Please, Teach Us to Think
When I listen lately to America around me, I can’t help but wonder if our culture of tolerance has folded back upon itself to create a culture of ignorance. I wonder if Americans are forgetting how to think. Here are the kinds of sounds that reach my ears: fundamentalist dogma, new age pablum, bigotry spilling from the mouths of public figures, resolute adherence to victim identity by minority spokesmen, sloganeering and posturing as a means of determining whether to start a war, and an absolute failure of logic and evidence to resolve political, societal, even scientific, disputes.
Not all opinions are equally valid. Some are, in fact, inane. There is a broad gap between avoiding judgmentalism and simply lacking judgment. Passion and persuasiveness are not synonyms for accuracy. Open mindedness is no bedfellow of empty mindedness. And yes, it is possible to tell the difference.
On the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, a group of clinicians and educators and such trekked to Olympia, Washington to lobby for a bill stipulating that sexual education should be medically and scientifically accurate. That’s it, no mandate that the classes be taught, no funding attached. “Why are we doing this?” one of the would-be lobbyists asked. “Because we have to,” they were told. “It’s necessary. It’s a step forward.” Are we nuts?! Do so many of us prefer our positions and opinions to truth that we need a law mandating scientific accuracy in education?
I am offended, offended that anything other than a standard of scientific accuracy could exist in our schools. I’m offended that my children have to live in a social context dominated by the same issues and arguments that have been making strident rounds since I was a child. I am offended by having to offer them a world where politicians and preachers and marketing minions try to distract us with spin and hype and all of the seductions of our baser desires, and it works! I want their generation to wade into the mist equipped with skills that will let them differentiate vapor from solid, comfort from substance, illusion from reality. But how will they get these skills living with us?