Useless knowledge can be made directly contributory to a force of sound and disinterested public opinion.
When we speak freely, let us speak plainly, for plain speech is wholesome; especially, plain speech about public affairs and public men.
Above all things the mass-mind is most bitterly resentful of superiority. It will not tolerate the thought of an elite; and under a political system of universal suffrage, the mass-mind is enabled to make its antipathies prevail.
Bad as euphemism is, however, indirection is worse. I notice that a writer in a recent magazine gives this advice to budding newspaper men:
The mind is like the stomach. It is not how much you put into it that counts, but how much it digests.
Perhaps the prevalence of pedantry may be largely accounted for by the common error of thinking that, because useful knowledge should be remembered, any kind of knowledge that is at all worth learning should be remembered too.
The question of who is right and who is wrong has seemed to me always too small to be worth a moment's thought, while the question of what is right and what is wrong has seemed all-important.
Concerning culture as a process, one would say that it means learning a great many things and then forgetting them; and the forgetting is as necessary as the learning.
Considered now as a possession, one may define culture as the residuum of a large body of useless knowledge that has been well and truly forgotten.
Diligent as one must be in learning, one must be as diligent in forgetting; otherwise the process is one of pedantry, not culture.
Learning has always been made much of, but forgetting has always been deprecated; therefore pedantry has pretty well established itself throughout the modern world at the expense of culture.