David Brooks’s "Other" Education: The Music of Springsteen

Like me, David Brooks is clearly on a Springsteen high after seeing him in Baltimore last weekend. What a show!

In his New York Times column today he described the way Springsteen has given him a “second education.”

In any case, over the next few decades Springsteen would become one of the professors in my second education. In album after album he assigned a new course in my emotional curriculum.

This second education doesn’t work the way the scholastic education works. In a normal schoolroom, information walks through the front door and announces itself by light of day. It’s direct. The teacher describes the material to be covered, and then everybody works through it.

The knowledge transmitted in an emotional education, on the other hand, comes indirectly, seeping through the cracks of the windowpanes, from under the floorboards and through the vents. It’s generally a byproduct of the search for pleasure, and the learning is indirect and unconscious.

A lot of us have received a so-called “second” or “emotional” education from Springsteen,. But Brooks never makes it clear exactly what he learned from The Boss. Sure, he has vague references in his column to the way Springsteen helps him to “organize the buzzing confusions of reality” or aids him in “shaping the unconscious categories through which I perceive events,”but there is no content. It would seem that a reference to a Springsteen song is in order. Or at least just one concrete example of the way Springsteen has helped shape his neo-conservative outlook on life. Perhaps I am missing the point of the column, but Brooks’s description of what he learned from Springteen’s music would never fly on one of my history exams. I would assume that he had learned nothing and was simply trying to con me with fluffy prose. This time Brooks left me wanting more.

OK, I am no doubt being too hard on Brooks. After all, how much can he put into one column? Perhaps a book on Springsteen is in order! I would buy it.

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