Smartness Is False And Oppresive: Zeus–Update

Zeus says: Smartness ain’t for you.
Aristophanes was right. He said, “Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you.” In other words, no need to be smart and think when Zeus was on the job.

Zeus Leonardo, that is. Co-author of “Smartness as Property: A Critical Exploration of Intersections Between Whiteness and Disability Studies” which concludes “that smartness is nothing but false and oppressive, and as such, attempts to theoretically rearticulate or rehabilitate smartness may serve to illuminate, but ultimately fail to dissolve, the normative center of schooling.”

The not-so-Greek Leonardo can be found at Berkeley in the Graduate School of Education, one of the bright centers of educational theory. You know, the stuff fed to teachers and passed on to your children. Blessed be the government.

Zeus tells us “smartness” is an “ideological system” and should not be encouraged, and he must be right because he is at one of the world’s best universities. Unlike many academics and to his eternal credit, Leonardo’s writings indicate he practices what he preaches.

This work, and many others like it, appear in the Teachers College Record, a portal for the school jealously close to Columbia. If you want avant-garde in education, this site is it.

Take the featured article “‘Coming Out Crip’ in Inclusive Education” by Nirmala Erevelles. She frowns that teachers aren’t talking about who—or what—students want to have sex with, particularly disabled students. She doesn’t want any kid feeling that its desires are odd. Even if they’re odd.

Thus the “crippin” theory of “inclusive education”, point one of which is “Claiming disability and a disability identity politics while nonetheless nurturing a necessary contestatory relationship to that identity…” You bet.

She doesn’t like abstinence—but then who does. Apparently she never figured out that liking abstinence is not the point of abstinence. But let that pass. Return instead to the “queer disabled”, a double-whammy category. She quotes “scholar” Alison Kafer: “It is in imagining the stories disabled queers might tell each other about intimacy, touch, desire, and identity that…provides inspiration, guidance, and ground for thinking” [ellipsis original].

If the reader is able to discover a point to Erevelles’s piece other than she really likes to talk about sex, and wishes everybody would like it just as much as she, he is invited to write his discovery below in the comments. A ten-point bonus will be awarded to the first reader who can translate Erevelles’s theme into English.

Switch to “Teaching Bodies in Place” by Jones and Woglom which argues to “engage students in recognizing themselves as full-bodied and cultured beings”. Looks like Joes and Woglom didn’t talk to Erevelles first, who would react in horror to that value-laden phrase “full-bodied.” Nobody’s perfect.

Jones and Woglom did their study on a “community bus ride” to “ask questions about how bodies and places interact with one another to produce sense-making about people, places, and the purposes of education.” Conclusion? Turns out students need to learn their bodies are “central sites for critical change inside and outside institutions.” I wouldn’t have guessed. Would have you?

I didn’t dare read “Emasculation Blues: Black Male Teachers’ Perspectives on Gender and Power in the Teaching Profession” by Ed Brockenbrough. I also cringe in sympathy whenever I see a guy on TV take one to the particulars.

But I couldn’t pass up “Hip-Hop, the ‘Obama Effect,’ and Urban Science Education” by Emdin and Lee who “examined qualitative data illustrating the enactment of hip-hopness or a hip-hop identity in urban science classrooms.” I am not enough of a rhyme master to do a rap on the quantum chromodynamics, but I do recall Tom Lehrer’s The Elements.

Emdin and Lee: “The findings indicate that when teachers bring hip-hop into their science instruction, certain markers of interest and involvement that were previously absent from science classrooms become visible.” They don’t say which, but there you have it.

Here are the words which you can use to discover the “hip-hopness” of QM: strong interaction, color force, top and bottom quarks, gluons, hadrons, protons, neutrons, pions, baryon (this can be used to enhance the ‘Obama Effect’). A full 100 points to the best hippy hoppy rap.

It’s not all bad at Teachers College. For example, there is the article “On Pretending to Listen” by Burbules and Rice. What more useful skill could an attendee of that institution have?

Update Jim data mined this treasure from the same vein:

“The paper suggests that in the transmogrification of old to new eugenic discourses, disability becomes reinscribed as an outlaw ontology reinvesting eugenic discourse in a new language that maintains an ableist normativity.” (The Hunt for Disability: The New Eugenics and the Normalization of School Children)


Thanks to reader for Jim Fedako for uncovering this site for us.


  1. Sander van der Wal

    “which concludes “that smartness is nothing but false and oppressive, and as such, attempts to theoretically rearticulate or rehabilitate smartness may serve to illuminate, but ultimately fail to dissolve, the normative center of schooling.””

    This is brilliant. Even better than modern French philosophy, because it is in English.

  2. Andy

    It’s just crap. Absolute worthless crap.

    Yes I am bitter, I cannot get funding for a PhD about curing cancer. I shall console myself with the knowledge that better projects are being funded.

  3. I recall a Pacifica/KPFK show (I listen to both left and right wing radio – how else to understand the arguments of “the other side,” whichever side that may be) whose topic was the difficulties encountered by “differently abled homosexuals of color.” I’m certain that there are many such difficulties but the only thing that’s stuck with me down through the years is that phrase.

  4. Bob

    Boom-badda boom-badda boom-badda boom

    Everybody’s smart by their own definition
    All them smarts with your own volition
    Volition – The Mission – Permission – Nutrition
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo

    Them big-back witches digging your kool
    This kind of smart you can’t get at school
    Koool – Skoool – Toool – Foool
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo

    The sheriff can’t get you see what I’m sayin’
    Cause smart is cool yo game they’s playing
    Smaaaart – Smaaart – Smaart – Smaaart
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo
    Bibba-boop bidda-bop pitcha-poo pitcha-poo

  5. William Sears

    There is a chapter in “The House of Intellect” by Jacques Barzun called, I think, “The Case Against Intellect” that warns about its misuses. In that totalitarian and other misguided ideas cause enormous amount of human suffering. However, I don’t think that is what Zeus et al. are warning us about but instead are using demagoguery to advance their own brand of destructive intellect.

  6. m e wood

    Do they teach English at this ‘school’,I don’t live in the U.S and it does not correspond to any dialect I have come across.
    What they say may be of interest but how would I possibly know?
    One thought- maybe it
    Is a code meant to exclude others from the ‘in’ group.

  7. As a partial translation, I speculatively offer that “normative center of schooling” is indoctrination.

    “Smartness” runs contrary to indoctrination because it’s a display of the power of an individual to form their own ideas and coherent thoughts relevant to the real world.

    It seems that a PhD from UCLA now entitles the holder to ride the skies on the back of a unicorn.

    Have they done away with the air filters in the airconditioning ducts at UCLA that used to prevent the THC from spreading to staff rooms?

  8. Rich

    I think a translation might be, “Nobody likes a smartass. We hates you, we hates you forever!”

  9. Mike Ozanne

    “that smartness is nothing but false and oppressive, and as such, attempts to theoretically rearticulate or rehabilitate smartness may serve to illuminate, but ultimately fail to dissolve, the normative center of schooling.”

    WTH?? there must be an App that generates this bullsh!t, surely no human thought was used in constructing it…

  10. Ken

    From Zeus’ bio:

    “Professor Leonardo’s current research interests involve the study of ideologies and discourses in education with respect to change. Much of his work is interdisciplinary and draws insights from sociology, contemporary PHILOSOPHY, and cultural studies” [emphasis added on “philosophy”]

    BRIGGs, you see that–“PHILOSOPHY”–one of your prized pet tools of thought…since ole Prof Zeus Leonardo has applied that he just must be right, huh?

    That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.

  11. Philosophy is neither good nor bad–just what you do with it is. Like most things in life.

    We cannot acknowledge “smartness” because then “dumbness” would be evident. This actually started in the 60’s, where the plan was to call success failure and failure success so the lazy dropouts could justify their laziness and tendency to mooch off society. It was quite brilliant and worked very well. The Wall street opposition shows how well the idea took. After making work vile, it had to be replaced with something, so sex seemed like a great way to pass the time. Plus, you could call people “Victorian” if they disagreed. If the sex lead to babies, the government would pay (forget parenting–that’s work too) and if sex lead to diseases, the government would pay and science was at fault for not fixing the mess. Never mind that “free” sex was not free and embraced the animal side of humans, which spilled over into gangs and violence increasing. You can see where this went–it was actually very clear when it started, it’s just people thought this could “never happen” in America.

    Oh, disabled people and their sexual desires are a problem when working with mentally challenged persons. It’s hard to get them to use birth control reliably, some cannot raise a child and keeping them in separate works about as well as it does with teenagers. People who work with the disabled deal with this all the time.

  12. Steve Holmes

    Apologies in advance for lowering the tone…

    There was a young fellow named Ken,
    With a passion for disabled men.
    With manoeuvres strategic
    Each gay paraplegic
    Was serviced,and wheeled out again.

  13. Starting with Fichte, the express assumption in education is that the educators are both smarter and morally superior to us chickens. That’s why Fichte insisted, back in 1809, that the only way to achieve the (Prussian version of) earthly paradise was to seize ALL children, remove them from the pernicious influence of parents and family, and subject them ONLY to the influence of educators, until pupils, in his memorable phrase, “…will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished.”

    Just as “Science” is used equivocally in academia – physics and political science are both science? – “Education” means one thing to the professor of education, and something completely else to the parents who pay the bills.

    This leads to a number of trends, easily observable to the un-awed eye:

    – Jargon to disguise and muddy what they’re up to;
    – Worship of academic freedom, meaning here protection from any coherent criticism;
    – Erecting a certification wall between the elect and the unwashed – only those who run the gauntlet of education schools entirely controlled by the likes of the authors cited above are permitted an opinion. This filters out people with functioning intellects;
    – constant agitation for more funding. This entails both pleading failure by pointing out how bad things are – high drop out rates, poorly prepared students, and the moral failures of drug abuse ‘unwanted’ pregnancy, even unemployment (the list is endless) while simultaneously holding that the institutions that spawned the bewailed problems are the only way to solve them. Note that the people who write these essays have been rendered all but unemployable by anything except the education institutions – who would hire such pompous muddle-heads?;
    – a symbiotic relationship with political power. Here in California, the Teacher’s Union and its allies effectively run the state. (Aside: historically, these yahoos occasionally tried to get stuff past the voters via the normal democratic process. They quickly learned not to do that, but instead focus on getting states to establish departments that make rules and hand out funds and are in all ways insulated from voters – this is not an accident.)

    Also, did you check out the TCRecord’s editorial board? It’s very impressive. People with multiple advanced degrees from places like Yale and Stanford are willing to lend their names to this effort.

  14. Larry Geiger

    Thank you Steve.
    Insensitive and funny.
    (Excellent troll bait if anyone needs some.)

  15. Thinkling

    Harrison Bergeron, call your office.

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