Thursday, December 22, 2022

THE DISCOMFORT OF THOUGHT vs THE COMFORT OF CERTAINTY


GALILEO FACES THE INQUISITION

 There is an essential tension between the risks of thought and the comforts of certainty. The comfortably certain sense that the glue that holds their world together is soluble when immersed in inquiry. So, whenever possible, they wipe out that threat by stifling the search and muzzling, even murdering, the thinker.

Here's one of thousands of examples: In 1615 “His Holiness and the Most Eminent Lords, Cardinals of this Supreme and Universal Inquisition” declared that Galileo has “rendered (himself) vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy.” We command him “to abjure, curse and detest the said error and heresies in our presence.” 

 Galileo's 'crimes' were:
 
 1. “Making the proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures.”

 2. “Making the proposition that the earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, theologically considered, at least erroneous of faith.” 

 Wielding the authority of their offices, the Pope and the Lords of the Inquisition determined that when Galileo abandoned the scriptures and heeded his own observations he strayed from truth into error, from virtue into vice, and from morality into immorality. Hence the Holy Inquisition determined that Galileo’s thought and resultant findings were “unlawful” as well as “disordered and immoderate.” 

Galileo's findings were neither "disordered" nor "immoderate." He was 100% right when he "abandoned the scriptures and heeded his own observation." But it took the Roman Catholic Church 359 years to admit that. That's quite a while.

 This is no isolated instance. History is crammed with example after example of established authority declaring that the results of thought and evidence were “disordered and immoderate. It happened whenever it discomforted them or threatened their interests. 

Consider, for instance, a few of the many vital medical discoveries that were initially regarded as disordered and immoderate by the established authorities of the day:
 
• Dissecting and studying the structures and functions of the human body 
 • Inoculation 
 • Vaccination 
 • The germ theory of disease 
 • Anesthesia 

In thousands of similar instances the prevailing authorities tried their very best to wipe out unwelcome thoughts and resultant conclusions. In short anything that disturbed contemporary ignorance and threatened established authority. 

We still have that today. Only nowadays it includes not only right wingers by leftist so-called professors. Disagree with these academic thought police, disturb their self-righteousness, and you are immediately branded a racist, fascist, male chauvinist pig, ad nauseam. Your arguments and facts might be totally accurate. Nevertheless, an academic inquisition, composed of right-thinking 'scholars' and their administrative bedfellows (Uniformly desperate to keep the tuition flowing.) will likely find you guilty as charged.  

What will become of American democracy should these contemporary thought police, composed both of dogmatists on the right and the left, actually succeed in stifling, even banning, thought? George Orwell describes it this way. "A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting — three hundred million people all with the same face." 

Is that what we want? 

 For similar considerations see www.newfoundations.com 

Monday, December 19, 2022

HOW MULTICULTURAL SHOULD OUR SCHOOLS BE?


ABOUT TO BE KILLED FOR "CRIMES AGAINST GOD"

Immigrant children are flowing into our schools from all over the globe. And they bring with them a bewildering, often conflicting, variety of cultural beliefs and practices. Teachers have to deal with a new, multi-cultural America that is struggling to life in their classrooms generating multiple problems and unique opportunities. 

What help do front-line teachers receive in the face of this? Often little more than warm, fuzzy slogans issued by administrators who are safe in the rear. These rear echelon commandos generate simple-minded slogans in which conflicted polyglot schools are magically transformed into multicultural rainbows where “You can be you and I can be me.” Would that it were that simple. 

Why can’t our public schools be happy multicultural rainbows? For one thing, because the cultural values brought into the schoolhouse often are at odds with one another. For another, they are often incompatible with core American values. Take, for crucial instance, the very tolerance that makes multiculturalism possible. It can be totally at odds with many cultures of origin. 

Consider Iran, for instance. Their theocracy lives and breaths intolerance. It publicly hangs citizens for "crimes against God." (That essentially means discomforting the clerical establishment.) They also mercilessly persecute the entire LBTG community. Then there's the Afghan Taliban who just banned females from any schooling beyond the 6th grade. Does any of this dovetail with schools that are multicultural rainbows? Does any of this fit the fabric of American democracy?

Remember too, some cultures define themselves in terms of animosity or distain for others. The antagonism between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, Afghanistan's Hazzara and Pashtun, or Catholics and Protestants in Ulster comes to mind. Or how about Hindus who regard some of their fellow Indians as so repulsive as to be literally untouchable.  How does any of this fit in a cultural rainbow?  

Apparently, the most enthusiastic advocates of multicultural education have rarely thought about such things. In fact, they don't seem to think very much at all. For them, multiculturalism is a topic for emoting, not thinking. 

 No doubt aspects of an immigrant's native culture can, often do, make a valuable contribution to American culture. Our way of life has been enriched in that way many times over. But the fact remains that some foreign cultural practices are totally at odds with a tolerance and a,democratic way of life. If, for example, we value free and unfettered expression, or if we think that women’s rights should equal those of men, the native cultures of many immigrants stand in stern opposition. 

Remember too, lots of immigrant children do not want to be defined by their parent’s native culture. They long to escape those confines and join mainstream America. Should educators help that happen? Or should they join forces with their parents to keep these kids in the old-world fold?   

 The core reality of all of this is that multicultural education is much more problematic than its evangelists would have us believe. Any careful consideration of multi-culturalism inevitably turns from simple-minded tolerance to thoughtful reflection. That, not the current pablum about multicultural rainbows, must guide educational practice and school policy. Otherwise frontline teachers are left twisting slowly in the wind.

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