I deplore anti-intellectualism. I cringe when a somebody brags about “going with my gut” or sneers at smartypants Ph.D. eggheads who think climate change or natural selection are real. Unlike a majority of my fellow citizens, I actually even like that our current president is emotionally continent and speaks in paragraph form.

My television habits are decidedly skewed toward PBS and the Science Channel, although I admit to watching way too much HGTV. I have never seen America Has Talent or Dancing with the Stars or any of the modern variants of Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour.


When those competitions make the front page of my newspaper, however, I have been known to hit YouTube to see what the fuss is about. Like everyone else on Planet WiFi, I was gobsmacked when the famously plain and unprepossessing Susan Doyle opened her mouth and made jaws drop around the world.


That video brings me to tears every damned time.

So when Dancing With the Stars crept into my consciousness in the past few days, I checked YouTube to see just how terrible Bristol Palin was. The news coverage gave me the impression that she was laughably bad and had only gone forward in the competition because her mother’s political fans had voted her in.

But isn’t the idea of the show to take a completely untalented non-dancer and see how well that person can do after weeks of lessons and work with a professional?

If that’s the criterion, then Bristol actually did a remarkable job.


She started off as self-conscious and physically shy as my darling husband was when we took dancing lessons decades ago. Now, Don is a prince among husbands, but if I ever dump him and run away to live in sin, it’ll be with a man who can dance. Don has never been able to get over the horror of being seen when he tries to bust a move, and that is the single thing about our 40-year marriage I wish were different.

So: good for Bristol and for her dance instructor! Her performance demonstrates that there’s hope for wooden-legged non-dancers everywhere.  Show a little respect, folks. Nobody should sneer at the guts it took for her to be on that show or the work she put in to improve her performance.

And perhaps her appearance on the show will demonstrate something else to people who sneer at anyone who knows more or does something better than they do. Mere talent requires requires years of relentless work if it is to become professional skill and grace. Similarly, opinion requires years of  serious study if it is to become expertise. Question experts, but show a little respect when you do.