Critical Thinking Pummeled By Finger Wagging

In the world of self-absorption there is little to rival 1968. If anything of significance (very loosely self-defined) happened to a person in that year, he — or quite often she – seems to feel entitled to bore the entire rest of the earth about its transformative effect and the impact it ought to have had on the hapless listener. Emphasis on the ought.

Were it not for the magic of the actuarial tables, legislation might well be considered to ban the use of 1968 from all future conversation.

It was not a good year to graduate from college, but who knew? Now, 45 years later, the self-absorption continues at reunions, often accompanied by finger wagging.

A mistake frequently made by college students involves course selection. Early semester resolve often leads to infelicitous choices. Apparently these lessons are not well learned and I found myself, along with about 50 others, at an open square table for Public Policy: Class of 1968 in Service. “Public service,” we were informed, “has always been a calling for the Class of 1968, to give back and improve our nation.”

Years of aerobic finger wagging classes appeared to have triumphed over whatever tiny glimmer of critical thinking might have been imparted by Harvard almost half a century ago. It was also apparently new news that each of us was issued two ears and one mouth, perhaps for a reason.

Eliot Cutler was one of the panelists. He is running for Governor of Maine as an independent. He is well deserving of the office and probably most any other, but he had his hands full that day. These thoughts made enough sense to me to jot them down.

  • The left right divide on social issues almost always differs from the left right divide on economic issues.
  • The two political parties have migrated to where the money is: the ideological extremes.
  • Everyone knows about NIMBY, but what about NIMTOO – not in my term of office?
  • Democrats and Republicans are mostly, if not only, concerned with self-preservation.
  • The cost of all Senate races in 1974 was $77 million. In 2012, it was $1.8 Billion, a 550% real increase.
  • In 1966, 21% of all voters voted in Democratic primaries. By 2012, the percentage was down to eight.

All of these seemed worthy of critical thought and discussion, but they were overwhelmed by volleys of talking points and synchronized finger wagging. Few would have agreed with Cutler’s interesting observation that government service was fast becoming an exclusionary craft guild.

To be accurate, I should not have used the word “agreed” in the last sentence. Few would have “heard” the observation amid the chorus of slogans.


3 Responses to “Critical Thinking Pummeled By Finger Wagging”

Charles N. Steele, November 23, 2013 at 10:01 am said:


Had always liked Eric Cutler, but had no idea how trenchantly perceptive he was. Good on you at so youthful an age to have noticed and remembered. The “extraordinary craft guild” is a formulation that my brain has been stumbling around looking for at least as long as I have ceased to be a member.

And thanks for your flow of ideas,


John A. Murphy, November 23, 2013 at 10:47 am said:

Reinforcement for my gratitude at not being a Baby Boomer, and graduating in 1967.


Haven Pell, November 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm said:

baby boomer is another phrase that deserves to be banned.


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