A woman with a petition went among the crowds attending a state fair, asking people to sign her petition demanding the banning of dihydroxymonoxide. She said it was in our lakes and streams, and now it was in our sweat and urine and tears.
She collected hundreds of signatures to ban dihydroxymonoxide -- a fancy chemical name for water. A couple of comedians were behind this ploy. But there is nothing funny about its implications. It is one of the grim and dangerous signs of our times.
This little episode revealed how conditioned we have become, responding like Pavlov's dog when we hear a certain sound-- in this case, the sound of some politically correct crusade.
People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities. In a high-tech age that has seen the creation of artificial intelligence by computers, we are also seeing the creation of artificial stupidity by people who call themselves educators.
Educational institutions created to pass on to the next generation the knowledge, experience and culture of the generations that went before them have instead been turned into indoctrination centers to promote whatever notions, fashions or ideologies happen to be in vogue among today's intelligentsia.
Many conservatives have protested against the specifics of the things with which students are being indoctrinated. But that is not where the most lasting harm is done. Many, if not most, of the leading conservatives of our times were on the left in their youth. These have included Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan and the whole neoconservative movement.
The experiences of life can help people outgrow whatever they were indoctrinated with. What may persist, however, is the lazy habit of hearing one side of an issue and being galvanized into action without hearing the other side-- and, more fundamentally, not having developed any mental skills that would enable you to systematically test one set of beliefs against another.
It was once the proud declaration of many educators that "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." But far too many of our teachers and professors today are teaching their students what to think, about everything from global warming to the new trinity of "race, class and gender."