the best and the brightest

Robert McNamara died yesterday. My family watched The Fog of War last year and it was a very good documentary. The image at right is McNamara and Westmoreland circa 1965, thanks to Creative Commons.

Among the discussions of McNamara's life as the pinnacle of power, I heard something that reminds me of why homeschooling may offer some important psychological benefits.

Dr. Howard Zinn on Democracy Now! discuss the fact that McNamara was one of "the best and the brightest," and he discussed the idea that the "best and brightest" (the phrase at that time for high achievers) may not be the best after all:

This whole idea that you judge young kids today on the basis of what their test scores are, how smart they are, how much information they can digest, how much they can give back to you and remember. That’s what MacNamara was good at. He was bright and he was smart, but he had no moral intelligence. What strikes me as one of the many things we can learn from this McNamara experience is that we’ve got to stop revering these superficial qualities of brightness and smartness, and bring up a generation which thinks in moral terms, which has moral intelligence, and which asks questions not, “Do we win or do we lose?” Asks questions, " Is this right? Is it wrong?"

I know as a mother, I hoped to raise attached children who would perhaps better grasp the reality of other people. This was my attempt to ensure that raising a tiny baby without warm and encompassing care wasn't a factor in why we wind up in wars. But I agree with the worry about smartness. Even in homeschooling circles, the admiration for those who achieve college scholarships and very high test scores, sometimes seems wrong to me. What will the best and brightest will do with their gifts? And how will they be employed by corporations?


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