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Useful Knowledge

True to its nature, Impromptus today brings up a variety of issues, including populism, immigration, and baseball. It ends with a note on two of my most cherished Frenchmen, Raymond Aron and Jean-François Revel.

After I wrote my column, I thought of Gabriel Calzada, the president of Francisco Marroquín University, in Guatemala City. I wrote about this extraordinary institution last year. (My series is in four parts: I, II, III, and IV.)

As a college student in Spain, Calzada was on the left, but restless, desiring to know more. A professor afforded him a mixture of outside readings, including La Connaissance inutile, by Revel. (The title means “Useless Knowledge,” and we usually know the book in English as “The Flight from Truth.” It is about “deceit in the Age of Information.”) This furthered the young man along a different path.

Revel had an effect on me, too. In any case, the phrase “French intellectuals” should not refer only to one class of people — to Sartre and Derrida, for example. There are others, as in every society.

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