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July 16, 2004
Thomas Sowell on moments of truth

I believe strongly in the power of the short but eloquent speech that hits the bullseye and changes your whole life from then on. Good teaching can consist of steady drip drip drip improving influence. But it can also come in single eruptions of revelation.

ThomasSowell.jpgHere's the kind of thing I mean. This is Thomas Sowell (pictured on the right) writing about the value of criticism, in connection with Bill Cosby's recent criticisms of black ghetto foolishness:

Criticism is part of the price of progress. Economics professor Walter Williams has said that a turning point in his education - and his life - came when a schoolteacher in the Philadelphia ghetto chewed him out for wasting his abilities on adolescent nonsense.

My own moment of truth came when a roommate at Harvard said to me one day: "Tom, when are you going to stop goofing off and get some work done?"

Goofing off! I didn't know what he was talking about. I thought I was working hard. But, when the midterm grades came out - two D's and two F's in my four courses - it became painfully clear that I was not working hard enough. I was going to have to shape up or ship out - and I didn't have anywhere to ship out to.

I've heard that Sowell is a "difficult" man, tough, demanding, tricky to handle, etc. If that's true, then this could be why. One of the formative experiences of his life was when someone else was difficult with him, and demanded more from him.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:47 AM
Category: How the human mind works
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