Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thomas Sowell's column this morning on the uses and abuses of history is going to irritate all the
right left people. I'd excerpt it, but then you might not read it all.
Sowell's article points out the great shortcoming of our education system as it now stands: indoctrination rather than education.
We need to retake the education system from the lefties who dominate it.
Jonathan Chait of ”I hate President George W. Bush” fame, got the ball rolling on the epistemic closure debate: "the phenomenon of total epistemic closure that Sanchez describes is almost entirely limited to the right." As if such a partisan has the credibility to show an objective judgement on that issue! Chait’s opining on the relative amount of epistemic closure in the left versus the right has as much credibility as one of Hugo Chavez’s higher-ups stating that there is no corruption in Venezuela. Propaganda is masquerading as objective judgement.
Chait’s statement on epistemic closure is just another variation on the following time-worn narrative: : “libs are brighter, better educated, better traveled, more knowledgeable, more tolerant, less bigoted …blah...blah...blah… than the wingnuts. Yes, we libs are God’s gift to the universe." This narrative has been going on since at least the days of Adlai II.
Quico/Francisco Toro, one of the proprieters of the Venezualan oppo ( anti-Chavista) blog, Caracas Chronicles, took this Julian Sanchez quote from Chait’s article.
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure.
Quico/Francisco Toro then transformed the Sanchez quote in Caracas Chronicles into a statement about Venezuela.
One of the more striking features of the contemporary chavista movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure.
This is an accurate statement about Chavistas and their news sources. What is interesting is that in at least two ways Quico/Francisco Toro made the point that he agreed with Chait about the relative amount of epistemic closure between left and right. First he put in a “find and replace” MS tool” : “find and replace conservative with chavista” into his article. Second, he posted a comment in Chait’s epistemic closure article :
04/02/2010 - 10:28am EDT | Francisco Toro
The overlap between your right and our left amazes me again and again:
Since the right wing in the US saw through Chavez a lot faster than the left did, and what support there remains for Chavez in the US is on the left, I wonder why Quico/Francisco Toro wants to sneer, along with Jonathan Chait,at the right wing in the US.
Exceptional essay. But keep in mind that history has always been taught with a bias. In earlier days it was a self-aggrandizing bias toward our own glorious European/Christian expansion and civilizing influence on the world. Now it's gone too far the other way.
We should teach about all of the world's history, both cruel and enlightened, but it's not surprising or necessarily wrong that we focus US education on US history - and the very real mistakes included therein.
If the people talking about the need for "education vs. indoctrination" are talking about a more global balance of material - the good and bad everywhere - I am with them. If they're talking about including creationism along with evolution then I'm not there with them.
Actually, this essay is a further example of what it purports to debunk. Saying that Roman Galley slaves were treated worse than enslaved Africans in America sets up a specious comparison between unrelated atrocities across vast distances of time and place. That feels a lot like saying that the Holocaust was far worse than the Armenian genocide, so the Armenians should not make such a big deal about it. This is shoddy reasoning and bad history.
If you want a broader, more nuanced and challenging education system, one that is able to look at complex issues and form rational arguments based on something more than political or philosophical orthodoxy, essays like this do not bring us any closer to that. But then, that was not the point of the essay.