Wuss Nation


These stories seem connected somehow:

Consider the teacher new to an upscale suburban town. Shuffling through the sheaf of reports certifying the educational “accommodations” he was required to make for many of his history students, he was struck by the exhaustive, well-written—and obviously costly—one on behalf of a girl who was already proving among the most competent of his ninth-graders. “She’s somewhat neurotic,” he confides, “but she is bright, organized and conscientious—the type who’d get to school to turn in a paper on time, even if she were dying of stomach flu.” He finally found the disability he was to make allowances for: difficulty with Gestalt thinking. The 13-year-old “couldn’t see the big picture.” That cleverly devised defect (what 13-year-old can construct the big picture?) would allow her to take all her tests untimed, especially the big one at the end of the rainbow, the college-worthy SAT.

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history.

In case you’re wondering what happens when this mentality is brought into adulthood, I think we’ve been seeing it for a while now:

The men who built the Empire State Building stood on bare planks to work in the sky; paradoxically, they were grounded in reality, not theory. They did not have to concern themselves with tones and timbres; nor did the educated architects who dreamed up skyscrapers. One suspects that if either the man on the beam or the one with the blueprints had been approached by a tanning-booth-bronzed-and-manicured corporate bureaucrat, and asked to enumerate their “goals” as part of their “performance review” they both would have hooted at him in derision. “My goal,” the first would say, “is to not fall. It’s to stay alive so I can pick up my pay, have a beer with the wife, raise the kids and get into heaven a half-hour before the devil knows I’m dead.”

“My goal,” the architect would say dismissively, “is to make your jaw drop, and the drop it some more; I want to build a mystery!”

Very likely the bureaucrat — too timid to walk the sky, and too unimaginative to even conceive scraping it — would have found their answers vague, and given both of them low marks in team-building, professional comportment and attention to guidelines. He would recommend training meant to get them comfortable with thinking and living inside the approved boxes, “and at no point should such recklessly lighthearted men be considered for promotion,” he would write.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

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