Lessons from Chomsky at 90

This week Noam Chomsky turned 90.

Here Nathan J Robinson’s writes ’13 Lessons from Chomsky’: “If I were to summarize the main points I’ve taken from Chomsky’s writings and talks, they would be this: You should have both compassion and consistency, care about freedom and fairness alike, and be rational, curious, and humble”.

His thirteen lessons are summarised as …

1. Libertarian Socialism
2. Pragmatic Utopianism
3. Rejecting Simple Binary Distinctions 
4. The Consistent Application of Moral Standards
5. Clear and Accessible Writing
6. Skepticism of Status
7. Self-Critical Science
8. Commitment to Open Inquiry
9. Critiquing Power Without Conspiracy Theories
10. Simple Things Are The Most Complicated Things
11. Not Liking Politics
12. Public Fearlessness, Private Generosity
13. No Gods, No Masters, No Idols 

Each of these is explored in more detail here.

‘People at the top often try to convince those at the bottom that you get to the top by being smart. In fact, Chomsky says, success is probably driven by the possession of “some combination of greed, cynicism, obsequiousness and subordination, lack of curiosity and independence of mind, self-serving disregard for others, and who knows what else.” Education, he says, selects for passivity: You do well if you flatter your teachers by repeating what they think, you do less well if you refuse to go along with the assignments you’re given because you think they’re stupid.

The education system in the United States, Chomsky suggests, does not really educate. It subdues. A genuine education involves helping someone through a process of self-discovery and curiosity, not just learning to regurgitate facts. Thus, because the people who do best in our current education system are those who got the most As, as opposed to those who developed their minds the most, we shouldn’t trust a person to be wise just because they’re educated. This is something a lot of people realize intuitively, but there are still a lot of “educated fools” who are listened to and given a lot of credence.’

Read the full article here.


Comments (5)

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  1. Paul Carline says:

    Unfortunately, Chomsky’s refusal to address the issue of who carried out the attacks of September 11 has lowered his prestige enormously in the eyes of very many. On this most important issue he fails the test of many of his thirteen lessons and has thereby given ‘authoritative’ permission for others (such as Chris Hedges) who one would expect to be on the ‘right side’ of history to follow his unfortunate example.

    1. Terence callachan says:

      Who carried out the September 11 attacks and more importantly , why did they do it, who would do such a thing ,Chomsky like many probably concluded that the USA and UK having armed forces in just about every country across the Middle East , the USA and UK going to war in Afghanistan Iraq Iran Egypt Libya Aden Syria etc etc etc might just have something to do with it, whilst all the time throughout those attacks neither UK nor USA were ever attacked by armed forces from another country .Even now UK and USA have hundreds and hundreds of air bases and naval bases and barracks across the Mediterranean , they want to control everything , what gives them the right ? Answer nothing, don’t bomb country after country around the world and then look for sympathy when it all goes wrong.
      Why does USA threaten North Korea which is thousands of miles away, why does USA have war ships in the china sea ? what’s it got to do with USA, I think USA pretends to be policeman of the world whilst ripping off countries around the world stealing resources and imposing unbalanced trade deals.

    2. Indyman says:

      Thanks for providing such an excellent example of what Chomsky is talking about.

  2. John Learmonth says:

    Chomsky is 95 and has made a very nice living denigrating his own country whilst still living/working in the USA for his entire life.
    Do you think he’d be able to do this in China/Russia/Muslim world.
    The wonders of America!

    1. Wul says:

      *Old people know nothing about the modern world.
      *People who are sympathetic to the poor, must be poor themselves.
      *People who live in a country must never criticise it.
      *Only people living under the worst oppression imaginable have a right to criticise their country (except they can’t).

      You make a lot of sense John. Keep taking the tablets.

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