The Annotated Calvin and Hobbes

By Eric Nash

Printed in the NY Times, Sunday January 9, 1994

1) Calvin's teacher, Miss Wormwood, is a proponent of the Mortimer J. Adler Paideia Proposal, that the Great Books, about great ideas and deeds, should be introduced in the elementary grades; cf.Allan Bloom's "The Closing Of the American Mind" (1987): "Book learning is most of what a teacher can give." This is the "if-you-build-the-schoolhouse-the-pupils-will-come-and-worship-gods-of-learning" school of education. *
2) Calvin is an example of Howard Gardner's book "Multiple Intelligences" (1993), though Gardner refuses to admit it. Here Calvin clearly exhibits strengths in linguistic, scientific, and outerspatial intelligence. **
3) Calvin's obviously high level of emotional and intellectual commitment to comic books puts him in a state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines, in "The Evolving Self" (1993) as flow: "When challenges are high and personal skills are used to the utmost, we experience that rare state of consciousness. We feel involved, concentrated, absorbed." #
4) Miss Wormwood is a devoted disciplinary disciple of either William or Jesse James. ## Adler and Bloom are appalled at Calvin's ahistoricity. However, Calvin's theory is that many famous and successful people had little regard for history, viz. Henry Ford ("History is more or less bunk"), and Ronald Reagan ("Facts are stupid things" passim). ###
5) Miss Wormwood takes the neoconservative approach along with Adler, Bloom, E.D. Hirsch and William Bennett, who hunger for a capacious store of common knowledge and skills. $
6) Gardner insists that Calvin's strong domains of intelligence can not be labeled "dumb" and "useless" by an education system that has only "impatience with approaches that cherish the individuality of each student" (ibid). Bloom, however, knows that Calvin is dumb and useless. Paul Fussell, professor of English literature, adds, in "BAD, Or the Dumbing of America" (1991), that Calvin's knowledge is not only dumb and useless but bad.
7) There are 60 million functionally illiterate adults in the United States; another 60 million read at a fifth-grade level. Only 6 percent of the population report having read at least one book in the last year (ibid Fussell).
8) Calvin did read at least one bona fide book last year, in addition to the comic book "Captain Napalm's Thermonuclear etc." It was Robert Fulghum's "Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten" (1988). $$
9) Calvin can only agree with John Dewey that "in contrast to the 'testing society' I think that the assessment approach and the individual-centered school constitute a more noble educational vision." ("Experience and Education," 1938).

* Hah! Wrong! Even if you build it, they will still sit around reading comic books. -Hobbes
** Note: There is no entry for "Captain Napalm's Thermonuclear League of Liberty" in E.D. Hirsch's "A First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Our Children Need To Know" (1989).
# Why is the kid so excited? I've tried to warn him that life can be "nasty, brutish and short." --Hobbes %
## This was still being debated when we went to press. --Eds.
### Republican National Convention, 1988, quoting John Adams 7:{
$ That capacious-store business is actually a shameless bit of plagiarism on Nash's part, but we heard somewhere that if you confess that kind of thing in a footnote to a footnote, you're all right. --Eds.
$$ At least he started it. @

% Actually, the same might be said of Calvin himself. --Hobbes ^
7:{ No! No! You journalists are all the same. What I said was: "Facts are stupid things, stubborn things, I should say." Incidentally, if you tip either this footnote symbol or your head on its side, it makes a nice, small portrait of me. --Reagan
@ He didn't even start it! He read the cover and figured that was all he needed to know. --Hobbes

^ I've had just about enough, you illiterate, flea-ridden furball! --Calvin +
+ Wait a minute! Whose footnote is this, anyway? --Hobbes