Paul Greenberg

"You're not making any sense, Janey. You'll just have to keep trying till all the feeling is gone. It's part of being a grown-up. Get past the poetry and stuff. It doesn't help you in the real world. It just gets in the way. You don't have to understand, just sound like you do. That's the trick. To make the sale, you've got to sell yourself first. You want to be a success, don't you? Outline. Analyze. Compare and contrast. All that stuff. Follow the rules. They're simple enough. Cut out the daydreaming. Then, I just know, you'll get a 4, honey. You can do it if you really try."

Janey's problem with strategizing may be much the same as the one some of us have with these long, divided and subdivided numerical report cards split 3 different ways and then resplit into 15 sections. It's not Janey's problem so much as American society's in this postmodern, robotic, deconstructed age. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge and knowledge with wisdom.

All those quite different concepts now seem to mix in one vast computer-generated cloud of educanto. Till we can't tell the difference between them. If they're still recognizable at all. Because if a quality can't be quantified -- like intuition, say, or poetry or faith or insight -- it doesn't exist. At least not to the well-trained mind.

With each such "reform" in basic education, the basics grow dimmer. We seem bent on learning more and more about less and less till we finally succeed in knowing everything about nothing.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.