Sunday, March 26, 2017

Post Rational

Why College Graduates Still Can’t Think

In this view, the key characteristic of critical thinking is opposition to the existing ‘system,’ encompassing political, economic, and social orders, deemed to privilege some and penalize others. In essence, critical thinking is equated with political, economic, and social critique.”

Suddenly, it occurred to me that the disconnect between the way most people (including employers) define critical thinking and the way many of today’s academics define it can be traced back to the post-structuralist critical theories that invaded our English departments about the time I was leaving grad school, in the late 1980s. I’m referring to deconstruction and its poorer cousin, reader response criticism.

Both theories hold that texts have no inherent meaning; rather, meaning, to the extent it exists at all, is entirely subjective, based on the experiences and mindset of the reader.

Thomas Harrison of UCLA, in his essay “Deconstruction and Reader Response,” refers to this as “the rather simple idea that the significance of the text is governed by reading.”

That idea has been profoundly influential, not only on English faculty but also on their colleagues in the other humanities and even the social sciences. (Consider, for example, the current popularity of ethnography, a form of social science “research” that combines fieldwork with subjective story-telling.)

Unfortunately, those disciplines are also where most critical thinking instruction supposedly occurs in our universities. (Actually, other fields, such as the hard sciences and engineering, probably do a better job of teaching true thinking skills—compiling and evaluating evidence, formulating hypotheses based on that evidence, testing those hypotheses for accuracy before arriving at firm conclusions. They just don’t brag about it as much.)

The result is that, although faculty in the humanities and social sciences claim to be teaching critical thinking, often they’re not. Instead, they’re teaching students to “deconstruct”—to privilege their own subjective emotions or experiences over empirical evidence in the false belief that objective truth is relative, or at least unknowable.

[...]

The result is that, although faculty in the humanities and social sciences claim to be teaching critical thinking, often they’re not. Instead, they’re teaching students to “deconstruct”—to privilege their own subjective emotions or experiences over empirical evidence in the false belief that objective truth is relative, or at least unknowable.

That view runs contrary to the purposes of a “liberal arts” education, which undertakes the search for truth as the academy’s highest aim. Indeed, the urge to deconstruct everything is fundamentally illiberal. Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Edwards calls it “liberal education’s suicide note” in that it suggests the only valid response to any idea or situation is the individual’s own—how he or she “feels” about it.

Unfortunately, such internalization of meaning does not culminate in open-mindedness and willingness to examine the facts and logic of differing views. Rather, it leads to the narrow-minded, self-centered assumption that there is a “right” way to feel, which automatically delegitimizes the responses of any and all who may feel differently.
Departure from rationality leads only to savagery and barbarism, especially when ignorance is "privileged" and actual discernment is delegitimized... to the point of physical suppression. The Left has won a generation or two of intellectual eunuchs.

2 comments:

JBsptfn said...

Thanks for sharing, Stan. Yeah, it's a sad situation. Someone in the comments wrote how they should teach logic in the fourth grade. I would agree. I think that this other guy (on another blog I follow) mentioned something along those lines as well.

Speaking of sad, though, a certain guy named IMS (Im Skeptical) has been on the CADRE forum almost non-stop lately. Here is where his recent attack happened:

Christian CADRE blog: Boltzmann Brains and the Mind of God

Near the end of the comments, Skep said this:

I flatly reject the notion that Cristian values are "right". To think that someone must suffer and die to appease God for the sins of others is nothing short of barbaric - not to mention immoral.

Then, after I told him that he shouldn't have morals (because he is an atheist), he said that I was ignorant. Some people just don't get it.

Steven Satak said...

That sort of thinking, that 'there is no such thing as absolute truth', self-destructs when applied to itself.

Which would cause the speaker to retract it, in a rational discourse.

But we are talking about students who, having been groomed all their lives to hold one set of standards for themselves and another for everyone else, see no contradiction.

They are elite, both morally and intellectually. So when I say it, I am held to the self-contradiction and if I push it, I am a fool.

When they say it, it means whatever they want it to mean for the moment, to be discarded when they don't get their way - or even when they do.

Jack Nicholson's character Melvin Udall was right - we look for reason and accountability in the real world.

These students have neither.