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Education and Modern Problems

It has sometimes occurred to me that some of the problems we read/hear about in the media can be described as failures of education. I am thinking here of first-world countries in which there is (what is believed to be) good, wide-spread education. Many people who have attended primary and secondary schools and perhaps college as well are rejecting elementary logic, statistics, scientific knowledge and lessons from history and instead clinging to superstition and conspiracy theories. These are comments about knowledge and belief but one could also make such comments about character.

Is this an inevitable aspect of the human condition, or is there some way for us to improve? Are we better or worse off in this regard than in the past?
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Comments

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Who are 'us' and 'we' in the second paragraph?
  • HarryCH wrote: »
    Is this an inevitable aspect of the human condition, or is there some way for us to improve? Are we better or worse off in this regard than in the past?

    Well, ITTWACW, so - yes (sin), yes (repentance and grace), no (to both - we're still human).
  • You can lead a horse to water but even if you strap them down, put a needle in them and give them IV fluids some of them will rip out the line and make a break for the doors,
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    I don't think Mark's comment is on point. "We're still human" as a response to the failures of educational systems seems like a cop-out. I don't know that I regard someone's inability to follow simple logic a a sin.

    In response to Enoch: I stated that I am thinking of first-world countries.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited November 12
    I rather do, though. I mean, regard errors in logic as a sin. Not a moral failing, but an error of being, worthy of correction and often positively requiring it. We are told to "love the Lord your God with all your mind" as well. (And you can just see how shitty we are at it, looking around the churches... sigh)

    ETA: this doesn't mean I think we ought to damn and blast people who have trouble with math, for instance; but it does mean that a failure to make the best effort one can, with one's God-given brain, is deserving of guilt and shame. As we have seen in recent politics.
  • HarryCH wrote: »
    It has sometimes occurred to me that some of the problems we read/hear about in the media can be described as failures of education. I am thinking here of first-world countries in which there is (what is believed to be) good, wide-spread education. Many people who have attended primary and secondary schools and perhaps college as well are rejecting elementary logic, statistics, scientific knowledge and lessons from history and instead clinging to superstition and conspiracy theories. These are comments about knowledge and belief but one could also make such comments about character.

    Is this an inevitable aspect of the human condition, or is there some way for us to improve? Are we better or worse off in this regard than in the past?
    One of the problems is humans are not reasoning or logical. Humans operate by emotion and impulse/instinct first. Reason comes in somewhere further down the line, when it comes in at all. We also like to think of things as this or that. This and that splits melons.
    It doesn't help that society is not structured to promote reason, rather it promotes ideology over reality. Politics, religion, economic theories and such, not to mention all the crack-pot theories; there are any number of things that people can grab onto and ignore plain, clear reality. And this is before one gets into the more complicated issues.

  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Reason comes in somewhere further down the line, when it comes in at all. We also like to think of things as this or that. This and that splits melons.

    Huh?
  • mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Reason comes in somewhere further down the line, when it comes in at all. We also like to think of things as this or that. This and that splits melons.

    Huh?
    People see issues as black and white. Trying to work out shades of grey or complex issues causes distress.

  • It is often said these days that the base of Trump's support is "non college educated whites". People also say, or lots of people say, or they tell me that the US education system sucks. I don't know about that, maybe it does. But my recollection is that schools in the US are incredibly diverse, and governed on the local level, so I look askance at such generalisations.

    Our school system in Australia I really know nothing about as I don't have kids, but people don't complain about it too much. It's kind of not really an issue here. There are the occasional spurts of culture wars, and apart from that the big beef is inequitable funding rather than quality of education, from what I hear. Private schools in Australia are not necessarily for the wealthy. There are many schools run by various religious institutions aimed not at the wealthy but at ordinary people who want a religious element to their kids education. The funding of such schools, together with the elite schools and government schools is fraught with political difficulty.

    I don't think the openness to conspiracy is about education. I think its about tribe, and markers of belonging. I think radical racist and religious right wing politics (as distinct from New Right economics (aka thatcherism/reaganomics, neo liberalism, chicago school yadda yadda yadda) in the Anglosphere is fundamentally about white nationalism, and a reaction to the minor liberalisation of our societies in the 1960's and 70's. I think here the UK might be slightly different, as my impression is that there wasn't the material wealth in post-war Britain that there was in Australia and the United States. My knowledge of the economies of Canada and New Zealand is even less than my vague knowledge of 1950's Britain. Nevertheless, the historical documentary Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery suggests that there was at least a loosening of sexual mores in 1960's Britain.

  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Reason comes in somewhere further down the line, when it comes in at all. We also like to think of things as this or that. This and that splits melons.

    Huh?
    People see issues as black and white. Trying to work out shades of grey or complex issues causes distress.

    What does that have to do with melons?
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    When I attended school I got information from proper history books, qualified history teachers, responsible tv and responsible radio.

    I did not have access to the mass of nonsnse that can be found on many internet sites.
  • What about the mass of nonsense in some of the British history books at that time?
  • I like the structure of the International Baccalaureate, in part because it makes everyone do a theory of knowledge course.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Reason comes in somewhere further down the line, when it comes in at all. We also like to think of things as this or that. This and that splits melons.

    Huh?
    People see issues as black and white. Trying to work out shades of grey or complex issues causes distress.

    What does that have to do with melons?

    Melon is sometimes used to refer to the cranium.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Sojourner wrote: »
    What about the mass of nonsense in some of the British history books at that time?

    Such as ?

  • How great the empire was.
  • Thanks DT you beat me to it.
  • Not to mention the whitewash jobs on various nasty monarchs-and the Lord Protector ( that one warts and all)
  • I was rather brief upthread. But I do think this (like a lot else which goes wrong in life) is about sin - or that's how it has appeared to me in 25 years of teaching in various capacities. I find my own anger, pride and sloth (for example) quite a useful paradigm within which to observe my reluctance to learn things - and it's not hard to see those things in others whom I teach. I also observe the pride, sloth and greed of the institutional management which organises the farm and maximises income to the cost of the syllabus - in which the staff who are paid by the whole shebang, are unavoidably implicated.

    There are other reasons, of course, to fail to learn - I'm getting older and my brain is setting, and I was never that bright to start with. But I have taught several nice-but-very-dim folks over the years, and they are not the angry truth-deniers you are thinking about in the OP.

  • CamryOfTheApocalypseCamryOfTheApocalypse Shipmate Posts: 37
    I don't think what the OP alludes to can be laid at the door of poor education.

    There's no evidence that I know of that suggests public education is any worse than it was one or two generations ago. We could argue the toss on specific subjects, but in general, doing well at school is now more important as it's ever been as every job worth having requires some level of academic achievement. Furthermore, there does not seem to be any bias towards youth in belief in conspiracy theories such as Qanon etc. Also I remember David Icke appearing on prime-time British television back in the early 90s. I can't think of any modern luminary that is any crazier than he was/is. That would suggest that if anyone is more susceptible to superstition and conspiracy theories, it's the older generations.

    What's changed things is the Internet. Until then, it wasn't possible for the crazies to congregate together and affirm each other in their craziness.

    I also think we have quite a separate phenomenon taking place in political parties (which is what I assume the opening post has in mind). They are the mainstay of Western democracies, indeed, to the extent that it is now a common belief that legislatures are undemocratic unless their seats are allocated according to parties' popularity. But the parties themselves have been hollowed out. Their numbers have plummeted to the extent that they are no longer big social movements full of average people of one sort or another. They are now the domain of the ambitious or the zealous, and that is reflected in the candidates for election they promote.

    I think those average people of the past simply wouldn't have allowed the likes of Trump, Johnson, Berlusconi, Salvini - or indeed Corbyn or perhaps even Ardern - anywhere near top rank politics, ie people who although charismatic and perhaps good and sincere, are not heavyweight politicians. I suspect that there have always been plenty of voters who would have been willing to support such candidates if backed by a major political party.
  • Proportionally, the number of people who believe QAnon or that 5G causes coronavirus is tiny. So I don't think their beliefs can be blamed on their education or on the general weakness of the human brain. I think it's a glitch that (for whatever reason) is specific to them.
  • wabalewabale Shipmate
    I don't think what the OP alludes to can be laid at the door of poor education.

    Thank you, CamryOfTheApocalypse, for wakening me from the pleasant slumbers of retirement.

    There was an argument going on in education in the 1980's which I think is relevant to this: should children be taught facts, or should we teach children how to process facts? The answer is, of course, both, but for some reason it turned into an EITHER/OR argument, and the facts approach, broadly speaking, won. Different subjects were affected in different ways. That we are still talking about 'subjects' in the UK rather than organising learning by different principles is one example of how the 'facts' side of the argument, I would suggest, won decisively.

    The argument became politicised, when it didn't need to be. For example in my own specialism, History, the driving force of the so-called New History was a teachers' organisation which ended up being called The Schools History Project. They produced some very well resourced modules designed to be interesting to students such as 'The American West', 'The Arab-Israeli conflict', 'The Irish troubles' ... you can see why this was widely perceived as a Marxist plot. Meanwhile the tory Press insisted on a 'guns and drums' curriculum (which for some reason they regarded as more conducive to 'rigour').

    SHP was designed, among other things, to address the problem raised in the OP. Students were taught how to deal with historical sources, detect bias, etc. - tools for life, and certainly tools to deal with Facebook even before it was invented. I would suggest that other education subjects in England could tell a similar story. The reason children were not introduced to critical thinking is that there was a conscious political decision to prevent this.

    Well, about ten years ago Michael Gove as minister of education, specifically set out to destroy the influence of SHP. He simply ignored it. SHP teachers not among the history experts he consulted when he (and Dominic Cummings?) set out to write a new syllabus for teaching 4 - 16 year olds. At the end of the process one of the leading history luminaries he consulted described Mr Gove as an 'intellectual thug'. Mr Gove's curriculum was ultimately rejected because it did not cover the subject in an age-appropriate way, because it didn't start by looking at how children learn, just focused on 'what they needed to be taught'.

    A missed opportunity, and it could have been different with a few more open minds.
  • How great the empire was.

    That's a matter of opinion, not fact.
  • CamryOfTheApocalypseCamryOfTheApocalypse Shipmate Posts: 37
    It was pretty big. There's no denying that.
  • For sure. We ruled a significant amount of the world. We were the best. And then we had to dig so deep to sort out those bloody continentals in the first half of the 20th Century that we ended up losing virtually everything. The crazy part is, some of us think that's a good thing!
  • When you are totally against 'erasing history' but absolutely in favour of Operation Legacy.

  • I'm pointing out that the question of how one should interpret the facts of history is not one that has a single "right" answer.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Evil people can be very rational and logical. We are not short of knowledge, facts or the ability to justify our actions. All these can easily be used for cruelty and corruption.

    Empathy and kindness need to be taught from a young age, at home and in school. Even more importantly, they need to be shown to children, who will then grow up showing them to others.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    edited November 13
    There's an argument to be had about how many 'facts' an 'Our Island Story' view of the world actually contains.

    And how much of the world view it engenders would survive contact with the archives of Hanslope Park.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Prejudices trump facts.
    Prejudices are learned at home. Home beats school nine times out of ten.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    HarryCH wrote: »
    ... In response to Enoch: I stated that I am thinking of first-world countries.
    So that lets us off the hook. Thank you. 'Us' and 'we' doesn't actually mean any of us. It means somebody else that Shipmates, or some of us, think ought to agree with us. And in this case, just to make things easier, that 'us' is so loosely defined that we're also let off being expected to be able to identify whom it includes and doesn't include.

  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    It is often said these days that the base of Trump's support is "non college educated whites". People also say, or lots of people say, or they tell me that the US education system sucks. I don't know about that, maybe it does. But my recollection is that schools in the US are incredibly diverse, and governed on the local level, so I look askance at such generalisations.
    Diverse is the wrong word, IMO. Variable is a better one. There are loose federal standards, more directed state standards, but the ultimate determiner is money. The richer the neighbourhood the school is in, the better the education* because American government (aka Public in the US) schools are funded by property tax. Private schools are highly variable, depending on funding sources and goals. (I do not think the US has the same distinctions that the UK does between different types of fee based schools like the UK does)

    *Within local parameters. Parameters are often skewed by local politics, sometimes heavily

    The UK also varies by locality, but not tot he extent the US does.
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I don't think the openness to conspiracy is about education. I think its about tribe, and markers of belonging.
    Exactly.

  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    edited November 13
    I'm pointing out that the question of how one should interpret the facts of history is not one that has a single "right" answer.
    How the "facts" are presented shapes the narrative every bit as much, if not more, as the juedgement of what happened.
    Many of those in favour of "the facts" prefer to erase, or manipulate, the context needed to evaluate the facts.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    Prejudices trump facts.
    Prejudices are learned at home. Home beats school nine times out of ten.
    Predjudice is not only learned at home, although that is a primary source. If POV were only learned at home, it would not change. That subsequent generations change the idea of what is tolerable indicates that they are getting ideas from some place other than mother and father.
  • I think those average people of the past simply wouldn't have allowed the likes of Trump, Johnson, Berlusconi, Salvini - or indeed Corbyn or perhaps even Ardern - anywhere near top rank politics, ie people who although charismatic and perhaps good and sincere, are not heavyweight politicians. I suspect that there have always been plenty of voters who would have been willing to support such candidates if backed by a major political party.
    Thatcher and Reagan were allowed and they were every bit as damaging. Just in a different, and more efficient, way.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    I'm pointing out that the question of how one should interpret the facts of history is not one that has a single "right" answer.
    How the "facts" are presented shapes the narrative every bit as much, if not more, as the juedgement of what happened.

    How the facts are presented is part of how they are interpreted.
  • There was a book a few years ago Voltaire's Bastards (John Ralston Saul), which while written in a rambly conversational style, made the point that if we have narrow knowledge educated into the bulk of the population, and create rational systems where there are clear procedures and steps to be followed for just about everything, we are much more controllable as individuals and as societies.

    An example which sticks to me is his story of having a medical/dental procedure. The practitioner is highly educated and skilled, but knows very little of things outside their expert subject area, reads professional journal articles, and a few novels when on holiday. The description was of basic illiteracy about anything else.

    I haven't connected this completely in my thoughts to the population without post-secondary education, except to note that some of the most knowledgeable people in my life have taken efforts to learn broadly and they have no post-sec.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    Evil people can be very rational and logical. We are not short of knowledge, facts or the ability to justify our actions. All these can easily be used for cruelty and corruption.

    Empathy and kindness need to be taught from a young age, at home and in school. Even more importantly, they need to be shown to children, who will then grow up showing them to others.

    In my experience, evil tends to rot the brain. People who are Up to No Good are not likely to be fastidious about their logic or using credible sources; when you want to put out something dodgy, any bullshit will do, as long as your audience is sufficiently gullible or self-seeking (and so the two sides, liar and lied-to, reinforce each other). Thus the intellectual laziness. Either they don't learn it in the first place, or they toss it out the window when it's really needed.
  • Thinking further, there's also the danger that if you do (think further), you are very likely to encounter inconvenient facts that destroy the bullshit you are pushing (or attempting to swallow). And that's just uncomfortable, and forces you to do even more work to adjust your ideas to reality. So you can see the temptation to do none of the above--not to keep thinking--not to notice and grapple with inconvenient discoveries--not to adjust to reality.

    Formal education at its best forces students (for a short time, in a limited area) to do this shit whether they like it or not. So it is a public good. But of course, the minute you leave school, you can chuck it all out the window if you like. And if your school is crap, or if you choose not to pay attention in the first place, nothing can save you.
  • And if your school is crap, or if you choose not to pay attention in the first place, nothing can save you.

    That last one is an important point. I remember an old schoolmate saying "They never taught us that in school" and I'm thinking "They most certainly did, and you were sitting two seats away from me."
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    I'm pointing out that the question of how one should interpret the facts of history is not one that has a single "right" answer.
    How the "facts" are presented shapes the narrative every bit as much, if not more, as the juedgement of what happened.

    How the facts are presented is part of how they are interpreted.
    Of course. It is nearly impossible to present anything without bias of some sort. However, people who desire the facts to be taught, instead of how to evaluate information, either do not understgand this or want to pretend that bare facts are not presenting a POV.

  • Boogie wrote: »
    Evil people can be very rational and logical. We are not short of knowledge, facts or the ability to justify our actions. All these can easily be used for cruelty and corruption.

    Empathy and kindness need to be taught from a young age, at home and in school. Even more importantly, they need to be shown to children, who will then grow up showing them to others.

    In my experience, evil tends to rot the brain. People who are Up to No Good are not likely to be fastidious about their logic or using credible sources; when you want to put out something dodgy, any bullshit will do, as long as your audience is sufficiently gullible or self-seeking (and so the two sides, liar and lied-to, reinforce each other). Thus the intellectual laziness. Either they don't learn it in the first place, or they toss it out the window when it's really needed.
    Evil is intent, not methodology. Good people being intellectually lazy is part of what allows evil to flourish.
  • Who says evil does not include methodology? Besides you, I mean.
  • Boogie wrote: »
    Evil people can be very rational and logical. We are not short of knowledge, facts or the ability to justify our actions. All these can easily be used for cruelty and corruption.

    Empathy and kindness need to be taught from a young age, at home and in school. Even more importantly, they need to be shown to children, who will then grow up showing them to others.

    In my experience, evil tends to rot the brain. People who are Up to No Good are not likely to be fastidious about their logic or using credible sources; when you want to put out something dodgy, any bullshit will do, as long as your audience is sufficiently gullible or self-seeking (and so the two sides, liar and lied-to, reinforce each other). Thus the intellectual laziness. Either they don't learn it in the first place, or they toss it out the window when it's really needed.

    "Evil makes you stupid" is how I've heard it expressed.
  • Who says evil does not include methodology? Besides you, I mean.
    I did not say it didn't, bizarre interpretation of my words.
    "Evil makes you stupid" is how I've heard it expressed.
    Evil is intent. Full stop. Evil does not make people stupid. Ideology does.
    And the idea that people are 'fastidious about their logic or using credible sources' until they are corrupted by teh evilz ignores how the human brain works. Impulse, instinct and bias are design features of the brain. They are more primal and combat with our ability to reason. Brexit and the 2016 and 2020 elections are pretty solid evidence of this. Climate change denial, several (if not all) of the Dead Horse/Epiphanies issues are as well.

    The idea of evil having an effect on our cognitive ability is an artefact of "The Fall" narrative. And it is unhelpful in understanding why people do what they do.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Those who are in the business of devising training courses talk about ASK - Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge. Which is it that you think should be taught and hasn't been ?

    I guess we'd all like to think that our offspring are being educated in school to cope with the modern world. And one of the Skills involved is not taking all the information that's out there on the internet as being gospel truth. Knowing whom to trust. But maybe that's not skill so much as judgment, which only comes with experience ?

    Teachers are only human, and there are fashionable theories in education the same as in any other field of endeavour.

    When mine were in school, the prevailing fashion was not to teach them anything, but just to expect them to produce worthwhile work from their own inner creativity. Hopefully things have improved a bit since.

    It's not hard to draw a connection between being brought up in that sort of system and people who'll believe whatever appeals to them.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Russ wrote: »
    <snip>
    When mine were in school, the prevailing fashion was not to teach them anything, but just to expect them to produce worthwhile work from their own inner creativity. Hopefully things have improved a bit since.<snip>

    Certainly what you describe bears no relation to what I have seen my children have experienced in primary and secondary education over the last twenty plus years, nor to what I have observed as a governor in another primary school - not the one my children attended.
  • Nor to my experience as a pupil or a teacher over the last 30 years.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    And if your school is crap, or if you choose not to pay attention in the first place, nothing can save you.

    That last one is an important point. I remember an old schoolmate saying "They never taught us that in school" and I'm thinking "They most certainly did, and you were sitting two seats away from me."

    This is trickier than it seems like it should be. A dear friend of mine some years ago taught math in community college to kids who were convinced that they were too dumb to learn it. He did things like explain that, in word problems, "of" meant "multiply" (three quarters of 16, etc.) Many of the kids really blossomed, often going on to take calculus and continue to success in higher education. It's not always easy to tell the difference between being uninterested and having an ancillary deficit that holds you back. The reluctance of people -- especially adolescents -- to look stupid in public only adds to the challenge.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    edited November 13
    How great the empire was.

    That depends on what definition of great you are using.
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