Why “Mongrel Dogs”?

First of all, as noted on the About page, the title of this blog comes from a Dylan song, “My Back Pages”, specifically

In a soldier’s stance I aim my hands

At the mongrel dogs who teach

Fearing not I become my enemy

In the moment that I preach

I like the euphony of the line. Also, it’s been said that “My Back Pages” was a reaction by Dylan against the naive rebellion of his earlier songs. And the paradox of the refrain — Oh, but I was so much older then // I’m younger than that now — is just nifty.

But back to “mongrels”. Although the word has lots of connotations, few of them positive, I focused on Dylan’s explicit construction, a mongrel dog, or mutt. I’ve always been a sucker for the mutts — both in dogs and in people. In a world that holds its nose up and sees only the purebreed, the mutts scrape by and frolick and somehow succeed. I’m a fan of hybrid vigor — the theory that a hybrid will inherit virtues from both its parents and so exceed them both. (Yes, by the way, I also know about outbreeding depression but that doesn’t suit my metaphor, so I’m going to ignore it. 🙂 )

I’m a fan of these here United States and I am firm believer that we benefit from immigration — and so I don’t fear the “mongrelization” that keeps certain Senators awake and sweating at night. And I think that education also benefits from many points of view and many habits of thought, and so I am uninterested in the purebred thought and refined logic so popular in many schools of education.

To put it another way, what Dylan says with ironic derision I embrace as words of praise. I am a mongrel dog who teaches, and proud of it.