Comment: Education is neither fact nor lie. It's a quest.

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Education is neither fact nor lie. It's a quest.

I think the poster below me really gets to the crux of the sort of disagreement we're having here with the idea of the relativity of right and wrong.

Education isn't so much about facts and lies; education is about a quest toward what is more right than we were before.

Your first point about math is a good start. Two doesn't mean anything but the symbol we decided as a shorthand for one thing and another thing. Two plus two just equals four because that's the definitions we put on those actual numbers of things or the concepts of the actual numbers of things. Like "elephant" means a big grayish mammal with a trunk and ears that radiate heat. The equation is true because it is only really a symbolic expression of tally marks. It can't be a lie. Doesn't mean someone can't call it a lie. They can refuse to participate in holding in common symbolic expression for more efficiency. They can even call it "collectivism" to participate in a collective symbology.

Science is by its very nature a quest. Any scientist who claims to have it all figured out is going to wake up the next day with a loaded inbox. I've certainly seen a vibe in many science books that goes too far in this direction, in my opinion. My take on it is that the textbook editors are trying to make it all seem easier than it is. I think they do a disservice to kids because that vibe removes the exciting parts -- the unknowns, the quest. I'd love to see half of those sidebars devoted to what we don't know and alternative theories that may be in the hinterlands of science today.

On the global warming issue, I'll just relate an experience from last week. I was subbing for my son's science teacher just for one class. He had a video on global warming playing when I came in. We all watched and it was clearly pronouncing global warming a human caused trend. My son had told me that this teacher was teaching along these lines. The video was over before the class ended, so I asked for a show of hands. Three students believed global warming was primarily human caused. Two believe it was definitely not human caused. The majority of the kids said they weren't sure. I asked a couple of them to tell us why they weren't sure. They said things like, "I hear conflicting evidence", "I've heard experts on both sides", and "I just can't make up my mind." This class of eighth graders was not being lied to by their teacher or taught to buy that authority's line. The teacher had a point of view; he stated it; he taught it. I assume that he assumes he's not the only data point in his students' education. My son says they've had a bit of classroom debate on the subject.

I wonder if these folks who call such stuff lies are just fearful of their own -- and by extension, everyone else's -- lack of critical thinking. If eighth graders, who have been in the public school system for the whole ride, can do it without blinking an eye, I'm pretty certain it's not a big threat. I'm pretty certain they learned a lot about the basis and expertise of the climate scientists who agree that global warming is largely human caused. They should. The process of doing so can only make it easier to understand and test counter arguments. Learning is incremental. And to learn one way of thinking is the absolute opposite of brainwashing.

History, again the facts of what happened when and who did it are pretty banal, at least once you get into the printing press age. The tricky bits are about why and what were the results. There's no reason to believe that knowing the what/when/who hurts your ability to re-investigate the why/results. In fact, you kinda better learn the former. Knowing one version of the why/results in no way precludes you from coming to believe alternative whys and results. I would argue that it whets the appetite. Again, what some here call brainwashing, I argue is learning one way of thinking. It's pretty smart to understand the conventional approach to a historical event before you go off believing some alternative history.

I would just add that history, like most fields of inquiry, isn't some static thing. We take different lessons and interpret events differently, partly, depending on what we are most interested in and in need of understanding in our current cultural milieu. The textbooks thirty years ago may have been more about kings and lords and dates, while the textbooks today attempt to include more information about the everyday life of everyday people. It's not some set of facts or lies. Again, it's a quest for deeper understanding of what came before.

On your other question, I can only speak to economics. I took a minor and was taught, as near as I can remember, a pretty straight Keynesian approach. I never did anything more with this minor or my interest. Never read a jot of tittle about Austrian economics. But when I was watching the Rep. debates last year and the candidates I liked kept getting crossed off my list and I finally had to research Paul, I tackled one of his off-the-reservation economic ideas first. Despite that I had only been "brainwashed" in my economics classes, I was able, in short order, to get what he was saying, adjust my thinking and within a few hours of research completely change my mind. I doubt I could have done that so quickly if I hadn't had that basis of what others call brainwashing.

A good education is available everywhere. Even in some of our country's worst schools. Even amid simplistic textbooks and from biased teachers and groupthink, which is part of human nature, not somebody else's agenda, and rears its head everywhere -- even on the DP.

It's not about right and wrong. Education is a quest. The minute you think you've got it all figure out, you know you've settled. There will always be unknown falsehoods and unknowable truths. The process of education in a slow grind toward diminishing both.