This article will not go viral.
Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. announces his mission statement to his first-year contracts class at Harvard Law School.
You teach yourselves the law, but I train your mind. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.
Kingsfield is a fictional character, from the novel, 1973 movie, and television series The Paper Chase. John Houseman, as Kingsfield, had as memorable a voice and almost as fearsome a demeanor as Darth Vader, who would appear four years after The Paper Chase movie. Houseman won an Academy Award and became the spokesman for Smith Barney, stating its tag line with aristocratic frost: “They make money the old fashioned way…they earn it.”
Teaching his charges to think like lawyers meant developing and honing their ability to think logically, to analyze, and to present arguments and conclusions with precision and clarity. More’s the pity Kingsfield was fictional; most people would benefit from such instruction. Harvard’s fictional One L’s were a bright lot. If their skulls were full of mush, then skulls today are full of the polluted runoff from TV, internet pornography, texting, and social media.
Garbage in, garbage out, as the computer programmers say. It’s far beyond the scope of this article to examine all the garbage out there that passes as thought. We’ll look at a sliver, what can be termed group attribution. Beyond the quality that defines a large group, it is generally impossible to make a categorically true statement about all of the members of that group. Yet, the fallacy is ubiquitous across the political spectrum, from social justice warriors babbling about white privilege to alt-righters claiming that members of various races are inherently incapable of living together.