As an old guy, I look at what people learn. It seems to be less fact oriented than it once was. I suppose that is a perception that would not stand a serious review. I am sure children and young adults are taught facts and possibly more than we ever learned. Maybe my real concern is the facts they are taught are a smaller share of all they are taught now.
This again is perception. It may not be the same for each of you. I was taught in part by nuns. As a result, there is little you could do to scare me. We learned our facts and an immunity to fear. I think we were taught objectively, but I suspect there was a certain amount of bias that came in too.
The general bias of education at the time included, work together, be on time, be obedient, and learn to read write and do simple numerical tasks. This collection of educational good was exactly what was needed to help people be good workers in a factory.
Few went past high school by much. You could get a decent job with grade 10.
At university, I was in a math/science program, there was little beyond fact and technique. You learned to think about things you could prove and you learned to recognize untruth readily. Electives were few. In my case, economics, and a rudimentary, by today’s standards, course in operations research and system theory. As you might expect the electives have turned out useful. I have had little need for proving Simpson’s Rule or deriving the normal distribution. Partial differential equations and infinite Galois groups have added little to my adult life.
Computer science was in its infancy but exciting. You learned about structure and syntax and were seldom rewarded for carelessness.
There was little about the wrongs of society. Maybe because society was still changing quickly, or maybe because many of the problems seemed on their way to solution without intervention.
I suspect the STEM program has not changed too much, but I did see a story recently where someone was attacking mathematics as racist and suppressing poor people. Mathematics is a way to communicate. To me, it seems objective.
What about the social sciences? I can accept that they are all left leaning. That is where you go when you have a need to learn about people instead of things. The left purports to be more caring, and to a point they may be.
The reality is that you cannot prove much. The level of confidence in their studies and the interpretation of results is immensely lower than for physics, or chemistry. Many studies cannot be replicated. That is not so much a problem as a statement of how complicated people are. People are chaotic. Weather predicting systems are not reliable either.
Today, in may university departments, humility is lost. People claim to know things that cannot be proven. Not in itself a problem, there are always unprovables. Take a look at Quantum Mechanics. It is a place to look, not to hold as truth. It becomes a problem when you demand that others “believe” the unprovable, too.
When logic and facts don’t work, it becomes necessary to use other means of persuasion. The first step is to overstate your knowledge. Exaggeration of the outcome is common and sets the stage for a narrative to fix the problem. You must then be quite strident in the rightness of your belief. No STEM trained person believes the idea of “settled science.” That is not a scientific concept. It is rhetoric, sophistry, and /or propaganda.
When people believe things that are not true, they make mistakes. Mistakes accumulate and are costly to repair.
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
If something might be true but has nuance and unknown spaces, claiming certainty shuts down exploration and that limits the future.
Eventually people with too few facts to win arguments, resort to politics to implement their agenda. Politics is not about facts or reason. It is about persuasion. Persuasion is a clear and reasonably predictable field of study. Skilled people know how to capture your attention and help you make decisions in their favour.
The unfortunate reality is people who use persuasion instead of facts and reasoning as their tool seldom are held responsible for bad outcomes. They don’t get better. Mistakes are your best teacher if you must pay the price.
I doubt there is a cure but the effects can be less if we work at it. Each of us must act.
The citizens have duties:
The government and other institutions have duties
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