Noam Chomsky: My entire career is ‘just a series of accidents’

By Scott Kaufman
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 12:48 EDT
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In a segment on Democracy Now this morning, Amy Goodman introduces a conversation between Michael Gondry and Noam Chomsky that occurred after the premier of the former’s film, “Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?”

The film, directed by Gondry, is a primer on Chomsky’s theories about everything from politics to child language acquisition. At the panel after the premier, Chomsky responded to questions, including one about his own education.

“The truth is that I have absolutely no professional credentials,” Chomsky said. “Which is why I’m teaching at M.I.T. That’s actually true, because they didn’t care. It’s a science-based university, they didn’t care if you have a guild care or something or other.”

He recounted how, after a less-than-stellar high school career, he matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania only to realize “that after the first year, everything was so boring I didn’t even go to classes.”

“I never really had an undergraduate degree, by the time I was taking a scattering of graduate courses, without much background in them,” he continued. “I was then lucky enough to get a 4-year graduate fellowship to do my own work. But I never really had much of a formal education.”

“One of the greatest educational experiences that I ever had … was at Harvard. To have a desk at the stacks … and you had the whole of Widener library, walk around, just pick things up,” he said. “And then I was very lucky, to get to M.I.T., which was a research institution, they didn’t care about credentials.”

“It was just a series of accidents,” he concluded, “and very few people are lucky enough to have such an experience.”

He was also asked to talk about his role in another feature film, Manufacturing Consent (1992). “I had about as much to do with it as the moon has if people take photographs of the moon,” he said.

“I was giving talks and giving interviews … and they’d come around and film. I have to admit, I never saw it. I can’t stand watching myself. But I’m told it was pretty impressive, that they did a great job.”

Watch Amy Goodman’s entire segment on Michael Gondry and Noam Chomsky below:

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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