Grade A is good, but let's guard against idiocy

I have more modest proposals, besides last week’s advice to the rich that they should consider eating the poor and their children, as a solution to Kenya’s searing economic challenges.

I expect to unbundle these proposals in coming days. For now, however, let me tarry with our future neurologists. As you know, our children have been upbeat. It is the season of releasing national examination results.

In keeping with the new trend since the Uhuru Kenyatta days, we are doing well, releasing results early. In this, we throw the country into the celebratory mood, a welcome break from political humdrum and hullabaloo. Kids are graduating from primary school focused on great things, as they should. Ace boys and girls want to become neurological surgeons. I find this noble and welcome. These chaps will open up and fix our brains, spinal cords and allied faculties in days ahead. Even a cursory observation of our adult conduct suggests an urgent need for specialists to interact intimately with our medulla oblongata.

Do we seem to arrive from the birth canal readymade for neurological attention? The shouting and screaming at public gatherings; invasion of funerals by mannerless political squads, and their ugly free-for-alls – they all speak to a society that could be variously psychotic, sociopathic; or otherwise afflicted with sundry amyotrophic sclerosis issues, from the day they arrived on The Good Earth.  

The case for brain experts speaks for itself. The media have been awash with success narratives of our doctors in the making. For us here in Emanyulia, we can only wish them well. We are disappointed, however, at the narrow definition of assessment, at the close of education cycles. It would seem that good grades are everything. Does the school seem not to teach anything beyond that? Should we surmise that if you don’t get these grades, you are a daft failure; a hopeless nincompoop who should be ashamed, and perhaps deserves to be hanged?  

What is it with going to university? For the record, I have been there four times. That could very well be why I am persuaded that there must be other ways of assessing learners, apart from the number of grades “A” they return. And going to university should itself be only one of the pathways open to school leavers. I am reading Jean Francois Marmion’s bestseller, titled The Psychology of Stupidity (2020).

I have also recently interacted with Thomas Erikson’s Surrounded by Narcissists (2022). It will shock you how myriads of stupid individuals have graduated from Ivy League universities, summa cum laude and magna cum laude.

For, stupidity is not missing the grades train. It is the absence of good sense, as the philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) famously taught us.  We live, today, in the golden age of idiocy. It is, especially, a learned and powerful idiocy. Its face is unbridled vanity, narcissism and inanity. Vanity of unrestrained greed and omnivorous eating habits.

Then there is the inanity of looking important, thirst for recognition, and a nervous craving “to speak” rubbish at public gatherings. Even learned people narcissistically want to break their necks. They crane this way and that way. They want to see if people are noticing them.

Good education, financial success, a big name, beauty, political power, big cars on the road, come together to define the all-purpose idiot. The rest of the crowd is not left out, however. In the words of Desiderius Erasmus (1468–1536), they are all enjoined In Praise of Folly. Their ears, they “prick up to jugglers, fools and buffoons.” They applaud energetically when foolish vitriol and scorn are poured out. 

The sensible honest person living at peace with society is worth more than his weight in gold, than is the graded buffoon. 

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor.