Thought for the Day: Attitudes are not Ideas

“Ideas that fit on bumper stickers are not ideas at all, they simply are attitudes. And attitudinizing is no substitute for analysis. Unfortunately, too often television is to news as bumper stickers are to philosophy, and this has a corrosive effect on public understanding of those issues on which national survival may depend.”

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-RMN, 1980

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The quote above is a very good explanation of the reason why rule #1 at Corvair Colleges is “no politics and no religion” on the discussion topics. I point out to builders that we have much to do, and a limited amount of hours at the College, so we can’t spare the time.  As a practice, I like people to discover what they have in common before they find out what divides them, but the real issue is related to the quote; most things people say on these topics are neither philosophy nor analysis, they are mostly attitudes and bumper sticker slogans, driven by declining quality of ‘news’ in this country, tied with the fact few people read books anymore. (Books written by tv news personalities are not a good substitute for reading original texts.)

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Here is your aviation connection: Too many people in aviation today rely on the stuff printed in magazines and hangar flying stories for their ‘education’ on important topics. The typical magazine story on flying is bumper sticker compared with a book like this: Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?).

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You can be mad at the media if you like, but they are just responding to the ever shorter average attention span. Several years ago, the word went out among aviation writers that we were to limit every story to 1,500 words or less, no matter what the topic. It wasn’t a print space vs ad space issue, because the request applied to on-line writing also.  When questioned, editors were able to produce convincing evidence that most people just skimmed articles, and 90% never read anything longer than 1,200 words. There was proof that people, even ones engaged in something serious like aviation, really preferred bumper stickers. For the 10% or so that got into aviation to find out how much they could learn by reading and learning and building, I offer a different path: Thought for the Day: Mastery or?. If you are an individual, it doesn’t matter what the majority are doing, it is only important to find a path that suits you.

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Above, a 2009 photo. I stand between Bob Burbank, 20,000 flight CFIG on the left, and on the right is my instructor and mentor is flying, the legendary Chuck Nelson. Chuck has been flying for 65 years. He bought his first plane, a ’38 Cub, when he was 15.  . His background includes flying in the U.S. Air Force, crop dusting, water bombing, weather modification, racing at Reno, and working with both Duane Cole and Curtis Pitts. He became an instructor in the USAF in the early 1950s, and it emerged as the calling of his life. A long list of former students covers people working in every branch of the military, most major airlines, a U.S. aerobatic champion, and a guy who builds Corvairs for a living.

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To qualify as an idea, it must require thought to consider. Any statement or slogan that just stirs an emotional response isn’t being presented as an idea. Slogans stir up the converted, but only ideas breed understanding.

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You will often see writers using the excuse of safety to write things that are designed to alarm people. On serious subjects, there is no valid excuse to resort to alarming people. There is a big difference between making people Alert to something opposed to making them Afraid of it. The first asks that they think about it, and the second is designed to produce a knee-jerk emotional reaction. In my book that is a form of conditioning people to get them to react in a desired way without thinking. It isn’t a positive view of individuals.  I like people who are passionate about flying, but this doesn’t extend to people who default to being emotional about it because they were unwilling to read about and consider the concepts that aviation is built on.

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Some people who know the quote above, get distracted by the source. To me, it isn’t an issue. In my experience, not all smart men are good, and many good men succumb to doing things which are not smart. In either case, it provides food for thought. The quote above is from Richard M. Nixon’s memoirs.

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-ww.

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

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