Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Edward Teller's Memoirs.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I had no idea that Eric Hoffer spent time watching education reformers

Between the Devil and the Dragon, page 70:
Total innovation is the refuge of the untalented and the innately clumsy.  It offers them a situation where their ineptness is acceptable and natural.  For we are all apprentices when we tackle the wholly new, and we expect the new to show the apprentice's hand--to be clumsy and ill-shapen. 
Yet, however untalented and clumsy, the innovators have a vital role to play.  For it is the fate of every great achievement to be pounced upon by pedants and imitators who drain it of life and turn it into an orthodoxy which stifles all stirrings of originality.  The avant-garde counteracts this deadening influence, and fulfills the vital role of keeping the gates open for the real talents who will eventually sweep away the inanities of the experimenters and build the new with a sure hand.
Yes, that is the dilemma of innovation:  There are real innovations and there are frauds and cheap imitations and minor tweaks that get over-sold.  There are truly creative types and real talents and then there are the dilettantes.  The problem is that the dilettantes can easily become the enforcers of orthodoxy if they are welcomed into the temple, but they can just as easily keep some space open on the fringes.  It's a tough balance.

Hoffer's point about orthodoxy also reminds me of how Hofstadter closed his chapter on Dewey:  "And so the quest for a method of institutionalizing the proper anti-institutional methods goes on."

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