Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby Vay » 27 May 2012, 16:05

NYC Tests: Dinosaurs, Aliens, Birthdays Banned

My recent 'protest in the parenting forum' incident also brought this topic to mind. I wasn't certain whether it belonged in the politics or religion forums, but since it seems that it is mainly to protect the emotional sensibilities of certain religious groups that this ban has been implemented, I decided it belonged here.

The reason I labeled this "post-modern social constructionists run amok" is because this is my admittedly vaguely-formed hypothesis as to why things like this are happening... IE, the radical skepticism of Post Modernism has cultivated a social environment where exposing people to undesired opinions or information which they may find intellectually or emotionally challenging is mistaken for "telling them what to think", because everything is culturally-constructed and even empirical facts and logically sound arguments have no special validity or privileged position over what an individual holds to be true.

I believe it also ties in with the whole "positive thinking" movement (Thought determines reality rather than vice versa) - see Barbara Ehrenreit's "The Disempowerment of Positive Thinking" for more on this topic:

Smile or Die - The Disempowerment of Positive Thinking

...and probably also has to do with the Internet (people have greater ability to personalize their information so as to reinforce their confirmation bias).

The results I perceive are social phenomena like young people being unable to receive criticism gracefully...

The Why-Worry Generation

...and the general rejection of contradictory information in society (IE, the average American's stance on, say, evolution or global warming).

Any thoughts?
"So given that we all agree that the world is warming, would it be unlikely to have heat waves outpace cold fronts by 3:1? Where's the Gotcha! in that?" - Fred Smith
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby finley » 27 May 2012, 16:44

Personally I think state education is designed to churn out lots of compliant idiots who have no choice but to suckle at the flaccid teat of government. It can't be THIS difficult to teach kids how to get through life without accidentally killing themselves while tying their shoelaces.

Us humans aren't as far removed as we like to think from our chimp-like, ass-scratching, lice-munching heritage. That includes the people who make the rules. If one doesn't like the doltish behaviour of the masses, then one is at least free (in this country and a few others) to make one's own path, and to educate your kids as you see fit. You'll have an almighty struggle with lice-munching government drones, but at least you won't be locked up and tortured. There are also a few countries where the government doesn't really care what religious fundamentalists think about birthdays or dinosaurs, so one also has the option to vote with one's feet.
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby MikeN » 27 May 2012, 17:16

Good news for Taiwan: thanks to Christian Creationists, Korean schools are opting for stupidity

http://www.koreabang.com/2012/stories/e ... books.html
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby Vay » 01 Jun 2012, 23:37

finley wrote:Personally I think state education is designed to churn out lots of compliant idiots who have no choice but to suckle at the flaccid teat of government. It can't be THIS difficult to teach kids how to get through life without accidentally killing themselves while tying their shoelaces.

Us humans aren't as far removed as we like to think from our chimp-like, ass-scratching, lice-munching heritage. That includes the people who make the rules. If one doesn't like the doltish behaviour of the masses, then one is at least free (in this country and a few others) to make one's own path, and to educate your kids as you see fit. You'll have an almighty struggle with lice-munching government drones, but at least you won't be locked up and tortured. There are also a few countries where the government doesn't really care what religious fundamentalists think about birthdays or dinosaurs, so one also has the option to vote with one's feet.


I don't know - the usual libertarian-ish critique of public education is that they're trying to create conformist drones - here it seems they're taking the direct opposite approach... suddenly students exist in a world where the law of non-contradiction does not exist!
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby TheGingerMan » 03 Jun 2012, 18:47

finley wrote:Personally I think state education is designed to churn out lots of compliant idiots who have no choice but to suckle at the flaccid teat of government. It can't be THIS difficult to teach kids how to get through life without accidentally killing themselves while tying their shoelaces.

Us humans aren't as far removed as we like to think from our chimp-like, ass-scratching, lice-munching heritage. That includes the people who make the rules. If one doesn't like the doltish behaviour of the masses, then one is at least free (in this country and a few others) to make one's own path, and to educate your kids as you see fit. You'll have an almighty struggle with lice-munching government drones, but at least you won't be locked up and tortured. There are also a few countries where the government doesn't really care what religious fundamentalists think about birthdays or dinosaurs, so one also has the option to vote with one's feet.

Pure wisdom!
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby Teddoman » 04 Jun 2012, 00:47

I'm not sure test taking is the right place to grind an axe about people's inability to comprehend other viewpoints. There are a lot of legit reasons for keeping tests neutral. I remember an SAT question with a question about yachts, and I was like, WTF? Why would anyone put a question on a standardized test that only higher income people would have prior exposure to? As if poor people don't have enough hurdles to climb in life, much less standardized tests stacked against them.

That said, I don't have any answers on why people are dumb and can't handle conflicting points of view. There is definitely a lack of mental dexterity in the population but I don't necessarily think this is a new thing. If anything, the majority of the population of the world has always tended to be overly dogmatic. Even highly educated people can be extremely dogmatic about their views and have very little capacity to see the other side with an honest desire to see the truth in the other side's point of view. Honestly taking in the other side's point of view is a trained skill, and most people have never received (nor wanted to receive) this type of training. A book that really helped me on this when I was young was called On Dialogue, by David Bohm. And taking criticism is just a general skill that the vast majority of the world is really horrible at. It's nothing new. It must be human nature to think highly of oneself, and criticism by nature impedes this illusion we all hold about ourselves. So most of us suck at taking criticism.

Vay wrote:The reason I labeled this "post-modern social constructionists run amok" is because this is my admittedly vaguely-formed hypothesis as to why things like this are happening... IE, the radical skepticism of Post Modernism has cultivated a social environment where exposing people to undesired opinions or information which they may find intellectually or emotionally challenging is mistaken for "telling them what to think", because everything is culturally-constructed and even empirical facts and logically sound arguments have no special validity or privileged position over what an individual holds to be true.

That's a very interesting way of thinking of it. Never would have put it together like that.

But in practice, who are the people who can't handle other opinions? With warming, is it the "warming is real" side or the "warming isn't real" side? Because your concept only really works if it's the liberals who are the deniers. As only the liberals would subscribe to post modern relativism like this. No?
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby Vay » 04 Jun 2012, 03:57

Teddoman wrote:But in practice, who are the people who can't handle other opinions? With warming, is it the "warming is real" side or the "warming isn't real" side? Because your concept only really works if it's the liberals who are the deniers. As only the liberals would subscribe to post modern relativism like this. No?


Hi Teddoman - you made a lot of good points, but for now at least I'm just going to respond to this one. Regarding liberals and their error regarding warming, I really think this Doonesbury kinda sums it up:

Image

In the media, this translates to giving both sides equal representation as opposed to giving them appropriate representation. I realize it's more complicated than just that - with the rise of Internet media, there's no budget for extensive fact-checking, journalists don't get the respect as professionals (nor are they held to the code of professionalism) as they used to and so on. (On this topic, I recommend Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload.)

But as for where the conservatives go wrong, frankly their problem is a lot more serious. Research has shown that on science/tech issues where liberals are likely to be ideologically biased (such as GMO's or nuclear power), their bias decreases as they are better educated, whereas with conservative, their bias actually increases with education!

The Republican Brain: Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science -- and Reality

The title is a tad lame and not entirely representative of the content, which is worth a read. Basically, ideology-driven confirmation bias seems to get a stronger grip on conservatives with increased education, whereas the reverse is true with liberals. Reminds me of Michael Shermer: "Smart people believe weird things because they are better adept at justifying things they came to believe for non-smart reasons."

Incidentally, here's a more recent study with similar findings:
Once again, with feeling: More science will not cure climate skepticism
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby superking » 04 Jun 2012, 04:28

If the world is purely socially constructed why should one care about what anyone else thinks? We are all right in our own minds and wrong in everyone else's. If there is no absolute reality, why bother to care about it?

Education exists so that we don't cut our hands off doing something stupid which will cause our rich overlords to either replace us, or God forbid, have to compensate us. Insurance provides leverage as some people are simply too dumb to educate to even a functioning level. It doesn't matter too much what you teach kids at school as long as they can read and write by the end of it. We learnt about the Tudors, and the battle of Hastings. I haven't built myself a house made of wood or taken up archery or tableaux weaving. Kids believe in fairies and all sorts of stupid shit, I doubt not telling them about dinosaurs or evolution will prevent the curious ones from finding out about them for themselves. The stuff I was taught about dinosaurs at school was practically all wrong, if you look at what is believed now. What is known about dinosaurs is all made up stuff anyway. It's like me telling you what a car is constructed of based on a cotton bud I found behind the sofa. And evolution is all pretty well made up too. It's a nice theory, and lots of things fit into the pattern, but it is still a guess. Could survival of the fittest be reconsidered as, 'mutation of the sickest?' Dunno. Maybe. The planet seems to want to keep making things that move about. Evolution still seems to smack too much of order or purpose, whereas life really could just be seen as a functioning morass which exists in whatever way it so happens to throw itself about. I wouldn't worry too much about what kids are or are not taught in schools. They probably aren't listening, and most of it is rubbish in the first place. :D Plus even if we do become functioning, intelligent, open minded individuals we still believe nonsense.

I don't have a point. Just chucking some thoughts out there.
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 04 Jun 2012, 08:34

Vay wrote:
finley wrote:Personally I think state education is designed to churn out lots of compliant idiots who have no choice but to suckle at the flaccid teat of government. It can't be THIS difficult to teach kids how to get through life without accidentally killing themselves while tying their shoelaces.

Us humans aren't as far removed as we like to think from our chimp-like, ass-scratching, lice-munching heritage. That includes the people who make the rules. If one doesn't like the doltish behaviour of the masses, then one is at least free (in this country and a few others) to make one's own path, and to educate your kids as you see fit. You'll have an almighty struggle with lice-munching government drones, but at least you won't be locked up and tortured. There are also a few countries where the government doesn't really care what religious fundamentalists think about birthdays or dinosaurs, so one also has the option to vote with one's feet.


I don't know - the usual libertarian-ish critique of public education is that they're trying to create conformist drones - here it seems they're taking the direct opposite approach... suddenly students exist in a world where the law of non-contradiction does not exist!


There are two points though. Firstly, they don't actually exist in a value-free vacuum. The things that everyone rails against, the old things supposedly labelled as dogmas (some are in fact dogmas), have simply been replaced by new dogmas. Two of the big ones these days are what I label soft-environmentalism and soft-multiculturalism. I call them soft because people believe them without necessarily actually knowing anything about them. The average person who believes in global warming probably can't even explain the carbon cycle (the average person who doesn't believe in global warming probably can't either, but that's not a point against my argument). Likewise, the average person who believes in multiculturalism probably can't even find Pakistan on a map, much less actually tell you anything about the culture(s) there, or even their own culture. Yet they know that all these cultures are equally valid and should be accommodated. How? Why? That's not to say that environmentalism or multiculturalism are actually wrong. It's simply that people believe them as dogma without being able to make any kind of informed decision about them. The people on the opposite side of the aisle are often just as ignorant. People who complain about foreigners (and their cultures) usually don't do so from a position of having read Cicero or Hume, and holding the Western tradition in higher esteem, or from really understanding the magnitude of the industrial and scientific revolutions that occurred in the West.

The second point is that this actually does create conformist drones because people have no higher critical capacity to resist those who would manipulate them. Whether it's a political, cultural, or commercial agenda, these people are then very easy pickings. Because truth has gone out the window, all that remains is an appeal to instinct, emotion, etc. Membership of the group becomes extremely important under those circumstances.
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This post was recommended by Vay (04 Jun 2012, 16:23)
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Re: Post-modern social constructionists run amok: dinosaurs, birthdays, evolution banned on school tests

Postby Vay » 05 Jun 2012, 03:50

This just popped up on FB and had to share, as it is tangentially-relevant, short and interesting:

Andrew Cohen: The Epidemic of Narcissism

...and if you want a MUCH longer but excellent backstory on this claim:

The Century of the Self

Image
"So given that we all agree that the world is warming, would it be unlikely to have heat waves outpace cold fronts by 3:1? Where's the Gotcha! in that?" - Fred Smith
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