. A great plumber is not necessarily any good at all in cabinet making, or constitutional law and vise versa. The difference is what type of knowledge you have a natural affinity for, that you enjoy, and likely were encouraged about at a young age.

chickelit said...

You nailed it, Professor. Academia is a safe place for brilliant minds that set a high standards for the students.

Sorry, but seeing nail and Hagel juxtaposed suggests:

Hagel wird gehagelt und genagelt!

edutcher said...

Even the Demos thought he was a dullard.

garage mahal said...

Dumb and mal-educated.

He is a Republican.


No, a RINO, a Demo wannabe.

Fernandinande said...

"Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart,..."

Hilarious. Academia is mostly a "take-it-easy" setting for the somewhat-above-mediocre.

Jay Vogt said...

Might have been Truman who observed that "the world is run by C students".

Reagan
Bush43
Gore
Kerry
Obama(technically unknown)

bagoh20 said...

The question I have is can a person of average or even below average intelligence become a professor. It seems so to me, but I'm not in that circle. Don't you know some pretty dumb professors? I see them on TV, and had some in school.

Shouting Thomas said...

The tech and engineering schools are so different from the liberal arts schools, and law probably fits within liberal arts.

Being a professor in the liberal arts schools has always seemed to be about self-promotion by linking one's career to a "cause." Like feminism.

Whether or not this is "smart" is open to question. It seems to work to produce the desired result. Relentless self-promotion can thus be framed as dedication to saving humanity from something or other.

BDNYC said...

It's possible to be both. He's just not that smart.

I Callahan said...

He is a Republican.

And yet you get your ass handed to you on a daily basis by those dumb and mal-educated republicans. Yet you probably don't know it.

Your reaction sounds like projection to me.

TosaGuy said...

"Dumb and mal-educated.

He is a Republican."

Team Elephant put him on waivers. Team Donkey is claiming him and plans to make him their number three hitter. They called John Kerry up from AAA to fill the clean-up spot.

I Callahan said...

Don't you know some pretty dumb professors?

How about the feminist/racial studies professors? From everyone I've ever spoken to who had to take one of their courses, these people are as dumb as bags of doorknobs.

Paddy O said...

I don't think professors really are different than any other field.

Some are very smart. Some are very professional.

Some are neither smart nor professional but good at playing the politics.

Getting a PhD or other advanced degree is more about putting in the time and work than about any inherent brightness.

Because being a professor is what it is, however, everyone likes to appear intellectual. For some it's true for some it's a pose.

Which means you get all sorts. The one's who are superbright are publishing and contributing to the field in some way.

The one's who are playing the game tend to become administrators or politicians and head committees and focus on those elements they're better at--the sort of thing that really is nothing more impressive than any other mid-level management position.

Paddy O said...

"Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart"

Academia has 2 neighborhoods. The comfortable cul-de-sac for the establishment and the ghetto for the adjuncts.

It's either cushy with lots of perks or a whole lot of work for low pay and no benefits. Everyone in this latter group keeps an eye on the cul-de-sac for a house to become vacant.

TosaGuy said...

Other than Leon Panetta, who was really only a caretaker of the position, Team Donkey has a very hard time developing any talent with regard to defense secretaries. They have to sign free agents or hit the waiver wire.

It's sort of like how my Minnesota Twins can't develop any power pitchers within their organization. They don't really try, their pitching philosophy isn't suited to developing that type of talent.

Ann Althouse said...

"But a brilliant mind is a threat among most human activities like the drug sniffing dog is a threat to drug smugglers."

The brilliant mind faced with mundane affairs will:

1. Be very bored and slip into distractions or depression.

2. Try to win by complicating things and making life hell for everyone else.

The dog won't screw up on the job like that. It will have a specific task and do it well. The brilliant mind will resist the task or change it to a challenging task. Very undoglike.

BDNYC said...

No offense, AA, but I went to a top law school and many of the "cul de sac" professors were under-smart and way too complacent with their place in life. Many of them published frequently, but oftentimes on topics no one was interested in and were of almost no use to the profession. That said, there were a few who were genuinely smart and insightful, and I can understand the value of sheltering them in the safety of the university, so that they can be alone with their thoughts and contribute to the profession in a way that they couldn't if they spent their time on the tedium of the practice of law, e.g., poring over financial documents, conducting privilege review, etc.

Overall, I was far more impressed with the adjuncts. I admired their ability to wear two hats, as a practitioner and an academic, and the time they spent satisfying both roles.

David said...

That's just two ways of saying "he made no sense."

KnightErrant said...

Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.

Lonetown said...

When your so smart people think you are stupid its not your IQ which is big, its your head.

Lonetown said...

When your so smart people think you are stupid its not your IQ which is big, its your head.

Larry J said...

Nonapod said...
I think there's certainly a tendency amongst academics to believe that since they've got a great deal of focused knowledge in one area that it therefore somehow translates to having more general intelligence. Some of the biggest idiots I personally know have PHDs.


That's the crux of the matter. Being highly educated in one field doesn't prove you know anything about other fields. In many cases, the focus on their own field means they're less likely to have in depth knowledge of others.

It does take a measure of intelligence to earn a Ph.D. It also takes a measure of intelligence to be a good professor. However, intelligence and wisdom are not the same thing. Wisdom is far more valuable and it doesn't even require fancy degrees.

The world of most academics is sheltered from reality. Concepts like tenure are rare outside of union shops and government work.

Ann Althouse said...

"The question I have is can a person of average or even below average intelligence become a professor. It seems so to me, but I'm not in that circle. Don't you know some pretty dumb professors? I see them on TV, and had some in school."

There's a way in which professors have to be smart, but what you are seeing and calling dumb is a normal manifestation of what happens in the cul-de-sac environment. Who willingly accepts this place in life? It's not available to everyone, so you only get to see what the people who are able to get there become. It's a twisted environment for the human being, but so is all of modern life. We evolved for another existence. We can only be a perversion of what we were designed for. Modern life is complicated, but only up to a point. You can't tolerate the smartest people setting up the structure of life. They must be lured over into this holding pen for the good of the rest. That's my intuitive sense of it.

mark said...

Intelligence, Knowledge and Wisdom are not the same thing. Many people labeled as intelligent and/or knowledgeable are massive fools. And fools are running rampant in the university setting.

bagoh20 said...

At some times and places alchemists, astrologers and witch doctors were the smart elites.

There are only a few fields where there is a lot of time and attention spent reminding the members how great they are. Entertainment, academia, politics, sports, fashion. Seriously, what's the common thread about those that explains that?

Balfegor said...

I think "professorial" is turning into the euphemism for "hopelessly muddled." At least, it's what people say about Obama when Obama muddles the point he's (probably) trying to make.

I don't think it has anything to do with what professors are actually like -- it's just leveraging a popular stereotype of professors as so smart they can't communicate with normal people to explain away people who can't communicate with normal people. He's not thick or inarticulate -- he's so smart we can't understand him!

Balfegor said...

Here's the press using "professorial" to explain away Obama's poor performance in the first 2012 presidential debate. Here's an Obama campaign spokeswoman worrying that Obama is too "professorial" to connect with low-information voters. But look what she's characterising as professorial:

a professorial list of facts or accomplishments or even goals

That's not "professorial" in the sense of matching up to what academics do or how academics communicate. Bullet point lists of facts and goals are phenomena of the corporate world. What they're describing with "professorial" has nothing to do with the academic life at all. It's not even what I think people usually use "professorial" for nowadays (unintelligible discourse that the speaker wants to characterise as intelligent).

glenn said...

This story reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with the Dean of the business school at our local university. When he found out I was the plant engineer in a local manufacturing company he assured me that what we were doing was impossible. This guy had a Harvard MBA. Took him and his co-horts 10 years to convince subsequent ownership that he was right.

bagoh20 said...

Although I've always scored very high on tests and most people around me think I'm smart, I never really felt it. I'm much more aware of my limitations than any gifts. I struggle with things others do not, but I also have a pretty easy time making decisions that mostly work out. I invent things, and have succeeded at most stuff I've attempted, but I really do see myself as dolt. I sometimes read things over a half dozen times and still not get it. Maybe I have one of those AD HD DDT or whatever things going on.

Hagar said...

A students teach.
B students work for C students.

glenn said...

Put another way "Those that can, do. Those that can't teach others so they can."

Balfegor said...

As I think about the Hagel thing a little more, I wonder if it points to a problem with the low to mid-level staff working under Obama -- the ones who should have been doing the grunt work gathering and organising information for the preparation sessions.

They obviously failed to prep him effectively for the first debate, and they clearly failed to prep Hagel for his confirmation hearing. That might be due to deficiencies in Obama's and Hagel's characters, but I kind of doubt it, honestly. They might be stuck working with work product from a cadre of narrow-minded true believers who simply cannot put themselves effectively in the minds of anyone who disagrees with them.

Anthony said...

Actually, I think academia is more of a cul-de-sac for the OCD. They can focus very intently on a narrow, often quite esoteric, field that has no real-world consequences. Trouble is, both they and the general public tend to extend that expertise in one narrow area to a wider sort of 'intelligence'.

Magicians and hucksters know that academics are the easiest marks imaginable.

traditionalguy said...

NB: The Professor is smart enough to self deprecate. But her skill set is an extraordinary one and that obviously did not come from being hidden away in Academic cul de sacs.

We learn from all of the people we meet and talk with and listen to, and some minds learn faster than others.

Watching our Professor handle others on Bloggingheads is all we need to know that she has learned all of her life from many people, while she has taught Law Students to think as a sideline.

bagoh20 said...

I've figured it out: To be smart, you just have to surround yourself with dumber people. Almost anybody can do it. This is the entire explanation for the for U.S. Senate. Now this dumb circle thing doesn't work in fields that have lots of credentials. There you just get the credentials, and then it doesn't matter, because you are officially smart, and you can prove it. If you get a Nobel prize, it's official genius. I'm going for that.

furious_a said...

Entertainment, academia, politics, sports, fashion. Seriously, what's the common thread about those that explains that?

That they're mon-essentials, and the principals in those fields spend most of their time aggrandizing themselves

LarsPorsena said...

garage mahal said...

Dumb and mal-educated.

He is a Republican.

2/1/13, 9:14 AM
________________________________
Yep! You're right but that will make him the smartest member of Obama's cabinet.

ErnieG said...

If I may be permitted a small digression. Cul-de-sac. You keep using that word...

Humberto Cul deSac was a Spanish explorer who visited Florida after deSoto. Many streets in Florida subdivisions are named in his honor.

John said...

Well, I am a professor (at least in the Obamaesque sense of the word. technically I am an adjunct teacher or adjunct lecturer depending on the school") and people over at the Isthmus Forum keep calling me stupid.

They are the ones who bring the sandwiches to the Mensa picnics, donchaknow.

I suppose one can be both.

John Henry

CEO-MMP said...

Tell me, tradguy, does your current physical condition cause you any pain at all?

Because I'm pretty sure there's an operation that could fairly easily remove your lips from Ann's bottom.

ErnieG said...

"...that will make him the smartest member of Obama's cabinet."

That's kind of like being the tallest Munchkin.

Jerome said...

"leaving behind the world's practical affairs, which are geared to and conducted by men and women of average and just-above average intelligence."

Yeah, once you get off-campus, we're all pretty much mouth-breathers. I think I had an idea once, but I can't remember what it was. Guess I'd better get back to work.

Julius Reincarnate said...

Oh come now, let's cut to the chase. Hagel was confronted head-on by the Imperialists in the Senate who don't want anything to come out of the DoD except a projection of strength and threats of unleashing military might on anyone, anywhere who might oppose American interests. Hagel was cruzified because he is open to thinking differently.

I can't help but think that Obama is cognizant of the implications of our domestic energy boom. The King of Kings realizes that we don't need to pound down the world to secure our oil needs when we can feed our addiction by digging in our own backyard. Hence Hagel and a new direction for America's military. Maybe the military can stop losing too? And stop torturing people, and stop disappearing them, and stop killing children with drone strikes???

The Leader knows we are fucked long-term if we don't do things differently. Kudos to him for the foresight. Let's hope that he stands behind his man, and thereby his new direction, and continues to throw off the chains that Bush & Co put on America.

furious_a said...

was-hagel-just-not-very-bright-or-too.html

As someone speculated elsewhere, maybe Hagel was drunk. His testimony resembled an eight-hour sobriety test where Graham and Cruz were the State Troopers and Levin was the designated driver who didn't get the keys.

Biff said...

"Professorialism" is what supporters call someone who is obtuse and long-winded, c.f. the inarticulate, polysyllabic mutterings of John Kerry.

Inga said...

Be careful Althousians, it could be a trap. Althouse may have made a statement consisting of what some here might view as preposterous, and she knows this. Perhaps she is giving the commentariat another opportunity to prove THEY are intelligent too.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into motives.

Maybe Hagel is a genius.

Biff said...

(I know, I should have proofread first and used "professorial," rather than "professorialism." Whad'ya want from me?)

Scott said...

"Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart, taking them out of the running so that humanity's shared enterprises — business, politics, culture, family life — will be suitable for the vast majority of people."

So you're saying that academia is the way that society protects itself from the over-smart? I would agree with that.

Indeed, it's comforting to know that our youth spend years being taught by those who are so out-of-touch with the vast majority of people. We need to cripple our best and brightest.

Amartel said...

Some professors really aren't very bright. Like if they're in a discipline where the prime criteria for advancement is a convincing display of grievance AND/OR profs who have been in the business for a while, were brilliant at one thing once which translated into an academic career but 20-40 years later they're still reciting the same lectures. They have not been exercising their brain in the interim and now it's all dried up.

P.S. I think Hagel's just a dope. His compelling grievance is JOOZ but he can't talk about it openly.

Biff said...

"The question I have is can a person of average or even below average intelligence become a professor. It seems so to me, but I'm not in that circle."

You need a baseline of talent, but after that, there is a wide range. Assuming you have the baseline talent, the main qualifier is persistence or stubbornness. You need to want the job/lifestyle badly enough to spend your twenties and early thirties in grad school and as a postdoc, and those roles take more than their share of abuse. It's very tempting to lose patience and to stop jumping through the hoops. The path can be a little different for law profs, but I think the basic point about persistence applies. As in any other human endeavor, a certain amount of political savvy can be a big help, too.

furious_a said...

Maybe Hagel is a genius.

Maybe Hagel was playing Rope-a-Dope -- Cruz and Graham would tire from landing body-blows.

Emphasis on the "Dope".

Crunchy Frog said...

“Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them.” - Michael Levine

elkh1 said...

Was Hagel "just not very bright" or "too professorial"?

Isn't that the same thing for the "professor" who has no relevant qualifications?

His professorship is a payback to a fellow traveling politician who was too intimidated (by the Jewish lobby) to run for re-election.

ricpic said...

Over-smart equates to brilliant; over-smart does not equate to thoughtful and definitely not to prudent.

traditionalguy said...

CEO-MMP...I like to put down jerks and to stand up for the good people under attack. I may be romantic at heart.

But when I comment here in reaction to the Professor's writings and strong arguments, it is genuine.

Anybody can be a critic. Giving genuine complements is a civilized art.



hombre said...

"Academia is a comfortable cul-de-sac for the over-smart ...."

Or maybe for savants. Certainly the performance of academics as government advisors does not suggest that "smartness" in their area of specialization translates to an ability to improve government performance.

SGT Ted said...

The only reason Hagels JOO hating isnt being discussed by the Stae run media is because Obama picked him.

Yea, garage, Obama picked this guy to be SecState.

Has that changed your mind any about Obama?

Sigivald said...

Certainly there's no reason to believe that being a Professor means you must be bright.

It means you aren't the kind of stupid that means you can't get through grad school, though.

Turns out, though, that you don't need to be super-smart to get a PhD, just good at the required tasks.

(Not to say that Professors can't be really smart, just that the two aren't necessarily even correlated.)

Roger J. said...

given Mr Hagel's apparent views the question arises: has any one seen Cedarford and Hagel in the same room?

mccullough said...

Aaron Schwartz strikes me as someone who would have made a very good professor. Exceptionally bright and friendly and caring. He would have been better off if he had channelled his gifts there.

ricpic said...

Rush is hysterical on Hagel. Rush remembers that Hagel used to call press conferences and ask "Do we want to be a nation at war or a nation at peace?" And all the pundits agreed this is some smart fella.

Bill said...

"I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." -- William F. Buckley, Jr.

Baron Zemo said...

Those that can't do....teach.

It is as simple as that.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

(Professors may employ their brightness to delve into some intellectual matter, leaving behind the world's practical affairs...

The best description of Paul Krugman yet. Pity the NYT hires him to misguide us on practical affairs.

Freeman Hunt said...

I've known some extremely intelligent professors, but they weren't the norm. The norm is, I think, the bright workhorse, Out of the five smartest people I know, only one is in academia, and he's doing post doctoral research in mathematics .

Methadras said...

garage mahal said...

Dumb and mal-educated.

He is a Republican.


Simply being a republican is no assurance of ones conservative principals. Clearly those principals are something that Hagel and your clear incompetent assessment of just saying, "Republican" are lacking.

Lydia said...

I've always thought that Hagel, like McCain and Bob Kerrey, had been damaged by his Vietnam experience.

All three have the tendency to go off the rails a bit now and then, in rather spacey ways.

Big Mike said...

.... unless you think professors are not very bright....

You broke the code!

Big Mike said...

Anyway, when Hagel was accused of being "professorial" I think they meant that he was being pedantic and was trying to talk down to the senators.

Gene said...

Hegel couldn't be very bright (or very courageous)--otherwise he wouldn't have repudiated every true thing he ever said about the Israel Lobby in order to become Secretary of Defense. The result was he looked so craven that even former supporters no longer want him in the job.

If he had only taken ownership of his past comments about the lobby, he still wouldn't have become Secretary of Defense but at least he could have retired from the Senate with his honor intact.

He gives a bad name to former enlisted men now in public life. Most are a good deal braver than this.

Unknown said...

=====Entertainment, academia, politics, sports, fashion. Seriously, what's the common thread about those that explains that?

=====That they're mon-essentials, and the principals in those fields spend most of their time aggrandizing themselves

Also there's large genetic component to reaching the top. Scarlett Johanson would be nowhere if she looked like Sandra Fluke. George Clooney if he looked like George Costanza.... Sports stars born with strength, coordination, speed.... Politicans born to looking good in a suit and missing the honesty chromosome.

Unknown said...

====every true thing he ever said about the Israel Lobby

There's that rising tide of anti-semitism. The world will not be better off when Israel is 'wiped off the map'.

Paul Ciotti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gene said...

unknown: There's that rising tide of anti-semitism. The world will not be better off when Israel is 'wiped off the map'.

No, it will not be. But the U.S. sure as hell will be better off when the Israel Lobby no longer runs our Middle East foreign policy.