Sunday, August 25, 2019

Teaching History, Science and Literature




Teaching History, Science and Literature

As our politics become more polarized, both sides seek to immunize themselves from any exposure to the opinions of the other. I've spoken before about the self-reinforcing bubbles that many of us have created - echo chambers that ensure that we will only hear those things that agree with our philosophy. We want to be surrounded by folks who share our perspective. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has also influenced our attitudes about what constitutes a proper education for the generations who will succeed us.

As more and more parents are opting for homeschooling or religious-based private schools, it is incumbent upon all of us to reflect on what we are teaching our children. Do we want to "protect" our children from being infected with, or influenced by, the other sides' ideas? Are we concerned with instilling and perpetuating our values? OR Are we trying to ensure that we are turning out mindless automatons - people who are only capable of programmed responses to different circumstances? Are we teaching children HOW to think? OR Are we teaching them WHAT to think?

In the United States, folks on the right want you to know about what great and Christian men Washington, Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson were. Folks on the left want you to know that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves and that Jefferson wrote his own version of the gospel story of Jesus Christ. Both sides want you to know about the Constitution, but they only want you to hear about their method for interpreting what it means! Folks on the right want to concentrate on the movers and shakers of history, while folks on the left want you to know about the downtrodden and the oppressed. It often never occurs to folks on either side that both perspectives might have value - that both perspectives might be important in truly understanding the forces/people that/who shaped our society/nation.

In the realm of science, the divide is even more starkly defined. Folks on the right want the biblical version of creation taught to their children or something that allows that a literal understanding of their scriptures is at least plausible. Folks on the left point out that evolution is now accepted science and that any other perspective should be excluded from the classroom. Folks on the right want you to know about the dramatic swings in climate down through the different epochs of life on this planet, while folks on the left want you to know about all of the evidence that the human introduction of carbon into our atmosphere is rapidly warming our planet. Neither side seems willing to consider the possibility that both perspectives might have merit and should be actively considered by anyone who really wants to get to the truth of the matter!

Finally, there is the question of what we want our children reading. The right wants them to read the Bible, and the left wants them to read On the Origin of Species. Here's a novel idea: Let's have them read both! I'm not afraid of letting adolescents read Ayn Rand or George Will. Are you afraid of allowing them to read Marx, Hemingway or Faulkner?

There is a difference between education and indoctrination. They are not the same thing, and pretending that they are is dangerous. Children should be exposed to both the world as it is and the way that we would like it to be. The two are not mutually exclusive! It's natural for us to want to pass on our values and views to our progeny, but it is very unnatural to keep them from seeing what's on the other side of the fence.


by Miller Jones

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

this nation has been teaching those things from the beginning, and despite this we are where we are, ergo, such teachings are vain...

c f ben yochanan

please stop censoring me. .

Anonymous said...

I was surprised recently to see LCG's Gerald Weston quoting from Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. What must go on in the mind of a man as repressed as Weston when he encounters the immorality and perversion throughout that novel? And why on earth would he mention that novel in such a positive light as he has recently done? I suppose, as a WCG insider, he has already had to make his own private peace with the fact of HWA's incest, so if he can accept that from his Apostle he can rationalize away the homosexual and heterosexual wife-swapping and other perversions among WCG and LCG ministers. Hemingway must seem almost tame by comparison. Still, I'm surprised that a man who brags about walking out on an Austin Powers movie would be so open to LCG members about his taste in immoral literature.

TLA said...

Great article Miller - but I do disagree on your last statement:
"but it is very unnatural to keep them from seeing what's on the other side of the fence"

Unfortunately it is natural, but good leaders and teachers should be teaching children and adults that we need to overcome our biases and study both sides, think deeply and calmly, and be willing to change and/or admit when we don''t know.

SHT said...

The big issue happens when a child is old enough to realize that the world is a certain way that may be different than what he or she was originally taught. If the child is not prepared, or ready, for the reality of what the world has in store, at the least there may be culture shock, and at the worst, far, far more extreme repercussions that may lead to an inability to function.

I agree that there is merit to both sides of the argument. Such as, with climate change. I have spoken previously how science is conclusive that eons have passed with wild swings of climate - including temperature, moisture, and the like. Simply looking at geological features of cliffs proves this alone. It is also conclusive that in the past 50 years there has been a stark, and dramatic, increase in global temperature. On the topic at hand - how is it that you present this to a young person? The reality is, they are going to get to an age where they are going to have to make up their own mind on the issue.

The biggest thing a young person needs to do is learn how to THINK. Not just absorb, but to literally think - and make a decision as to what he or she believes, and why. Shielding a child from the opinions of the other side (left or right) does nothing but delay what is going to be inevitable - the ingestion of information they were not told before. How much of this is withheld before the child learns on its own depends on, quite frankly, how soon the child can access the internet. And these days, that happens at younger and younger ages. Eventually, sooner or later, they will learn on their own and make their own assumptions, opinions, and live on one side or the other, or neither. The responsibility of the parent in all of this? Give them a mind to properly think so they can learn the right way to know how to determine what is truth, and what is not - and I mean real truth, not just assumptions and traditions.

DennisCDiehl said...

Huge topic but well stated Miller. I'll let the principles that have guided my own journey out of ignorance be spoken by those who spoke it well. Along the way some things just seem more true to me than others and it is those that inform me. Change of mind and heart is always a possibility when more information makes something seem more true and something else less so. It's the nature of inquiry.

Faith restrictions in the pursuit of that which is more true than other things can be a real hindrance to reality in my view. Critical thinking needs be a part of every child's education but it is a huge threat to most parents who also want them to adopt the box the parent came in because, of course, it is the correct box or they'd not be in it. But it's really just a box.

To live for such a short time on this planet is to have the opportunity to learn as much as one can about how it all came to be. Different people beholding to different boxes will come to different conclusions. That's just how it is. As one philosopher scientist said, "we are the universe observing itself." I like that. Observing and learning.

I am long past trusting Bronze Age priests to have gotten it right . This I would teach my kids again if I could or at least leave my grandkids knowing that's what Papa Diehl always told us. :)


"Ignor-ance is what you ignore"
Aron Ra

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
Charles Darwin

Ignorance is always afraid of change.
Jawaharlal Nehru

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about.
Wayne Dyer

Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
Will Rogers

The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.
Elbert Hubbard

And My Personal favorite which guides my interests and personal studies into that which just seems to be more true than what others have told me is really really true in the past.

“Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads or you shall learn nothing.”

― Thomas Henry Huxley

Miller Jones said...

Thanks TLA, unnatural in the sense of being artificial or manufactured - as in, parents have to proactively erect barriers in order to prevent their child from observing what's going on in their neighbor's yard.
Dennis, I like your quotes. However, with regard to faith, if our objective is truth, we must admit that it would be impossible to arrive at an adequate understanding of Medieval Europe (History, Science and Literature) without being well-grounded in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Is it possible to understand Rome without some understanding of Greek and Roman mythology? How would one begin to understand Western Culture without understanding those same mythologies or Christian and Jewish theology?
I have found that extreme positions and black and white thinking almost always lead us away from the truth. The sweet spot is almost always somewhere between the extremes.

Anonymous said...

The problem comes in when your parents command you to think, but won’t allow you to. Listen to any child and they’re constantly asking questions. The parent can give their view but should be encouraged to “look it up” (used to be at the library, but now it’s on the internet). In my case, I was told “never mind”, “wait till you’re older” or “shut up and go outside and play”. The most important thing drilled into our heads was to stay silent and obey without question.

Good article.

DennisCDiehl said...

Miller asked: "with regard to faith, if our objective is truth, we must admit that it would be impossible to arrive at an adequate understanding of Medieval Europe (History, Science and Literature) without being well-grounded in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Is it possible to understand Rome without some understanding of Greek and Roman mythology? How would one begin to understand Western Culture without understanding those same mythologies or Christian and Jewish theology?'

Yes of course when speaking of understanding a culture such as Rome or America. An understanding of the myths and religious views that drive the culture and those kinds of values held by most of the population would indeed help us understand them.

When I use the term "faith restricted" I am referring to the impediments I would see to one's ability to face the facts of, in my case, evolution of all things vs biblical creationism. If one has the habit of attributing to the gods what is yet to be understood scientifically, in time one's faith restrictions, or that which they must believe without proof clouds the ability to come to proper conclusions about the actual nature of the world and Universe.

Also, as knowledge increases, faith fails as facts destroy faith and by this I mean religious faith of course. "God did it" becomes the less and less pleasing answer to questions of origins etc and an ever shrinking cause for all that is. But holding on to that idea no matter the facts advances ignorance not knowing. The culture we have in this country fueled by the mistaken , yet rabid, notions of Evangelical literalists is a good example. The Faith of some can kill you.

In time children mature and learn to question. At least those not beaten into evangelical submission do. I think much of the depression I see in those deeply religious is that tension of being stuck in what subconsciously one does not actually believe yet being caught in a culture that demands one believe it.

In the hindsights and insights of my own experience in WCG and ministry is that I originally did believe it. I chose it. I owned it as they say because my original Dutch Reformed childhood made me a compliant and theologically inquisitive kid. But as I matured, read outside the acceptable boxes and booklets, I doubted it to be literally true. True in some way, but not literally so. And not just that WCG was not the true way to think and be but that the Bible as well is not what I had been brought up to believe it was nor the stories impeccable and unquestionable.

Over time, poof! I could not be here if I had not been there, but going from faith to reason brought me out of it all.

Anyway, yes, understanding the myths and religious views of a culture helps us understand that culture. But that is not the same as understanding what is true. It may inhibit what is true actually. Living in South Carolina now vs having spent five years in Portland, Oregon is an excellent example of living in one culture that is open minded, thinks critically, questions authority etc and one that is stuck in the blessed blood of the lamb which if you don't believe it, you burn. It confuses ignorance, in my view, with enlightenment because of faith restrictions to their "prove all things", which they don't.

I have one small bumper sticker on my car. "In Reason We Trust" I expect to get keyed or rammed anytime. :)

Anonymous said...

While it may be true that the Earth has warmed a lot in the last 50 years it may be that it is the normal change in the climate that the Earth naturally goes through from causes other then anything that is man made. I don't believe that the man made climate change question is settled science however I am open to any data that proves that it is settled science.

DennisCDiehl said...

One of the more humorous accusations that comes along at times is "You are just using human reasoning!" I then ask the person what kind of reasoning they think they are using. Usually it gets quiet with a brief and meaningless protest but most are smart enough not to try to convince that they use God's kind of reasoning. Actually they do, but not in a good way.

There is a way that seems more right to me that doesn't end in death at all. . I don't mind if wisdom gained might seem foolish to the gods or that they might be laughing at me. I don't clearly see the invisible things of the gods in the material world. And I don't mind being considered a "fool" for not believing the unbelievable and what I suspect ain't so, as Mark Twain so famously noted.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, as I am sure you know well, a trust in "Reason" is easily warped by people's unacknowledged biases and desires. It's all we have, but it requires care and maturity to use it properly. Current proponents of BI believe they are using "Reason" to deduce the identities of the twelve tribes today, and to "Reason" through the fallacies of such Satanically abused tools as Carbon-14 dating and DNA analysis.

The difference between "Reason" and "Faith" is that an evolutionist today can look at Darwin's "Origin of Species" and poke all sorts of holes in the author's mistakes and flawed assumptions. A Bibliolater, however, will refuse to see any mistakes or flaws in the Bible. Somehow, God has used His power to keep the Bible preserved perfectly and without error, but He forgot to do the same with His church. Unless of course you are Roman Catholic, in which case you believe that God has preserved the lineage of his church, and that the Bible is subordinate to the church.

Anonymous said...

"Ignor-ance is what you ignore"
Aron Ra"


Yet L. (whatever the hell that stands for, Lonnie, Lester, Leopold?????) ignores the reality of faith!

It's obvious that one can't prove a Theological concept/reality. To try is a fools game, which L. lives for.

km

Anonymous said...

"SHT said...The big issue happens when a child is old enough to realize that the world is a certain way that may be different than what he or she was originally taught. If the child is not prepared, or ready, for the reality of what the world has in store, at the least there may be culture shock, and at the worst, far, far more extreme repercussions that may lead to an inability to function."

Breaking away from one's parents' worldview, and adopting one's own is a necessary step toward an individual's autonomy.

Anonymous said...

Yet if evolution were a "fact" as Dennis tries to tell us, wouldn't it be continuous, ongoing unabated?

I don't merely want to see the "missing link", I want to know why every link in the chain isn't in existence somewhere today!

Whether Dennis wants to admit it or not evolution is just as much faith based as Christianity!

km

Byker Bob said...

Seems like climate change is always on blog participants’ minds. I would submit that when any natural disaster strikes, such as a flood, drought, blizzard, or hurricane, people don’t concern themselves with the cause. They do anything of which they are capable to minimize the impact. It is a fact that we as humans can take certain precautions, and alter our behavioral patterns to decrease the impact of climate change. Would we listen to a politician who made it part of his party’s platform to tell us that it was unnecessary and expensive to put up sandbags to protect ourselves from spring flooding? Or board up windows prior to a Cat 4 hurricane?

Recently, it has been abnormal fires in our own rain forests in the PNW, and those of our southern neighbors in Brazil that have been capturing the news. But, it won’t be until the climate has rendered it impossible to grow coffee that some will admit that we have a problem. When the flooding reaches critical mass at the shipyards in Virginia, or when seawater begins to backwash into the fresh water supply of coastal cities, people will finally tell their politicians to go to hell.

BB

Anonymous said...

The article seems to ignore that what is being advocated is the narrow gate. The narrow gate is called the gate because it is narrow, ie, it is intellectually and morally difficult.

It's the forces of evil that advocate the "let's be open minded and see the others point of view." The people who sing this song are secretly intolerant and don't give a hoot about facts, rationality or truth. It's the fox talking to the chickens.

After spending most of my life exploring different points of view, I, like many, have retreated into a echo chamber. The reason is that the opposition "cheats" by using phobic/Pavlovian conditioning to push their points of view. They are like snakes who spit verbal poison at those who disagree with them. An echo chamber enables me to take charge of my sense of normalcy, away from these cheating snakes.
The bible says beware of the Pharisees, ie, today's crown stealers. No mention of this in the article or comments so far.

Yesterday I saw a young mother with her four young children by her side. Where can she possibly find the time to examine the various points of view out there? She should be able to go to a church service and be given a précis form of the different ideas out there, how they differ from bible morality, and why they are wrong. After all, people are giving ten percent of their income to these people. The churches were letting their members down.

Miller Jones said...

"Ignorance is what you ignore"
Does that statement apply to ignoring faith?
The notion that the concept of God is dead or no longer necessary is absurd whether you're an atheist or a theist! There are literally billions of people who believe in some notion of God. Hence, whether or not there is a God is irrelevant to the REALITY that this belief in God is currently/actively shaping political, environmental, economic, cultural, etc. circumstances/developments. It is interesting too that scientist have now begun to take a serious look at why evolution might have equipped us to have this need for and belief in the supernatural. And, finally, even Dawkins or Dennis have acknowledged that some type of god is possible (although both would also say that that is not a probability). And you seriously need to reread what I just posted before you come at me with that God of the gaps crap - that's for Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians, not me!

Anonymous said...

Byker, it has been widely reported that former President Obama has purchased a home on the East Cost that is less than 3 feet above sea level. Climate change activists' estimates vary, but all agree that if Sasha and Malia Obama live to their normal life expectancy, the Obamas' new home will be underwater before they die.

Maybe Barack Obama is a really poor steward of his family's wealth and heritage... or maybe even HE doesn't really believe the climate change scenarios he is spouting.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:27 asks:

Yet if evolution were a "fact" as Dennis tries to tell us, wouldn't it be continuous, ongoing unabated?

Where do you get that idea? I don't expect you to believe or understand this, as your mind is already made up, but there are credible scientific explanations for "punctuated equilibrium" in which periods of rapid evolutionary change occur, followed by periods of little or no change. If evolution occurs, it obviously doesn't occur in the way you imagine... but this just emphasizes that your idea of evolution comes from your imagination, not from serious study of the topic.

Anonymous said...

KM wrote:

"Yet L. (whatever the hell that stands for, Lonnie, Lester, Leopold?????) ignores the reality of faith!

It's obvious that one can't prove a Theological concept/reality. To try is a fools game, which L. lives for."

Why do you consistently have to be such a jerk when replying to people?

a quiet guy said...

"There is no shame in being ignorant, but when you are so ignorant you don't even know your are ignorant, now THAT is a tragedy"

-- Phyllis Herrington

Anonymous said...

9.47 AM
In fact KM has toned down his abuse. Thankfully Admin has refused to tolerate his previous name calling. Verbal abuse is cheating.

Anonymous said...

9:47am, you most likely don't even know who I was talking about. I was responding to Aron Ra's quote, since his name is "L. Aron Nelson" I put the quip, "whatever the hell that L. stands for". Have you considered the possibility that I write as a jerk because so many others on here do too, such as yourself? I was merely pointing out that when L. Aron Nelson says that ignorance is what you ignore, that he ignores faith, making him ignorant when it comes to faith.

km

Anonymous said...

9:01am, you're argument, which is science's argument is oh so convenient. Evolution isn't a continuous chain of events they say. Their proof? There are no "links" in the chain to observe so it must be so. Yet I'm the ignorant one when I say if evolution is true there would have to be actual species somewhere in the midst of evolving. Thanks but your claims that I'm ignorant are meaningless!

km

Byker Bob said...

Right, 9:01. The Cambrian explosion would be an example of one of the punctuation points.

BB

Byker Bob said...

Have you read the latest statistics on the average period of ownership of a home in the USA, and compared that with the timelines for sea rise in accordance with even the most extreme computer models?

Buying property for your family to enjoy for a while isn’t quite the conundum as building massive expensive edifices was in a climate where people were taught that the end was 3-5 years off.

Sasha and Malia would need to earn the same level of income as their parents in order to maintain and retain this property. Most likely at some point it will be sold, and the proceeds divvied up as their inheritance.

Who told you that I was a fan of Obama’s, anyway?

BB

jim said...

Stephen Gould said something like, "the complete dirth of transition fossils is the trade secret of paleontology." He then came up with punctuated equilibrium. I'm not really concerned either way, but postulating that there was this or that stressor or driver for punctuated equilibriums is the least convincing of science.

The whole premise of evolution was based on vast amounts of time and small changes; transitions were assumed, but those fossils were not plentiful and in fact very rare, so PE to the rescue. As I said before, I really don't care that much any more (at one time I was very much into it), it's just that the science is more a narrative.

Anonymous said...

BB, not according to An Inconvenient Truth. Much of the coast should be under by now.

Glenn said...

Dennis said, "I think much of the depression I see in those deeply religious is that tension of being stuck in what subconsciously one does not actually believe yet being caught in a culture that demands one believe it."

That statement was true for me for many years.

Byker Bob said...

@ 2:58: I reject and shut out any climate information coming from Algor or Slush Rimpaugh, unless there is reliable and independent confirmation. Both men, imo, are blinded by partisan bias and offer totally screwed “solutions”.

BB

Anonymous said...

In my case, it wasn't so much a matter of "being struck in what subconsciously one does not actually believe," but rather, what was taught by the church and partly accepted, didn't feel right. It didn't ring true.
The truth has a special feel, and this feel wasn't there with much of the church's teachings. This is still the case today.

Anonymous said...

Darwin knew nothing about DNA when he wrote his book. His theory does not address the origins of Life, but rather slow changes to an existing product.

The human genome consists of approximately 3.1467 billion base pairs. Thus, 1,206,980 single-sided sheets would be needed to display the entire human genome in this way. Where did this extremely precise code come from? The only logical conclusion is a master designer and coder.