Many people these days are aware of problems with schools. It’s an extremely complex issue with no easy answer. So I’m not proposing anything or trying to make any kind of grand sweeping generalization, or claiming I know how to fix the problems. But I want to share with you a personal example of a deficiency in my education (through no fault of my own).
I always paid attention in history class (or at the very least read all the assigned reading and did all the assigned work). So while I may not be a history whiz, I should at least know some of the basics, right?
Today I was on wikipedia reading about the Industrial Revolution. I’ve heard the term before, but we never covered it in school. Someone may have mentioned it in passing, but I really knew nothing about it until I started reading about it today. In the opening paragraph, it states “Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.”
As I learned more about the Industrial Revolution, I began to see that this statement about the importance of the Industrial Revolution is not an exaggeration. Every single one of us lives the way we do because of what happened during the Industrial Revolution. I learned about economic growth. Mechanization. Worker exploitation. Labor unions. Collective bargaining. These things are huge. They matter, in a very direct and real sense. I’ve only skimmed the surface but now I at least have a foundation of knowledge about that subject. So many things in our every day lives are a direct result of global changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution, and having now learned the basics of it, I have a much better understanding of the world.
So what’s my point? Well, we’ve already talked about how we’re autodidacts. I just want to continue the conversation. There is so much to learn out there about the universe we live in. The more you learn, the more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that comprises our reality fit into place. Let your curiosity guide you. And know that there’s always so much more to be learned. You just have to teach it to yourself. It’s empowering.
EDIT 2011-10-16: The following videos about the future of education and how it can be changed for the better are both inspiring and jarring:
Both videos are TED talks regarding the current state of and the future of the educational system. In the first video, Salman Kahn (of Kahn Academy fame) talks about how he has begun working with schools to revolutionize teaching. The second video, which is a bit more bleak, has Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame) talking about the consequences of the budget cuts to education as well as the possibilities for fixing the problems.
I was compelled to share a noteworthy excerpt from the podcast The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe, which if you’ve never heard of it before, I highly recommend you give it a listen because it’s one of the best podcasts out there, especially in the areas of skepticism and science. I want to bring to your attention an excerpt from episode #292 – Feb 16 2011. Steven Novella is host of the podcast and in my opinion is one of the most intelligent, cogent, and savvy experts in the skeptical community. In this excerpt he responds to someone espousing an anti-science viewpoint.
The most substantive and powerful part is when Steven Novella says that in responding to people who say things like “We don’t need science to tell us what to believe,” Steven Novella says to them “What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”
Of course, there is no way someone can respond to that in any kind of intelligent way while still maintaining their anti-science viewpoint. Thank you, Steven Novella, for fighting the good fight, and being so on point. Definitely quote-worthy material here.
Here’s the quiz: http://pewresearch.org/sciencequiz/quiz/
Here’s the article: http://pewresearch.org/sciencequiz/
Here’s an open letter I wrote to the Physical Sciences department at Santa Monica College. I was enraged but I managed to refrain from dropping F bombs all over their asses. Make sure you watch the video; just be ready for a cold shower because you’re blood is going to boil.
I’m compelled to bring to your attention an upsetting matter: Bear with me for just a moment. “The Story Of Stuff” ( storyofstuff.com ) is a so-called documentary that expresses the all-too-familiar opinion that capitalism and America are evil. It purports to explain the chain of production and it’s effects on the environment, but it also spills over into the the arena of politics and economics. It makes so many arguable statements, exaggerations, and even outright falsehoods that one could spend hours discussing all the misinformation it contains.
This is not new. Having graduated from college, I am accustomed to having liberal arts professors use their classrooms as podiums to spout their political and social opinions. What is the shocking news here? This video, “The Story Of Stuff,” is part of the required coursework in a college biology class! This is a perversion of an institution of higher learning. This video does not belong in a biology course! This professor should not be allowed to get away with this.
Los Angeles, CA
P.S. Here are the specifics on the class.
School: Santa Monica College (Santa Monica, CA)
Course: BIOL 2, Human Biology
Instructor: Jacki L. Houghton
Term: Fall 2009
I’m not deluding myself into thinking that anything will be done about this. It just depresses me that even science, which I thought was the last bastion of critical thinking left in colleges, is polluted with vile indoctrination. Et tu, Brute?