How To Teach Good Skeptical Thought Habits?

Added on by PS Cat02.
cat_kim_mailbag.jpg

Posted by Kim.

I wouldn't call myself a bookworm but I do love popular science books by people like Stephen Jay Gould or Carl Sagan. By the way, here's a nice quote by Carl Sagan:

"The business of scepticism is to be dangerous. Scepticism challenges established institutions. If we teach everybody, including, say, high school students, habits of sceptical thought, they will probably not restrict their skepticism to UFOs, aspirin commercials, and 35,000-year-old channelees. Maybe they'll start asking awkward questions about economic, or social, or political, or religious institutions. Perhaps they'll challenge the opinions of those in power. Then where would we be?"

I thought about this for a while, and I wonder: Do you think high schools are spending enough time teaching young people how to use methodologies of skepticism? I never went to human beings school so I don't know for a fact if they do or they don't. But judging what I read in the op-ed sections of newspapers I am going to go out on a limb and guess that they're not doing a good job with this. - Kim

cat_bunny_mailbag.jpg

[ note from Bunny: I think you're misreading the quote. I think Sagan is implying that high schools were never intended to cultivate skepticism in students. ]

cat_kim_mailbag.jpg

[ Kim: Oh. Okay, I guess I can accept that reading. But don't you think it'd be great if high schools could be changed to do this? ]

cat_daisy.jpg

[ Daisy: Schools don't exist to teach people how to be "dangerous"; their primary function is to train young people to live their lives within the limits of state policies. Anything beyond that is variously defined as failing, substandard, non-compliant, illegitimate, abnormal, deviant, degenerate, suspect, dangerous, at-risk, criminal. Take, for example, the recent (February 2008) ruling in California's Second Court of Appeals regarding home schooling. The court ruled that education is only valid when a child is being taught by a credentialed teacher. Parents, or any other persons for that matter, who attempt to teach children without a state-issued teaching credential, will be subject to prosecution. Most parents who home school their own children do not have teaching credentials - which means that under California law these children should be classified as truants and in some cases even removed from their parents' custody (under the guise of "educational neglect"). Some parents have been very vocal in protesting what they see as a violation of their right to home school their kids, but to me the implications are much more far-reaching. Basically the state is trying to claim that only they have the power to define what education is. Under this kind of logic, neither Einstein nor Jesus would have been qualified to teach children (I'm assuming neither ever held a California State teaching license). In fact, they would've been punished had they tried to impersonate "real teachers." ]

cat_kim_mailbag.jpg

[ Kim: O hai Daisy! ]

cat_daisy.jpg

[ Daisy: Hi. ]

cat_bunny_mailbag.jpg

[ Bunny: Hey Daisy, two questions. Number one, how did the teachers union respond to the court ruling? Number two: Are you opposed to all forms of schooling? ]

cat_daisy.jpg

[ Daisy: The largest teachers union in California lauded the decision. Second question: No. ]

cat_bunny_mailbag.jpg

[ Bunny: ...? Why 'no'? Can you elaborate? ]

cat_daisy.jpg

[ Daisy: I'm not anti-school. To me a school is just a building, a place. What I object to are unimaginative and limited conceptions of what constitutes schooling (i.e., 'formal education'). When most people say schooling, what they really mean is mind-numbing training. Dogs need training. Human beings need intellectual, ethical, cultural, and spiritual development; none of which happens as a result of being trained. If schools could be remade into authentic places of learning rather than training-buildings, I would be supportive. But at that point, we might as well call them something other than "schools." ]

cat_pinky.jpg

[ Pinky: Hi you guys. Here's a quote from the judge that presided over the process, Justice H. Walter Croskey:

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

So I think it's pretty clear that our conception of 'public welfare' and Justice Croskey's are built on fundamentally different values and assumptions... And just to be clear, Daisy, don't you think there are also many home schooling parents that are also guilty of confusing learning with training? ]

cat_daisy.jpg

[ Daisy: Yes. ]