Daniel Calhoun’s The Intelligence of a People is one of the strangest books ever written. Even though the word “written” is less important than the word “conceived” in this context, the word “written” is crucial to the book’s argument, since it deals with literacy in the United States before the twentieth century. As a result, the author manages to maintain academic precision while maintaining a sufficiently populist style to keep the reader wanting more of what quickly becomes a rather erudite discussion. At first glance, it appears to be a book about the history of education, but for two hundred and fifty pages of its three hundred and fifty pages, it reads like a critical review of nineteenth-century teaching methods in the United States. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, from Hume’s predetermined and often contradictory realities of the tabula rasa to the role of corporal punishment as an incentive. It’s all fascinating stuff.
However, the material that refers to assumptions about class, gender, and racial stereotyping may be more interesting to readers in the twenty-first century. Not only are nineteenth-century attitudes toward the poor, women, and people of non-European ancestry frequently described here, but these considerations are also presented here through a lens that was focused in the middle of the twentieth century, a lens that might produce different effects if used today.. Daniel Calhoun’s The Intelligence of a People is one of the strangest books ever written. While written is certainly relevant, the term “conceived” is more appropriate here because it’s less relevant than “written” in terms of the book’s argument, which focuses on American literacy prior to the twentieth century. Furthermore, its author manages to maintain academic precision while utilising a sufficiently populist style to keep the reader wanting more of what soon becomes a rather erudite discussion. For the first two hundred pages of this book, it reads like a critical review of the teaching of literacy in the United States, philosophically rooted in the previous century, but focusing primarily on nineteenth-century examples. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, from Hume’s predetermined and often contradictory realities of the tabula rasa to the role of corporal punishment as an incentive. It’s all fascinating stuff.
However, the material that refers to assumptions about class, gender, and racial stereotyping may be more interesting to readers in the twenty-first century. The nineteenth century attitudes toward the poor, women, and people of non-European ancestry are frequently described here, but they are also presented through a lens that was focused in the middle of the twentieth century, a lens that might have different effects if it were used today..
The big reveal comes at the 200-page mark. Unprepared readers are in for a rude awakening that will necessitate multiple trips back to the source material before they can fully comprehend what they’re reading. According to Daniel Calhoun, “anything that is communicated through culture expresses intelligence.” Such activities include selecting political candidates, creating household gadgets, and writing philosophical treatises as examples. ” To keep things focused, this chapter examines changes in the sermon and the design of load-bearing structures between 1750 and 1870 in order to provide a framework for understanding the rest of the study. Alternatively, a reader could have been knocked over with a feather. Is this the most obvious or interesting source of meaningful contrast at first glance?
Ultimately, The Intelligence of a People conveys a remarkable human capacity for imagining the impossible. And to do so with a keen eye for detail. While the structural engineer must deal with quantifiable strengths and weaknesses, the sermon writer must rely on political skills to appeal to the strengths and weaknesses of a congregation that is ultimately malleable, much like the smith hammering a horseshoe to form an opinion. Engineers who specialise in structural design have long been aware of the limitations imposed by various materials and methods of construction, and they have learned to take advantage of these constraints. Individual psychosis linked to the fear of death was presented to the sermon writer, on the other hand, as a permanent and perhaps inexhaustible source of power. The sermon writer, it seems, had to find a way to turn this individual response into a social or community norm that could then lead to cooperation or acquiescence to a defined common good. That common good may or may not benefit those who accept it is up to other writers to decide, but the metaphor here is that engineers assemble objects according to material demands, while sermon writers construct social structures that bind communities together.
Structural engineers are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible, but they are also developing new materials that challenge the status quo. The preacher, on the other hand, has the ability to manipulate his or her (rephrase as “his”) likely guilty audience in order to gain political advantage. Regardless of the author, there is always a final unknown that can be trawled through any argument to achieve any desired effect. Because of this, the amount of effort required in each area is quite different. The comparison is interesting, but the metaphor breaks down when confronted with evidence. I think these are two very different kinds of intellectual activity, and they may require different kinds of skills. As the argument progresses, the reader is compelled to consider the importance of testability, communicability, and transferability in one area of human intellect and its absence in the other.