My oldest son began his second year of college last week. He found the curriculum heavy, as always, with fashionable twaddle. His brother also returned to the task of taking up space in our local high school, and in a waking moment found things much the same.
A professoress in a mandatory sociology class kicked off the semester by telling any “homophobes” that might be fouling the lecture hall, that they were not welcome and should drop her course forthwith. That they should afterwards drown themselves in the river went without saying. The definition of a homophobe being very amorphous, every student now speaks with care. There is little danger of unpleasantness when this professoress gets around to her no doubt copious treatment of the rights of sexual minorities.
Another professoress, in this case of Science, explained that the Salem witch trials were exactly what you must expect in a society that has not submitted to rule by Science. That the seventeenth-century witch trials coincided with the scientific revolution did not, apparently, trouble her keenly empirical mind. She did not mention the curious fact that Newton published his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy a mere five years before the first Salem witch trials began, or that Cotton Mather was a greater enemy of astrology than any member of the Royal Society. Nor did she concede that witch hunters knew as well as anyone else that cows often fall dead for entirely natural reasons.
In the high school, a humble history teacher opened the year by pointing out that the United States is not a “free country” because it holds some men in prisons. He proposes, no doubt, to examine this conundrum from all sides, and it may be months before he moves on to ask how a paradise of poltroons can be called the “home of the brave.”
We have the word twaddle from the older word twattle, and the word twattle from the even older phrase twittle-twattle. In the seventeenth century, twittle-twattle was a name for the meaningless chatter that flows, like a babbling brook, from the mouth of a twatler who is always twatling.
Then as now, twatling was said to be especially beloved of women, most especially those born under the sign of Pisces. In the words of one old astrologer,
“Pisces is good, in that it denotes the woman to be loving and just; yet it will also cause her to be addicted to twatling and prating, which will now and then lessen the man’s love towards her.” (1)
I suppose we should not be surprised that so many teachers are twatling twatlers. They have many hours of silence to fill, and so must often fill it with whatever comes into their heads. Nor should we be surprised that what comes into their heads are very often the fashionable fatuities of the day. Foaming cascades of fashionable twaddle are the inevitable result.
One wonders, though, whether this addiction to twittle-twattle might, now and then, lessen the students’ love towards their teachers.
1) William Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata (1653)