In the 20th century too, the public execution of circus elephants was a relatively common sight. Elephants who went on rampages, taking the lives of humans in their unhappy wakes, needed to be punished. Crowds demanded justice and they received a spectacle in return: Mary, a five-ton circus elephant who killed her new trainer, was hanged for the crime by heavy-duty construction equipment in 1916 in Tennessee; more infamously, Topsy, another circus performer gone bad, this time on Coney Island in New York, was fed poison, electrocuted and strangled in 1903, all the while being filmed by a crew from the Edison Studios. Dumbo , it seems, wasn’t all that fantastical.
I think it better to say that the evil arises from their tackling the sciences in the wrong manner and that, from the way we have been taught, it is no wonder that neither master nor pupils become more able, even though they do know more. In truth the care and fees of our parents aim only at furnishing our heads with knowledge: nobody talks about judgement or virtue. When someone passes by, try exclaiming, ‘Oh, what a learned man!’ Then, when another does, ‘Oh, what a good man!’ Our people will not fail to turn their gaze respectfully towards the first. There ought to be a third man crying, ‘Oh, what blockheads!’ (p153)