"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Friday, January 13, 2012

Aristotle Is Dead

Aristotle RIP
Ok, so that's not exactly news. He's been dead for 2300 years or so. But the deductive reasoning Aristotle championed is now dead. Sure he made some errors in his conclusions about the natural sciences, but that was because his access to the technological means to truly study natural phenomenon was limited, which skewed his conclusions.  But was he wrong to even investigate and form those opinions?  Ask any high school or older student today and you will probably hear, "Yes, he was wrong." His conclusions were opinions and all opinions are equal, therefore, there is no point in investigating any opinion.

Dr. Stephen Anderson wrote an essay on moral education programing in Canadian schools titled, Moments of Startling Clarity.  His essay, published in Education Forum, looked at the phenomenon of moral relativism and political correctness in the minds of today's students.

You would think that a population who has been so steeped in the language of minority rights and  character traits would recognize human rights abuses and be able to form opinions against such practices.  But this example, from his senior philosophy class, paints a different picture of the mind of today's youth.
I decided to open by simply displaying, without comment, the photo of Bibi Aisha. Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her husband's family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital.

I felt quite sure that my students, seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, would have a clear ethical reaction, from which we could build toward more difficult cases. The picture is horrific. Aisha’s beautiful eyes stare hauntingly back at you above the mangled hole that was once her nose. Some of my students could not even raise their eyes to look at it. I could see that many were experiencing deep emotions. But I was not prepared for their reaction.

I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture. They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.” One student said, “I don’t feel anything at all; I see lots of this kind of stuff.” Another said (with no consciousness of self-contradiction), “It’s just wrong to judge other cultures.”
 The refusal to judge receives the highest esteem in today's culture. Denyse O'Leary wrote of TheBestSchools.org :
In recent decades, a new view has taken root. The new view is that courage and cowardice have no intrinsic reality. Neither does the classical virtue of justice or the vice of injustice. It all depends on how you feel about things, which in turn depends on your culture. That underlies the students’ inability to move from “I feel bad” to “This is wrong.”
Holding this view means that one is incapable of seeing the wrongness of genocide by the Hutus, or human sacrifice of the Mayans, or stoning of rape victims by fanatical Muslims. And if you cannot see that such behavior is wrong, you are not motivated to do anything to stop it.

It could be said that this cultural relativism arose from the field of anthropology where early anthropologists refused to judge the cultures they were studying because such judgements were based on Western social biases. This belief led to their refusal to sign the 1947 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Carolyn Fluehr Lobban, a professor of anthropology said, "[T]his view is being challenged by critics inside and outside the discipline [of anthropology], especially those who want anthropologists to take a stand on key human-rights issues."

Writer Elsa Zee, who teaches college in Canada, has heard the mantra many times in her classroom; all opinions are equal.  From her own black students she heard that slavery was neither good nor bad.  Either view is just an opinion and all opinions are equal.
And then, one day, I realized: their opinion has nothing to do with thinking. It has to do with not thinking. They don't give - in fact, they don't have - any arguments, not even bad arguments, bad thinking. Nothing at all. Not even a logical fallacy. Not a single shred of backing.

They just "
know" that opinions are equal.
I'm thinking this explains why, even if they KNOW what communism really is (which most of them don't), today's youth will not see anything bad in it.  They will actively resist forming an opinion about a political system that killed 62 million of its own people. Whether they do so, to adhere to a virtue of politically correct non-judgementalism or, because they do not wish to investigate and think too hard about it in the event they must defend their belief, we won't know. But we can assume they can't be counted on to stand up for what is right.  An even scarier thought is that they will go along with anything dished out by our own government because forming an opinion about or investigating it is "wrong."

1 comment:

  1. "And then, one day, I realized: their opinion has nothing to do with thinking. It has to do with not thinking."

    Exactly. Modern philosophy, and all its devolutionary developments, cannot exist where Aristotle's ideas do, something which has been known since the start of this whole mess.

    "They just " know" that opinions are equal."

    Interesting note: Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, and the turning away from Aristotle, when he wanted to pull out his Big Guns to very that he was on the right track, he said "I know it is true because I can clearly and distinctly imagine it to be true".

    Go figure.

    "But we can assume they can't be counted on to stand up for what is right. An even scarier thought is that they will go along with anything dished out by our own government because forming an opinion about or investigating it is "wrong.""

    The book "How to kill 11 million people" was mentioned here the other day, with it's key answer to that question: "Lie to them.", how much easier is it to lie to people, when they have no way of recognizing what is true? Or even an inclination to seek such a thing as truth?

    That is what I've been going on about in my posts (such as this old one or this old one), with that being the case, 'school reform' doesn't matter a bit, if they are still teaching the ideas of modern philosophy, and that being the case, making schools more efficient, is hardly something to be sought after!

    The point of modern education isn't just to change ideas or political sympathies, but to remove that which makes Western Civilization possible, from the minds of those born into it, and Aristotle is the keystone - remove that... and poof 'we all fall down'.


Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter