A Place for Cafe Refugees and Others Like Them

American Ignorance Part Daux

I was going to write about how I thought people, like those on the right, could go through school and even get college degrees and still remain ignorant of the world around them. How could this be ? I though I might get a handle on it. But now that I have done some research, I am still at a loss.

I remember in elementary school starting in the 3rd grade reading about life in parts of europe. We had the Alice and Jerry series of readers in the school I went to in Ohio. It was not a big school and in a very rural area so not state of the art even for the 1950s. The book was call If I Were Going. We learned about England and Norway and France and even North Africa. Fourth grade was Singing Wheels which told of frontier life and fifth grade was Engine Whistles which continued the story of how this fictional town grew. Both of which explained very well not only the social conditions and life styles but also the technology of the time and how the changes impacted the people.

Sixth grade was Run Away Home which told of the Harding family’s trip from New England down the eastern seaboard, across the south and up through California to Washington State. Give very good descriptions of the various areas.

Jr. High had what was called Social Studies but we also had a half year of Ohio History and a half year of psychology – which unfortunately I did not get a chance to finish because we moved that year. All of this sparking our imaginations.

So this small school made sure we knew something about places other than where we were living.

But college was quite different. Everyone was required to take a certain number of courses in the humanities and history. But for the most part these were very large lecture courses with little or no interaction. And unless you were majoring in the subject, most students just wanted to pass them and get them out of the way so the important courses – those in your major – could be taken.

And I think this is where the problem lies. Education in this country for most people – those of us who actually have to earn a living some how – is a way of getting an entrance pass to some high paying job. And unfortunately that is how it is sold and that is how it is presented.

But how can we have a democratic government where the electorate is ignorant of the world around them ? Ignorant of basic science or history or arts or sociology or geography ? How can we have leaders who are knowledgeable in politics but dumb as dirt about everything else ?

There is a book out and you can down load a pdf of it call The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. It’s mostly libertarian conspiracy swill, but the author does make a few good points. That the educational system in this country has been taken over by technocrats who may know the science of education but do not have a clue when it comes to the sociological and enlightenment aspect. We are teaching people narrow facts and figures and discouraging creativity and imagination. We have for a very long time failed to teach people how to learn. And to learn that the liberal arts in this country – history, art, music, philosophy – are continuously being shrunk or eliminated completely from public education and even some state universities, is out right criminal in my opinion.

There was a series that was broadcast on PBS called The Day The Universe Changed and another called Connections by a historian named James Burke. Very interesting and entertaining. You can watch it on youtube. And I remember also watching You Are There which was hosed by Walter Cronkite. I recommend both of these series highly. They should be required viewing for everyone.

Comments on: "American Ignorance Part Daux" (2)

  1. Well C, before I get even part way through your first paragraph you rhetorically ask for an answer to one of the most profond mysteries of the universe.

    The best I can offer is our perspectives and our biases prohibit us from knowing or perhaps more accurately, from acknowledging alternative answers to questions.

    I read a piece recently which examined this very thing and the researchers concluded exactly that. The researchers found that we accept or reject an idea or premise always with a major dose of our own preconceptions and are generally disinclined to properly examine a new and conflicting premise because of our bias. We do this, all of us, even when the conflicting premise is comprised of irrefutable factual data which renders our own premise false.

    They found this is especially true of deeply held feelings which form the foundation elements of our individual lives. Our customary social constructs proved to be the strongest impediment to change. Even when those constructs were in conflict with other of our stated beliefs it made not a bit of difference when that conflict was challenged.

    When I read this piece I noted immediately how perfectly it describes my own puzzlement about many things of late where republicans or tea partiers or libertarians strike me as being completely definat of so many facts or things I see as obvious.

    This is undoubtedly an intellectual exercise and for some persons who are unaccustomed to such pursuits this is an even greater challenge. From my perspective I would like to say that critical thinking is a learned skill and takes a lot of practice. A lot.

    Of course, this doesn’t solve a thing. But it does make me aware that we have our work cut out for us. On both sides.

  2. GREAT series C

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