Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Government mandated stupidity.

If you were in charge of your society, not just an elected representative but really and truly in charge, to the point that you could really make things happen and you wanted to implement something really stupid, what would you do?

You might implement a heavily funded program to support the arts... with the stipulation that none of the artists use or appeal to the senses. No visual arts, no music or song or performances, no sculpture or literature or brail. Effectively you would pay huge grants to artists and maybe the odd philosopher to sit in a dark closet and silently think about art.

Not your style eh?

What about funding a scientific research body... with the stipulation that none of the inquiry deal with the universe, anything in the universe, evidence, observation, oh - and by the way - no published results and no peer review. The creationist would like that one.

No hun?

What about creating an education system... wait for it... that included the stipulation that reasoning skills, basic informal logic should not be taught. No courses on what sophistries and fallacies are, no information about how good arguments are constructed, how to criticize an argument; you know, the basic foundation of a genuine education. (In a genuine education, you learn to read, you learn to multiply, you learn to reason right?)

Is that stupid enough for you?

I went through the public school system in Canada and I learned to read; I pursued an interest in science, world issues, etc. I was taught some grammar (not enough) and some spelling (even less). I took the mandatory shop classes and "life skills" courses. I thought I got a fairly good deal.

Then one day, while flunking out of University, I was killing time in one of the libraries when something awful happened. I found a book about informal logic. It was called The Way of Words. It showed me that one of the cornerstones of an education, something that should have been taught to me years ago had been withheld. I learned that the garbage fed to me by politicians, fundamentalist clergy, activists, newspaper editors and all manner of other low-lives was not just random bullshit, but a complicated knot of bad arguments, sophisticated misdirection and blazing stupidity. In a world with so many important issues, why had I never been taught reason and logic? Why had I been given the impression that skepticism was the same as closed mindedness?

I e-mailed my government and received no response. I asked people about this and they shrugged as if I was asking what causes ear hair. Most schools in North America don't teach basic logic. There seems to be no reason for reason in our world. How can I expect that people would understand such concepts as productivity when they can't understand why an ad hominem attack is not a convincing argument? How can I expect anything from a civilization that believes that sex "education" should not mention sex, tell kids not to do anything and tell them lies such as "masturbation causes pregnancy"?

It is Feb 8th, 2005 today. I am giving humanity 30 more years to shape the hell up. By Feb 8th, 2035 I had better see some improvement in this species or I release my doomsday device. Don't test me. The clock is ticking!

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