Home > Critical Thinking, Culture & Media, Liberalism > Dumbing Down Our Next Generation(s)

Dumbing Down Our Next Generation(s)

This sounds like fun and I think I’d like to try it sometime:

A woman with a petition went among the crowds attending a state fair, asking people to sign her petition demanding the banning of dihydroxymonoxide. She said it was in our lakes and streams, and now it was in our sweat and urine and tears.

She collected hundreds of signatures to ban dihydroxymonoxide.

The “fun” part comes when you know (as I do since I am a biochemist) just what this evil chemical is:  WATER!  Yet hundreds either didn’t know or didn’t bother to ask or get any further details and signed the petition anyway.  This opening story provides the impetus for Dr. Thomas Sowell’s recent observations and analysis of the lamentable condition of the cognitive prowess of our populace thanks to our wonderful public edjumacation system (um, yes, I know there are exceptions to this generalization…please don’t hyperventilate on me because you know of one).

The problem is a failure to teach critical thinking skills, a prime concern of this blog.  Dr. Sowell writes (emphases added):

People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities. In a high-tech age that has seen the creation of artificial intelligence by computers, we are also seeing the creation of artificial stupidity by people who call themselves educators.

Educational institutions created to pass on to the next generation the knowledge, experience and culture of the generations that went before them have instead been turned into indoctrination centers to promote whatever notions, fashions or ideologies happen to be in vogue among today’s intelligentsia.

The experiences of life can help people outgrow whatever they were indoctrinated with. What may persist, however, is the lazy habit of hearing one side of an issue and being galvanized into action without hearing the other side– and, more fundamentally, not having developed any mental skills that would enable you to systematically test one set of beliefs against another.

All too many not only hear only one side, they purposely block their ears and refuse to hear the other.  This shuts down any possibility of thinking critically, indeed, of thinking at all.  It has long been known that

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.  (Proverbs 18:17)

The common liberal strategy of demonizing your opponent, especially when you don’t have any valid argument against them, depends upon this unilateral knowledge base (a euphemism I just created for one sided ignorance).  Or as our hero, Ronald Reagan once said,

The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

Dr. Sowell then continues to skewer the edjumacators thus (emphases added):

It was once the proud declaration of many educators that "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." But far too many of our teachers and professors today are teaching their students what to think, about everything from global warming to the new trinity of "race, class and gender."

Even if all the conclusions with which they indoctrinate their students were 100 percent correct, that would still not be equipping students with the mental skills to weigh opposing views for themselves, in order to be prepared for new and unforeseeable issues that will arise over their lifetimes, after they leave the schools and colleges.

Many of today’s "educators" not only supply students with conclusions, they promote the idea that students should spring into action because of these prepackaged conclusions– in other words, vent their feelings and go galloping off on crusades, without either a knowledge of what is said by those on the other side or the intellectual discipline to know how to analyze opposing arguments.

In other words, they are being training to believe it is more important how you “feel” and to act on that than to determine the truth of the matter and to respond using facts and data.  Given that most of these edjumacators are liberals, one wonders how much of this failure is deliberate because if the other side is presented fairly and known generally, their entire world view will come crashing down and they will fail in their attempts to indoctrinate their charges into their lopsided world view.  On the other hand, there might be another reason acting at the root cause level.  Dr. Sowell just misses the mark in his final conclusion, but not by much.

A philosopher once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of one’s own ignorance. That is the knowledge that too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach our young people.

The observation is most definitely true, but it misses the mark because it overlooks a primary reason for not having a knowledge of one’s ignorance and it is a character problem that has plagued mankind since the fall.  It is contained in a simple five-letter word, and our current administration seems to be overflowing with a superabundance of this failure of character.  The word in a word is:  PRIDE.  Pride causes its owner to deny the possibility that they are wrong, and to assume the posture of superiority.  Facts become irrelevant and this leads to the construction of bubbles of unreality in one’s thought and life as denial of the possibility of error leads to wrong conclusions and wrong actions based on those wrong conclusions.  Ultimately, reality will assert itself, often to the pain of the one denying it.  God tries to warn such, but those warnings usually go unheeded.

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.  (Proverbs 11:2)

In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, But the lips of the wise will preserve them.  (Proverbs 14:3 )

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)

A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.  (Proverbs 29:23)

In a time when man is making good progress in creating artificial intelligence in his computers (with a rare subset of the population who can think), it can only be ideology creating this condition of artificial stupidity in people.

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  1. 22 Mar 2010 at 3:21 PM

    Secondary education ought to be concerned with reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history/government/civics, and critical thinking. Perhaps critical thinking and civics belong together, but the preceding are the only classes that ought to be taught.

  2. 22 Mar 2010 at 10:29 PM

    And the failure of public schools to do so is why we homeschooled all the way through high school. And my daughters went to a university while living at home, not in a dorm.

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