One of the goals of education is to train future Masters of the Universe how to think outside of the box. This is a skill that any second rate debater will tell you is mandatory if she is to have even the slightest chance of winning. For how can she overcome an objection if she doesn’t understand the other side’s point of view?
When I was attending University North Texas, my political science professors would frequently assign a topic knowing full well that it was diabolically opposed to the beliefs of a particular student. Imagine a pro-life student arguing the merits of choice [this is a fictitious example added for illustration purposes only].
I was attending undergraduate school during the Reagan and Bush years, so when I was asked to write a semester long paper as a member of Reagan’s Security Council, I decided that I needed to find a way to slip a bit of myself into this artifice. My solution was to insert a sheet of paper in front of each chapter with a carefully researched quote that spoke to my true beliefs on the contents without being so obvious that I undermined the assignment. Alas, I was desperate to hang on to my GPA. This worked for me when I had to convince the class that Robert Bork should be confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1987, and again when I was asked to deny aid to Ortega in Nicaragua.
Over and over I did this. A geology professor gave me an assignment about a rock once. A quote appeared on the cover page. Economics? The biggest problem there was which quote to choose.
This went on through my years as an academic, and continued through my years as a political consultant, and after I entered the corporate world. When email became the standard communication tool, I added an automated quote to my signature line. There was, of course, a different one for my private account. For those who were my friends and colleagues during my working years, they would often chuckle, as one one was a bit of a laugh at the other.
Fortunately for me, my relationship with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Frank Feigert has continued through the years as well. He, too has brilliant quotes on his signature lines, and we (likely it’s more me) have a bit of a mutual admiration as to whose quote can more effectively take the complexities of the day and sum them up in a single sentence. For, after all, isn’t that really what we want a quote to do? Take our hopes our dreams, our frustrations, our faith, and reduce them to a bumper sticker?
I am no longer an academic, no longer a political strategist, no longer a corporate mover and shaker. No, I’m none of those things. Yet, the events that are occurring in this country by groups calling themselves Teabaggers, that are loosely aligned with the GOP, have me reaching for my book of quotes to wrap a clean crisp piece of typing paper around them with the following words:
“Zeal is fit only for the wise but is found mostly in fools”
Oh, and Dr. Feigert’s quote, which I couldn’t come close to topping:
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
– Robert Heinlein