Coordinates Through the VoidnEllas Canettl: The Torch in My Ear;nFarrar, Straus & Glroux; New York.nAndrei Amalrik: Notes of a Revolutionary;nAlfred A. Knopf; New York.nby Curtis K. Stadtfeldn1 he tragic failure of public educationnin contemporary America is thendeliberate exclusion of the two elementsnessential to individual learningnand social community. The first is ansense of shock; the second is a body ofnshared knowledge.nIndividual learning takes place forntwo reasons—^natural curiosity and thenneed to know. The first readily adjusts tonenvironment. A baby needs to knownhow to get itself fed, cleaned up, andnheld. An adolescent in an absolutely benign,nundemanding environment findsnthat natural curiosity muted. Without anneed to know, and with no demandsnupon them, young people become thenaimless, rootless, purposeless mobs thatnwe see on weekends roaming the shoppingnmalls, seeking fulfillment in thenthings that glitter in the windows or innsome imagined magical encounter. Ornworse, they become those mobs roamingnthe centers of our inner cities, preyingnon the unwary or bursting intonsporadic violence.nA sense of shock—a demand, if younwill; some way of forcing a need, of makingnthe individual conscious of the neednto know—^precedes adult learning.nWithout that shock or demand, we getnprecisely what we have for the mostnpart in our public schools and collegesn—a restiess clutch of young people preparednonly to go through the minimumnrequired motions to receive the thingsnthey are told are needed to get along innthe world: a high school diploma and anMr. Stadtfeld is a professor of Englishnand journalism at Eastern MichigannUniversity.nSOinChronicles of Cttlturencollege degree. The fact that those twoncertificates represent acquisition ofnknowledge and skills is deemed toontraumatic to be mentioned by modemneducators. It is uncivil, “uncool” even, tontell teenagers that they must actually donsome mental work or they will not benable to function in the world. It is unkindnto fail them if they do not work. It isnreactionary to insist on universal standards,nmuch less universal language; it isnrepressive to fit them into any kind ofnmold. But it is good and decent—andnliberal—^to hand them along withoutnthreat or challenge, to give them a highnschool diploma and a college degreenlargely, apparentiy, on the basis of attendance,nbecause, after all, who are we, thenadults who made such a mess of thenworld, to establish standards, much lessninsist on them? On, rather, with thengreening of America, with the thirdnwave, with the laid-back generation. Onntoo, at the same time, with falling levelsnof skills and concern, away with obligationsnand social cohesion, and on withnthe deterioration of the language to littlenmore than a series of grunts illustratednwith gestures and strewn with reassuringncatch phrases like “you know?” and “OK.”nI once had a black neighbor who hadncome out of the worst of Harlem to becomena nuclear physicist; he was hard atnwork in the pursuit of an artificial sourcenIn the MailnDismay by Eric Maisel; Maya Press; San Francisco, CA. Indeednof energy through fusion. I asked himnwhat broke him loose from his environment.nTwo things, he said: a mother whonwould not tolerate Mure, and a personalnexperience of the kind that precedesnall personal learning. His class wasntaken to a planetarium on a field trip, henrecalled, and he sat through the show inntotal ignorance, not comprehending ansingle item of the information presented.nHe was so embarrassed by that exclusionnfrom knowledge that he began tonstudy astronomy, which led him tonphysics, which led him to a study of thenatom and to a search for artificial energynwhich, if successful, could free us allnfrom one of the limiting physical problemsnof our time.nOr listen to Canetti, recalling a similarnshock of his own: in Vienna, “I stumblednupon paintings of Breughel’s… ‘The SixnBlind Men’ and ‘The Triumph of Death.’nAny blind people I subsequently sawncame from the first of these paintings.nThe thought of blindness has hauntednme since childhood, when I had been illnwith measles and lost my eyesight for anfew days. Now, I saw six blind men in anprecipitous row, holding one another’snsticks or shoulders. The first man, leadingnthe rest, was already in the ditch…”nAnd so on, through a wrenching accountnof the impression that those paintingsnmade on him. Of the shock that led himnHow Philosophy Begins, The Aquinas Lecture, 1983 by Beatrice H. Zedler; MarquettenUniversity Press; Milwaukee, WI. As the author points out, “philosophy begins in wonder.”nThis intriguing text is therefore wonderful.nComedy in Space, Time, and Ae Imagination by Paul H. Grawe; Nelson-Hall; Chicago,nDL. The author attempts to make up for what he calls “twenty-three centuries of mainly misdirectedncriticism” of comedy in some 360 pages. Thafs comedic.nThe Doughface Dilemma or The Invisible Slave in the American Institute’s Bicentennialnby Harry V. Jafi^ The Claremont Institute; Claremont, CA. Clear evidence thatncivilized disputations didn’t die in the 18th century.nnn