Saturday, May 17, 2008

The apple falls not far...

...a.k.a. follow-ups to the articles featured in these two posts. Emphasis in texts below is mine.

First, a response to the book review about "The Dumbest Generation." Writes Ethan H. in Glen Cove, NY:

...I am a recent college grad with a degree in philosophy, so I think I can offer an alternative reason besides temptation as to why my generation no longer studies the deeper question.

Unlike most of my generation, I actually read Kant when I went to college. I also read Hume, Descartes, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Adorno, Benjamin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Emerson, Goethe, Marx, Parfit, Hemingway and Strauss en route to a B.A. in philosophy. I chose this major because I couldn't resist the lure of a "concerted study in the canonical texts" and of studying "deeper questions" in life and nature.

But what do I get for being a proud member of the "intellectual minority" of my generation? Long and stressful periods of unemployment and social alienation.

...We didn't neglect to study the "deeper questions" because we were somehow too busy distracting ourselves on Facebook, MySpace, GTA IV, Halo 3, or the Internet.

Too many of us realized that if we want to become adults in this society by getting a job and moving out, then a degree in the liberal arts isn't going to cut it. I learned this the hard way....post-graduate employment is unreasonably competitive, and if you aren't a finance or business management major and you are in the fight for a job in Manhattan, then be prepared for a career in waiting tables.

...[M]y generation's ignorance of Kant might seem shallow and distastefully arrogant, but it's important to realize that this comes as a rational response to societal pressures rather than from mere temptation. People who ask "deep questions" in school become ostracized and tread upon after they graduate.

Sounds like anti-intellectualism. Now what did I just read about the reasons America is falling behind in many areas of education? Here's a refreshing antidote, from Doug C. in Port Orchard, WA (who had been featured in the article): [I like that last phrase of the first paragraph. Disturbing to whom, I might ask? Why don't we have a nice debate about the evidence for Darwin's theory-cum-hypothesis?]

Your article...claims that I would "like a legal guarantee [so I] can teach as I see fit." Actually, I believe in teaching the prescribed curriculum, and I do so. But I don't think a teacher should be penalized for exploring required topics in greater depth, especially in cases where scientists have different views. One should have the freedom to pursue and teach all the evidence even if it leads to disturbing conclusions.

I teach students the evidence both for and against Darwin's theory, with the goal of fostering critical thinking, allowing them to arrive at informed conclusions. The core of evidence I teach that supports evolution is derived from fossil succession, anatomical and molecular homologies, natural selection-mutation, embryology, artificial selection and real-time observations from microbes and sickle-cell disease.

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