August 16, 2008

A New Academic Year is Upon Us. Education, Anyone?

If you want to understand the physical world, logic is imperative. But, I think, you have to have some courage to face reality even it is unpleasant. You develop courage by having confidence in yourself and your ability to think & analyze.

I believe good thinkers are leaders too. Hopefully, we teachers and the schools can facilitate such rational, creative thinking and by doing so to develop leaders. Those who don't know (either by choice or not) tend to be followers and more likely to be manipulated by the simplistic arguments of demagogues who want to be leaders of a flock of sheep.

Richard Dawkins

When someone doesn't know something, it's not the end of the world, because there's a way to fix that. Well, as long as there's free information available and the will to learn. What I find truly disheartening is the widespread lack of ignorance in advanced, modern societies like ours. It gets worse when I see young adults not having a thirst for knowledge. Critical thinking is rather abysmal. It's hard to find college classes where open discussion takes place that requires connecting the dots, you know, rational thinking.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard students say, "it's just a theory," meaning "it's an opinion," when they refer to scientific theories. Take, for example, the theory of evolution--one of the strongest body of knowledge we have--that is supported by tons of evidence from across several disciplines. This scientific theory competes for acceptance with creationism or intelligent design! I think it's losing right now!

I don't know if anti-intellectualism is winning in America, but Susan Jacoby--Age of American Unreason--thinks so. It's close-mindedness that impedes progress. And, don't tell me that our politics don't reflect this. How else can you explain a president who believes that "the jury on evolution is still out"? Or, serious presidential candidates accept superstition to science? Or, why worry about the environment & our planet when Jesus has saved us all (only if..) or will save us when Armageddon! [yes, the majority of Americans believe that Jesus will return sometime in their lifetime!]

Education is more than memorizing stuff. It's not indoctrination. It's the developed ability to be a learned person who can think critically, connect the dots, and ultimately accept reality.

"It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."

Barack Obama