Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 1, 2012

STUMPTALK: Sophomorism or arrested intellectual development, part II

By Phillip Chesser
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — One of the most annoying things about sophomorism is its cloying sense of concern about the less fortunate, which began with the civil rights movement but has now turned into debate stifling political correctness, so that many people are afraid to speak frankly about certain issues for fear of being labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, or insensitive. Oozing sophomoric concern began when misguided adults convinced many baby boomers that they were the smartest generation ever. This made them think than no other generation before theirs thought as carefully or understood as deeply as they. They believed that before their time America was a wretched place. They saw their duty as rescuing the rest of us from our dishonorable past. They demonstrated and still demonstrate this attitude using an acting technique from Constantin Stanislavski, who developed method acting, which is taught at the Actor’s Studio and which has produced actors like Marlon Brando, probably the most famous.

Using Stanislavski or Actor’s Studio methods, the typical sophomoric concern oozer affects a painful frown, under which we are supposed to discern deep feelings for the poor, the oppressed, women, minorities, redheads, or the victim du jour. Recently, the most fashionable victims are homosexuals. Concern for all these victim groups may even produce croaking voices and tears. President Bill Clinton famously bit his lip. One time in an unguarded moment he was caught on camera laughing at a funeral while talking with friends. He then discovered the cameras, after which appeared the frown, the oozing concern, and the lip biting.

Sophomoric elites also ooze concern for the environment. Their latest environmental fad is man made global warming, now called climate change because of inconvenient declines in the earth’s mean temperature. Again, as with atheists, all the smart people believe in man made global warming.

These days one finds most sophomoric thinking in the Democratic Party even though many Republicans have been affected without their knowledge. Republicans have been so intimidated by accusations of racism, sexism, and other opprobrious ‘isms that they speechify sophomorically. For example, Republicans like New Gingrich praise FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr., regularly holding forth about the virtues of FDR, especially his taking the country into World War II. As for MLK worship, Gingrichian sophomores use his name so often that someone from Mars might think they participated in King led civil rights marches.

To this list of Republican sophomore sins can be added those of the Bushes: both wars in Iraq, raising taxes with Democrats (the first Bush), the war in Afghanistan, the budget breaking prescription drug law, and most infamously, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a program that could have been begun by any number of sophomores and is criticized by Democrats only because George W. Bush created it. An interesting speculation here: if Democrats had invented NCLB and someone had objected, they would charge, “Oh, you want children to be left behind!”

Another characteristic of the sophomoric mind shines forth when they speak about ordinary people of whose ability they have little regard. Ordinary folks cannot look out for themselves and therefore need big government nannies.

And on and on, the list of sophomoric sins is endless. Sophomorism then is not a coherent or rigorously developed system of thinking but rather an example of arrested intellectual development, a shallow catechism learned first in college and then reinforced in big city wine and cheese parlors, on the pages of big city newspapers, on network television, on television dramas (Law and Order, for example) and in fashionable urban neighborhoods. And speaking of fashion, sophomorism is mostly fashion, something that characterizes “all the best people.” Unfortunately it now dominates much of American culture and is rapidly destroying it.