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Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

#138: June - Aug. 2015 (Fiction)
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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Chapter 9 starts with the bakery staff thinking they can play an April Fools joke on Charlie by getting him to work the dough mixer, which is a job that requires training that Charlie has not had. They don’t know that Charlie’s operation has made him smarter, and they expect he will break the machine. But Charlie has been watching how dough is made, and he does it faster than the previous occupant of the job, as the first sign of his growing intelligence. Everyone is astounded and worried, because morons never improve or learn. The boss says he wants Charlie to advance, which is a new concept to Charlie, who says he is happy cleaning toilets and garbage. But another worker who planned the joke tells Charlie to jump in the lake. They have got used to having a resident fool who can be the butt of jokes, and they are not happy to see him advance.

Next he reads Robinson Crusoe and is perplexed about why the story ends. Perplexity about complex questions is a key mark of brains.
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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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Robert Tulip wrote: Charlie regards the others as friends, but they tease him without mercy. They get him drunk and get him to dance on a table with a lampshade on his head, and then ask him to go around the corner to see if it is raining before running out on him.
yeah, i found it interesting how this aspect contrasts later with bakery crew attitudes as Charlie regresses.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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As Charlie gradually gets smarter, his memory, perceptiveness, understanding and logical capacity all steadily improve. What I find really intriguing about this book is the depiction of moronic behaviour, and how Charlie’s example helps us to analyse psychological development and capacity.

The founder of Apple Computing, Steve Jobs, was notorious for his intolerance of morons. He wanted to design equipment that even a moron could use, but castigated anyone working for him who did not meet his very high standards. This sort of intense judgemental competitiveness has no time for morons, and is essential in the high performance business world. Steve Jobs regarded the general public as ‘bozos’, to use his favourite term, but still wanted to make his equipment, if not idiot-proof, then at least moron-proof.

Use of idiot, imbecile and moron is based on the tradition of asylums of classifying by mental age of the retarded adult: idiots are those who reach the ability of a 6 year old or less, imbeciles up to 8, and morons towards 12. People who reach a mental age of 16 may be able to function independently, but will struggle. Because of their popular usage as insults, these words have been dropped by psychiatry.

The word ‘asylum’ is a further example of how language gets influenced by usage. A term that began from the need for incapable people to be protected, as per current usage for refugees, came in popular use to be equated to terms of denigration such as loony bin, as in the English institution at Bedlam (not to be confused with the birth town of Our Lord and Saviour) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospital .

I consider that there are widespread moronic syndromes in politics and religion. It is moronic to insist on the truth of an ideological claim that has no support from evidence, and idiotic to insist something is true when there is clear scientific proof it is false. So Young Earth Creationism is an example of idiotic belief, while belief in the historic reliability of the Gospels is moronic.

In politics, climate denial is idiotic, even though this purported belief is primarily a cover for economic interests. The belief that global agreement could stabilise the climate strikes me as moronic, although my opinion on this is not widely shared. My view is based on the blatant clash between the global agreement push and the realities of politics and business, and on how the emission reduction focus has raised barriers to efforts to research and develop technological solutions. This is obviously an inflammatory opinion of mine, since calling people moronic is deeply insulting. But when ideology gets in the way of evidence, what other term is appropriate?
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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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I joined too late for this discussion, but I'm inspired to read this book again. I read it years ago and loved both it and the film version. Great choice.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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Its not too late. The discussion period stretches over several months. There have only been comments so far on the first half of the book. Just jot down what ever comes to mind and who knows, people may respond like a raw shock.
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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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Thanks. I'll join in.
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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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I also read this book many years ago, as assigned reading in high school. I loved it then, and read it again when it was assigned reading for my daughter in high school. The things I took away from it were very different both times. I remember being indignant at the poor treatment of Charlie, as a high schooler myself, but on the reread I saw more of myself in his "friends"

There have been quite a few studies which have shown that less intelligent people actually have no idea they are less intelligent, and often think they are better thinkers than those around them. I have seen this in real life, the kicker is that the more intelligent and competent (not necessarily the same thing) a person is, the more often they question their capabilities. Until they reach a certain level of arrogance for some of them.
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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 7 MARCH 11 and PROGRESS REPORT 8 and 9

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I tried to find this book in my local and school library. I teach high school. I was disappointed, it was in neither. I'm pretty sure I read it as a teenager, but I bit the bullet and bought it so I can read it again. I haven't started it yet. I'm in the middle of two others, but I look forward to joining the discussion soon.
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