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Teaching Stupidity!

Occidental College in Los Angeles is offering a course on stupidity. Here’s the course description:


Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in Critical Psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. Stupidity, which has been evicted from the philosophical premises and dumbed down by psychometric psychology, has returned in the postmodern discourse against Nation, Self, and Truth and makes itself felt in political life ranging from the presidency to Beavis and Butthead. This course examines stupidity.

Which prompted The Huffington Post to ironically complain about its use of hyper-deconstructionist language (i.e., excessive use of big words):

We honestly don’t know what’s funnier the class title or the hyper-deconstructionist language used in the course description. Only in the bubble of the academy is it acceptable to use these words and phrases: organicity, postmodern discourse, Beevis and Butthead.

Even more ironic is an article in the British media that talks about the class:

It is not necessarily the case that people are becoming more stupid, Professor Griffin said, notwithstanding, he added, the incompetence evidenced in the national response to Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war, the wilful ignorance that led to the global economic crisis, celebrity magazines and reality TV.

Instead, Professor Griffin likens the rising awareness of stupidity to the increasing consciousness of autism. It is not that there is more of it; it is just that there are more ways to discern it.

Indeed, 40 books have been written on Stupidity in the last decade, and many of them specifically on anti-intellectualism in America. However, Professor Griffin quickly points out:

No one who has been to England or felt its presence in a former colony can imagine that America has a corner on stupidity.



  1. starluna wrote:

    This is great! I really needed a laugh this morning.

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 7:37 am | Permalink
  2. Sammy wrote:

    They must have had George Will write that course description. (He could take three paragraphs to state that the sky is blue.)

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  3. I’ve tried to set up critical thinking / rhetoric / writing courses themed on anti-intellectualism.

    I was shot down by my Department every time.

    Good for Occidental College: ’tis about time!

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  4. lindsey wrote:

    Here is a fun read: “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity”. (Personally,I don’t think the illustrations add that much, but the text is amusing and trenchant.)

    Friday, September 25, 2009 at 6:39 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    Interesting. Of course, the author and illustrator demonstrate their own stupidity by the use of the stereotype of the bandit as a Mexican.

    Friday, September 25, 2009 at 4:28 pm | Permalink