Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are Most Humans Beings Educable?

Certainly a great deal of human misery could be prevented if people could be taught to think more deeply and effectively. But is the common failure to do so a consequence of a lack of education as many suppose?

Perhaps,the real culprit is a widespread lack of capacity and/or inclination for learning. After all, in order for education to be a cure — much less a cure-all — for what ails the human condition the majority of humans must be capable of sufficient reason and understanding to be improved by that means. Plus, they must willing.

Suppose this is not the case? Suppose a great many humans, possibly even most humans, are not truly educable in any deep and abiding sense?

Is such speculation excessive? Perhaps it is; but consider the long-standing popularity of P.T. Barnum’s observation that “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Ponder also the durability of H.L. Mencken’s dictum that “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Perhaps these and many similar observations are so durable because they are deeply rooted in reality.

This line of reasoning is heretical to those accustomed to the obligatory optimism that is so current regarding schooling. Nevertheless, there is evidence to support this more pessimistic view.

Consider, for example, that most Americans are more interested in how Michael Jackson died than the fact that we are are blithely destroying our own habitat, increasing our population at an unsustainable rate, and heating the globe to a potentially catastrophic level.

What are we to make of widespread indifference in the face of mortal threats to our very survival? Are they merely the result of inadequate education? Maybe so. But what if a very substantial number of humans, perhaps even a majority, are not educable?

Such folks are not necessarily stupid — though we shouldn't join the politicians in pretending stupid people don't exist. No,uneducable people may be too scared, mentally or physically ill, lazy, angry, or what have, to think deeply and effectively. Such people can only be trained.

What proportion of the population fits this description? Is it, say 10%? (According to the US Department of Education, this is the approximate total population prevalence rate of Americans who qualify for special education.) Is it really higher than that? You decide.

To examine these and similar issues further, see articles at www.newfoundations.com

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