TBYN – Book 3: Where news fits in society
The fabric of society is woven, one thread at a time, by each individual who learns what matters and why. The discussion about the fabric of society examines lessons often overlooked in today’s schooling:
- What can I know?
- How should I behave?
- How should I interact with others?
Individuals who grasp why give testament to their individuality, not to public schooling or social studies classes. Centralized schooling has come to exhibit supreme disinterest in history, principle, or the individual. Such schooling pursues a different agenda of over-simplification cloaked in complex lessons of peripheral value.
History is a teaming sea of experience that cultures can put to the highest or lowest uses. Because history can be compromised, one must carefully extract life lessons to live by.
Today’s lack of moral seriousness is a defect that puts us at risk. Lack of moral seriousness occurs when people assume morality can only spring from religion or from shared cultural experience. That kind of morality may work in a closed community, but gains no traction outside a small circle of believers.
The world is engaged, not in a clash of civilizations, and not even a clash of cultures, but with people who lack understanding about society with others. “Others” may be close friends and neighbors, or foreigners far away. When people differ, we must understand how they differ, pursue where to find society together, and be prepared to defend ourselves if necessary.
When individuals are nudged to deduce from their unique personal experience what matters and why, each personally revalidates what is called “character”. Character should not be confused with officially approved social behavior.
When you master character, character masters you.
The points below address how to inoculate students to defend society with principles they revalidate for themselves. We don’t have the habit.
Students are eager to learn. Too bad they find little traction in many everyday lessons. It need not be that way. The themes offered fail to guide and motivate them although threads of wisdom run throughout patterns drawn from human experience.
“College and career ready” might seem a driving force for political adults, but students have more interest in dealing with the simple daily problems of living: what can I know, how should I behave, and how should I interact with others.
Philosophy used to deal with those questions, until schooling became the province of government. As noted earlier, Socrates was put to death in 399 BC by a democratic majority in Athens for daring to ask, “Does an education belong to the individual or to the government?” Does the majority get to decide simply because it is the majority? Or should education arm individuals to defend against intellectual assault from any quarter, including government and its scholastic view.
Too many in government decided to hobble students to make them “good citizens” where “good” is defined by elite officials. When not an individual accomplishment, but a social good, molding people to be docile and compliant falls short of education.
“College and career ready” is not enough. Absent proper society, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) leave graduates no secure environment in which to practice. If one wants to drive a car, it is easy to see why STEM is insufficient:
- If you study the history of cars — that in 1885 Karl Benz invented the motorcar or that the economics of cars — that Henry Ford’s division of labor made automobiles affordable even to his workforce, do you know enough to drive?
- If you study physics or chemistry of cars — that rapid oxidation of complex hydrocarbons releases energy against a piston, or study the language, math, or art of cars, do you know enough to drive?
- If you study teaching techniques — that graphic organizers and testing rubrics improve the success of studying cars — or critical thinking — that meta-cognitive strategies increase one’s understanding of cars, do you know enough to drive?
- At the end of the day — through layers of educators, administrators, certifications, mandated curricula, standardized testing, whole language learning, classroom directives, contract provisions, political correctness, and lunch menu restrictions, do you know enough to drive?
The car you need to learn to drive is you. Traditional courses like History, Economics, and Political Theory touch on those issues. But the question that gives traction to individuals and society is:
Can you recall an instance in your personal past experience when you thought you were correct and later discovered to your regret that you were mistaken?
Regardless of age, religion, culture, upbringing, or education, that question nudges one to engage in society with others.
Pushing extraneous material, authorities have squeezed out of the curriculum useful patterns of experience. Patterns help recognize when a “social good” is more likely government gone bad, legitimized by victims gulled to become a voting majority. Rather than learn the hazards of democracy, 2nd Graders learn by rote that democracy is good, majority rules, and democracy legitimizes government action. That is too convenient for government. In a time as politicized as ours, neither Leftists nor Rightists should indoctrinate children.
Present day teachers seldom object because colleges taught them how to teach, but not to revalidate what is taught. Weak curricula leave to chance what students need to know to plan their best future. As Dorothy Sayers, the 1930s mystery writer lectured medievalist said to Oxford University academics:
For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.
Teaching subjects alone has left us unable to recognize what schooling has become, and certainly unable to resist the darkening trend.
But all is not lost. Students develop character as they deduce behavior that is positive, instructive, and constructive. Practical wisdoms help us sort out where great thinkers made mistakes and to understand why, within the limits of their time, they might have done so. Traction comes from self-interest.
Proper education offers processes kids understand, admire, and wish to emulate in a deeper way.
Economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith said that we enter into society. In practice, when you master why you as an individual need society, it is society that enters into you. Individuals create society out of sheer need. Individuals created journalism to help them, and also created society. Journalism and society extend out from individuals like concentric circles.
Sometimes those creations contain flaws that mirror the flaws of individuals. Those flaws seem to pass almost unnoticed because people are not tuned to see such behavior as flawed. What is worthwhile for an individual is equally important to journalism and society. Skill developed to detect the patterns of bad journalistic habits helps detect similar misbehavior for individuals and society.
The relationship between society and culture is often obscured because society too often is confused with culture. Once people understand how society that underlies culture differs from culture, society’s simple elegance becomes clear. Multi-cultural confusion that creates a quagmire of moral relativism muddles society’s prospect for a process of peaceful problem resolution.
Focused on foreground activities alone, they overlook the background represents framework for society. Understanding society generates the courage to defend it against those who, resigned by their actions to living the law of the jungle, would destroy it.
Society is simple. Society is the edge where any two individuals or cultures meet. Society requires no religion, no shared experience, and no natural law.
Individuals need society because each person is alone in one’s own consciousness. Even people together are alone. You can’t hug someone close enough not to be alone inside your mind, unsure of what to trust, aided only by pattern recognition skills with which one was born and rationality developed over time.
Society can be built projecting forward, in an exercise like linking two ships sailing a storm-tossed sea.
One ship uses a messenger gun to send a thin light line between ships that the second ship uses to return a stronger line. The process is repeated using successively larger lines until the ships are lashed together.
A verbal “messenger line” is simple:
Can you recall an instance in your personal past experience when you thought you were correct and later discovered to your regret that you were mistaken?
The question plumbs personal experience to deduce insight into one’s process of thinking. Personal experience is not religious dogma, not natural law springing from culture, and not related to the experience of the questioner. An answer invariably leads one to conclude that thinking can be fallible. While not universal, that understanding might as well be. Sometimes you think you are right, not because you are right, but only because you think you are right.
Decisions are not based on reality, but on an abbreviated and incomplete mental map of reality. Self-interest requires one assure one’s mental map is as accurate as possible. Self-interest encourages engagement with others who also have come to doubt their own perfection. Society with others can help detect instances where one’s thinking may have gone astray. Self-interest encourages community.
That decision-making uses an abbreviated mental map of reality is an idea accessible across all cultural and religious boundaries. It fosters a compelling framework for civilization, a path to honorable decision-making, and creation of virtues. It helps people deduce that long-term interests are served by a character-centered life. Respect is directed inward toward ourselves and toward our treatment of others. Responsibility is directed outward toward friends, school, community, and world.
René Descartes ostensibly said, “I think therefore I am”, but he was really saying “I doubt, therefore I am.” Doubt and humility are complimentary. One who recognizes doubt becomes humble. Humility comes to those who recognize doubt. Doubt and humility provide compelling incentive to manufacture society with others.
Humility (or doubt) is an understanding that there may be a better way of doing things. Humility represents commitment to the continuous and repeating opportunity for improvement.
Respect (or reciprocity) is an understanding that others can be similarly engaged.
Ingenious creative thinking improves our odds of survival. From simple threads fashioned from humility and a shared sense of need, a sturdy fabric can be fashioned between individuals, independent of their cultures, to encourage a peaceful process of problem resolution. Manufacturing society lifts us slightly above the rest of the animal kingdom and the law of the jungle, to construct a protective umbrella using a process of peaceful problem resolution that others learn to trust and embrace in their self-interest as their own.
Self-interest is why individuals create society. Self-interest motivates learning. Self-interest motivates society with others.
Culture and society are different. Cultures form on top of society. Cultures are like the pile of a carpet, varying in color, shape, texture, length, thickness, and material, while society is like the warp and weft threads beneath the pile that hold the carpet together.
Without the warp and weft threads supporting the carpet, all that exists is a pile of pile. Nothing else holds the carpet together.
Students validate for themselves that humility and reciprocity are the warp and weft threads. They discover individually why the threads are worth defending. Absent society’s supporting threads citizens risk either serfdom or slavery.
Ethical bases are challenged today. Many don’t understand why one should be decent. Understanding the minimum requirements for society addresses why one should believe this or why one should do that. When interacting with others who do not share a culture’s background and beliefs, culture alone offers no such framework for interaction.
Individuals create ethics. Good reasons for being decent and honorable are deduced from personal experience. There is nothing more to ethics than that individuals matter. Morality springs from the minimum behavior required for society. Morality, or ethical behavior, is derived from:
- Humility—The possibility that one just might be wrong, and the humility that falls from that doubt.
- Reciprocity—The possibility that society with others similarly engaged can help.
The mechanism is kept honest by conversation with other individuals in society.
Ethical behavior and morality need not be rooted in religion or natural law. The foundations of religion and what cultures call eternal truths operate on top of the framework of society.
Among the things that distinguish humanity from others of the plant and animal kingdom are 1) the skill to communicate complex ideas to each other and 2) the potential to project the consequences of plans for the future. That leads to ethics. Those without such skills revert to the rules that nature requires and nothing more. Be human or be no more than an animal. The choice is individual.
Morality is purely a creation of thought. A seal that snips off the fins of a fish, leaving it a terrified, living, helpless toy to be batted around until boredom and hunger make it lunch, has no conception of good and evil. Good and evil don’t exist in the world of seals and fish outside the framework of morality. Life is simply the way things are.
People don’t sign up to be moral as if it were a contract. An individual does not so much explicitly subscribe to protection under the moral umbrella as reject it by an explicit anti-social act. An anti-social act as simple as lying or heinous as murder opens oneself to any response in the arsenal of the laws of nature we may choose to use. The perpetrator has chosen the battlefield, not us.
We, in turn, are subject to the laws of nature in our response. We need not reply using the standard of the moral umbrella the offender has rejected, although we may choose to do so. Astute pacifists and generals know war is a nasty place to be and should be avoided, if possible. But those of us who understand morality can defend by any means necessary. And one might survive or both might die. Nature does not care.
Not everyone will be convinced. No compelling reason in the laws of nature or mankind will irrefutably justify morality to any and all men.
One who chooses to act by the laws of lions need not even consent to listen to the arguments in favor of morality. He need not choose to heed anything but that which compels itself to be heard by the laws of nature, if even that.
People cannot be forced to join together under the protection of a moral umbrella. We can only encourage them to understand their long–term security depends upon it.
The evidence of writing is that humans acquired consciousness over time and not in a single cataclysmic event. Some acquired it, some did not, and, unbelievably, some cultures lost the skill. While there are a lot of things that consciousness is not, psychologist Julian Jaynes holds consciousness to be a very simple thing that includes:
- The idea of self and the possibility of self-reflection with which we can create a concept of ourselves, and
- A sense of time for the self we create.
Author Douglas Hofstadter suggests that the emergent phenomena of the brain—those are ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will—are based on a ‘strange loop’ that we have learned to call recursion: an interaction between the top level reaching back into the bottom level and influencing the thought process for succeeding iterations.
- C. Escher’s Print Gallery is a visual representation of the recursive process.
Print Gallery shows an individual seen through a gallery window looking at a print of a cityscape that has a person seen through a gallery window looking at a print of a cityscape . . . a description that cycles infinitely in a never-ending feedback loop.
Thinking as we have been talking about it — conscious thought — is acquired. Self-reference is acquired. Narratization — the “I will do this, then I will do that” — is acquired, reinforcing the concept of time, one’s place in time, and the concept of recursion. Narratization is what Lucy Calkins teaches successfully in her Columbia Teachers College Writing Workshop, even to students in Kindergarten.
Experience, process, pattern recognition, defensive rhetorical skills, practical experience are all dynamic tools one uses to make more accurate one’s mental map of reality the better to make decisions and the better to defend against what is destructive that people, including oneself, might propose.
Metaphors from experience motivate. Useful processes and experience can be mined from what has gone before. In the 1300s, Sociologist Ibn Khaldun, studying historiography, discovered in the flaws of earlier historians the need for humility. He emphasized Hegelian or Marxian dialectic — feedback loops — a process of continuous re-evaluation necessary because — and this is the keystone of wisdom — sometimes we think we are right simply because we think we are right.
Negotiating our way through life, we are interested in the simple daily problems of living such as dealing with people and dealing with the loops that we get into in our own minds. Loops that we have described happen every day in thought. It is positive insight not to blindly trust what we think simply because we are the ones who think a thought.
Character has been taught ineffectively across history.
In the 1700s, philosopher Immanuel Kant wondered, why it was that moral instruction accomplished so little. Yet, he observed, even little children understand that you should do a thing because it is right.
The challenge is to go beyond rewarding good behavior — which Kant recognized was ineffective — to do something which Socrates called not ‘teachable, like geometry,’ but teachable in a way, in order to produce not docile sheep but responsible, growing, inquiring citizens.
Fixed rules are incomplete.The Social Studies frameworks consider rules and law to be an enduring understanding. Confucius, 25 centuries ago, knew that approach to be a last refuge.
Confucius determined there were:
- Natural saints who intuitively knew the way to live.
- A larger group, to which he considered he belonged, could learn the way.
- The least capable group remaining required fixed rules of behavior he called laws or ritual.
Current school curricula plays to the last group, supporting order imposed rather than order individually understood and voluntarily applied.
Forcing obedience doesn’t teach character.Virtues like ‘respect’ and ‘obedience’ sometimes lead to the wrong result. Sometimes ‘respect’ is not deserved, as when authorities demand action that would be unethical and blind obedience would not be virtuous. ‘Obedience’ is important, until it comes into conflict with other virtues. If teaching only virtues leads to lack of character, there needs to be a better way.
Teaching vocabulary doesn’t teach character.Some suggest courses propose to teach vocabulary to learn to exercise judgment. Teaching the vocabulary of virtue may not develop character by any means other than chance. Learning virtues is different than developing virtue. To teach someone to ‘Be this way’ or ‘Be that way’ attempts to teach the result you want to achieve, absent the process to get there. Character isn’t promoted through character vocabulists plastering posters in public places:
- Loyalty – Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to those I serve. That is a platitude that masquerades as wisdom. Who are those served, and why should one commit to them? Commitment became a liability during the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
- Wisdom – Making practical applications of truth in daily decisions (versus foolishness). That seems to stretch to find both the vocabulary and the definition.
- Integrity – The moral excellence in my life as I consistently do what is right. To decide what is right is left as an exercise to the student.
New “virtues” can be manufactured that are as fact-based as anything virtue vocabulary offers:
- Voluptuousness – Using one’s beauty to best advantage!
Far from promoting ‘Character’, virtue-promoters want the warm feeling they get when they convince themselves they promote character. Results don’t matter when mastery of the vocabulary of virtues substitutes for character.
Vocabulist virtues are like numbers trying to substitute for mastery of arithmetic. ‘Seven! Seven is a good number! Learn seven and arithmetic will certainly follow. Five! Five is another worthwhile number. Master seven, five, and other numbers and arithmetic will magically appear.’ Numbers and arithmetic are not the same thing.
Emulation doesn’t build character.If to encourage character, one holds up exceptional people to emulate, like Luther Burbank, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, should one emulate their actions or emulate how they decided to act?
How does one decide who to emulate or what trait to emulate? Emulating virtues leads to the appearance of virtue, not to the solid thought processes that lead to why virtuous behavior is worthwhile.
Persistence shouldn’t be emulated because Washington had it. Persistence comes from understanding what is important and why. People teach the result they want but not the skills to get there. Teach virtues alone risks overlooking the need to nudge people to recognize for themselves critical processes of thought.
People insist on trying to push character onto others when much of the real work—the work inside their own head — remains unfinished. If you think you know what to do but don’t know why, then you don’t know character, much less how to convey it to someone else.
A virtue is a shorthand label for the result of thoughtful analysis about a general concept that is, itself, easily acceptable and easily understood from one’s own personal experience. Process concepts help people decide what to do so they can plan for their better future.
Virtues result from thinking about yourself, society, life and your place in it. A handful of process concepts allow people to help themselves.
Youngsters may have to be guided by rules until they mature enough to come to see the practical value in it for themselves. They need to develop the skill to consider points of view, and to value thinking as a tool for self-protection.
Self–interest leads to a character-centered life. In your own experience you can recall painful experiences that occurred because you thought you were right and later discovered you were mistaken. This is accessible to everyone across cultural and religious boundaries and helps fashion virtues, a compelling framework for civilization, and a path to honorable decision-making.
Point 1: Sometimes we think we are right, not because we are right, but simply because we think we are right. It’s possible for you to be wrong, even when you think you are right, because your brain — the tool you use to plan your very best future — decides what to do using not reality itself, but its own internal map of reality. If that map of reality is inaccurate, you can get hurt.
Point 2: Your long-term self-interest depends on maintaining the very best map of reality to work with. Even though other people have different experiences from yours, they can recall their own painful experiences that invariably lead them to the similar conclusions about humility and reciprocity.
Point 3: Those other people live life as acutely as you do. They have the same needs and reason to join together in society. Society becomes mutually beneficial so we can help each other refine our individual mental maps of reality.
Point 4:Reading, writing, and conversation hone skills used to better individual futures. Language is the tool we use to maintain our map of reality, to check it, to refine it, and to represent it on paper so that tomorrow we can look back and see if it makes as much sense then as it does to us today. They capture our expressions of concepts to convey them over immeasurable distance and time to others. Quality of language and language tools matter. The Trivium— the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts — refine those tools:
- Grammar is how we express our thoughts clearly.
- Logic is how we check our language for consistency.
- Rhetoric is how we express what we think to others and check what they express to us.
Point 5: A sense of time and one’s place in it provides a check on one’s map of reality and decision-making.
Point 6: Thinking about thinking recursively is a powerful tool when harnessed constructively.
Point 7: People are responsible for themselves and need to take that responsibility. As children connect language and thought, they are empowered and motivated by practical wisdoms that underlie their conversation:
Dynamic processes are the type of thought that matters. They help prune what does not work and reinforce what does. If drops of water in a river represent that which is understood, then boulders along the shores that guide the flow of knowledge represent the dynamic processes of thought. A handful of practical wisdoms accessible to anybody channel the flow constructively, but we don’t habitually teach such things. They include:
- A sense of self;
- A sense of time and one’s place in it (Represented by the power of narratization);
- A sense that sometimes one sometimes might be wrong;
- A sense that other people live their lives as acutely as I do (That the pain another person feels is no different than the pain I feel);
- A sense that my mental map of reality might be more accurate if I enlist the help of others;
- A sense that one is responsible for oneself;
- A sense of the power of recursive thought (That thinking about thinking is a process that can be useful when under control);
- A sense of the power of tools for thought;
- A sense that experience can be mined for patterns to help plan;
- A sense that we are mortal– that just as surely as close as night- fall is we shall be that close to our own deaths;
- A sense that each person’s fundamental purpose is to negotiate his way through life with decent quality of life;
- That the difference between fantasy and reality is a boundary that must be understood. When you deny what is, you are possessed by what is not.
These are processes kids understand, admire and wish to emulate in a deeper way.
One can identify with Michel de Montaigne, inventor of the essay as a literary form in 1585, “If a man remembers how very many times he has been wrong in his judgment, will it not be foolish of him not to mistrust it ever after?”
Montaigne’s personal experience is distant from ours, but one can identify a similar pattern in one’s personal unique experience. Montaigne said he would run to embrace truth from others when he saw it coming.
He shares a frame of reference despite extreme differences in religion, language, upbringing, culture, time-shift, and almost everything else. People can go beyond the traditions that only carry them so far.
What is perceived as lack of morality is the hollow framework of earlier philosophers crumbling under the heavy weight of more recent criticism like Friedrich Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and Jean Paul Sartre’s nausea at discovering a universe both Shakespeare and Faulkner called “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” They found nowhere to turn.
With nothing to replace what had been lost, authorities beat the same drum louder and harder, with no greater expectation of success. Brittle rules could be drummed into students, or students could be nudged to develop a process by which they can decide how to respond honorably.
Dynamic process produces citizens better able to recognize the ethics of a situation they find themselves in, and to decide how to respond appropriately to changeable circumstances.
Unique words do not exist to distinguish between culturally dependent traditions called morals, and dynamic process concepts that are paths to moral decisions deduced from humility and reciprocity. If one were to try to find a word to distinguish cultural morés from societal morals, the word “character” fits the morals deduced from humility and reciprocity. Character represents the processes one mind uses to decide how to act toward others. Concepts considered “virtues” map to process concepts:
- Humility, of course, maps to humility, but so does forgiveness.
- Benevolence, compassion, generosity, gentleness, tolerance, justice, loyalty, and others map to reciprocity and a sense that others live their lives as acutely as you live yours.
- Responsibility, truthfulness, sensitivity, dependability, alertness, and sincerity all map to regard for the accuracy of one’s mental map of reality.
- Contentment, initiative, joyfulness, patience, map to a sense of time and one’s place in it.
Other so-called virtues are skills like rhetoric or worthwhile habits like creativity, orderliness, or endurance. Still other useful understandings are important to know but are not usually classified as virtues:
- Balance, consistency, and simplicity come with perspective.
- Understanding facades and what is possible separate ideas from one’s self.
- Recursion and continuous re-evaluation are processes useful for problem solving.
Consider where the courage represented by the Hobbits in Tolkein’s Lord of the Ringsmight come from. Characters in books find a well of strength to draw from as surely as they find it in real life.
Thomas Mann’s hypothesis in Magic Mountaindoes not have to play out, that our culture creates people that are docile and compliant. Docile and compliant isn’t courageous. Joshua Chamberlain at the battle of Gettysburg was courageous, not docile and compliant.
Civic virtues change over time. If virtues like kindness, wisdom, and integrity do develop character, one has to decide what constructive virtues should be encouraged.
Looking back to Homer, the virtues the poets favored were warlike qualities — legends and fictions that were oracular.
Socrates argued that perhaps one could find a more rational approach. That challenge to the livelihood and power of poets did not sit well, so some, like Aristophanes, misrepresented Socrates as someone who would present the worst case as the best.
Seneca saw justice, moral insight, self-control, and courage as the cardinal virtues in Rome 2000 years ago. In the later Roman republic different actions were at the heart of citizenship that made you a man, or vir, in Latin, the root of virtue or virtus:
- Piety, because they felt they were a chosen people.
- Honesty, because they could be trusted.
- True, because they kept their word.
- Just, because they believed in equitable application of law.
- Vigilant, because they would fight to protect that which they believed.
Later, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain represented the virtuous ideals of the Round Table. The tests of desire and the fear of death faced in Gawain are the same tests that Buddha faced. The medieval pentangle represented five chivalric virtues: fidelity to others, promises, principles, faith, moral righteousness, and personal integrity. Elsewhere they are recorded as generosity, loyalty to and love of others — sometimes called piety, temperance or freedom from lust, courtesy, and benevolence.”
Romantics after the Enlightenment, and perhaps of the 1960s wanted to get in touch with feelings as the exercise of virtue. It is possible to overlay in what different cultures consider virtues. Confucian virtues were very similar to those of Socrates in ancient Greece or Mohandras Gandhi in India — wisdom, justice, moderation, courage.
The question is how to validate that the virtues one would teach are true virtues. Wealth or fame, while popular, are not considered virtues.
Virtues have been described as those traits that cultures value. To discover them, one could go with what has worked and accept what has gone before as gospel.
But which gospel from hundreds of conflicting religions and sects should one accept on faith? The one you believe in, simply because it’s yours isn’t good enough. George Bernard Shaw sarcastically asked in 1919, in Heartbreak House, “Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England simply because you were born there?”
World War I dashed any vestige of belief that liberal values and technological advancement in natural sciences would lead to steady, civilized society. The world was left in wreckage with cultures in conflict. If one decides to adopt that which other cultures discover to be virtues, one still would have to fashion a virtue detector to test them.
Validation is everyone’s task. Reflective judgment is called for, not compliance, to remain continuously open to new information to review that which we have learned regarding what has gone before in light of what over time becomes better understood.
Since politics has become cutthroat competition, people need to develop skills to test its claims. Philosophers say knowing comes from authority, a prioriunderstanding, or the contest of science. People need to determine what authority underwrites particular knowledge and value it accordingly.
We may not be able to decide what is ‘true’ but we can consider what might be ‘workable.’ To draw on the canvas of the new century, all we have are recollections and patterns recognized from them, massaged by language within its limitations, and used to project consequences of proposed actions into an imagined future.
Philosopher Karl Popper reminded people that science is not about truth, but about doubt. Science is a continuous test for falsity that helps prune ideas that don’t stand up to patterns of experience. Otherwise, in one kind of arrogance, people become convinced that their own ambitions are worth the suffering of others. What is true one cannot know, but science helps one understand what is not true.
Phrased another way, society is at risk without the freedom to challenge an idea even though someone may not care to hear. Even so, the freedom to offend does not imply the necessity to do so or determine the form it might take.
When deducing morals, dynamic process concepts encourage thinking about yourself, your place in society, and life itself. A path seeded with process concepts offers practical help that people can easily embrace that ultimately leads to virtuous behavior. Process concepts ignite the spark of self-regulated learning that just this easily pass Socrates’ torch on to the next generation.
Journalism is the perfect vehicle to make these essential concepts accessible, and is a division of labor that, for usefully serving individuals and society, would have pleased philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece, sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldun in the Islamic empire, and economist Adam Smith after the modern industrial revolution.
As a surrogate for the individual, journalism fits neatly in a concentric circle between the individual and society.
A solid foundation of process concepts leads to principles of character among those capable of grasping them. Experience can reveal patterns that, if we choose to recognize and think about them, can give us insight. One needs skills to tell constructive ideas from destructive ones. The skills help produce understanding that inoculates people to defend themselves sensibly.
People often mistake practices for principles. In ancient Athens, the practice of democracy was instituted as a check on consolidated power. Their democracy trusted one–person–one–vote and majority rules, but still fell to tyranny of the majority and votes bought for political advantage.
The real strength of democracy is that it codifies humility as a permanent check to find a better way.
It represents a commitment to freedom of speech because the least of us, given the opportunity, may try to convince others how to improve. Democracy assures the ability to challenge veracity in front of an audience tuned to judge the accuracy of the argument. Brought to consciousness by the charge, individuals choose one side or the other. And, in the end, the penalty for poor reasoning is to have what is said dismissed.
In a democracy, capacity to make individual decisions matters. A representative democracy, when supported by an effective education system, can put forward political candidates with enough character to stand up to a misguided crowd long enough to educate them about what matters. Proper education nudges students to discover what might matter and verify it for personal use. A figurative “friend-or-foe” indicator should warn about those unwilling or unable to value society.
Like democracy, the word freedom is used to stop thinking. Often mistaken as a principle, it is not freedom that we would wish for others, but the opportunity for individuality. Freedom is the result of individuality, not individuality the result of freedom.
Athens in the time of Socrates failed because its democracy, instituted for other reasons, never saw the advantage of institutionalized doubt. Socrates’ ancient Greek language didn’t have words to make a distinction between culture and society. Plato proposed rules for behavior, but no one could prove their universality. Ancient Rome schooled children with operational skills to become good citizens who spoke well, but Rome still lost its republic.
St. Augustine, after 350 AD, took a different approach suggesting virtues are written on the fleshy tablets of the heart as some kind of natural law, but such laws are culturally dependent and cannot be proven to be absolute.
Churches have difficulty getting the message across to others beyond their faith because dogma doesn’t convince; it compels.
Charlemagne in the 700s developed liberal arts. The Triviumnudged students to think using Grammar to put thoughts in order; Logic to see if those thoughts were consistent; and Rhetoric to explain those thoughts clearly to others and analyze their replies. Students then practiced thinking on subjects. The Triviumwas dropped in the 1500s as it was hoped that by teaching subjects only, students would learn to think.
In the 1300s, Muslim sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldun described government as “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself.” Embracing a culture’s government without reservation is dangerous because it too easily becomes a user of people.
Europeans continued to discount the importance of individuality relative to one’s culture as Philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan (1651) believed the necessary supremacy of government because life in a state of nature was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Believers in the social compact (social contract) assert that those born into a culture owe their heritage to that culture for the quality of life they enjoy. In 1700s Europe, Voltaire’s enlightenment rationality proved insufficient, leading to its overthrow.
Charles Dickens mocked presumptuous “forward-thinking” educators in his 1854 book Hard Timesthat describes attempts to rigidly control education according to the best technical understandings of the day.
Early 20th century educator John Dewey, enamored both with popular democracy and Soviet developments in behavioral schooling, sought to meld the two to develop participatory democracy. His major works were completed before the bloom fell off the communist rose.
Teachers after World War II lost confidence in what experience had to teach. They dismissed the advantage the founders brought to the table. They stumbled over the question what should one do if one can’t be sure what to trust.
Individuals have little reason to trust governors who control schools. Across the better part of a millennium, the institutions of governance challenged to raise human society have instead sown the seeds of their own destruction:
- Politicized religions in the 1500s,
- Absolutism in the 1600s,
- Abstract rationalism in the 1700s,
- Industrialized nation states in the 1800s, or
- Media-manipulated central control in the 1900s
Each refinement of governance failed to clean up the mess left by the previous century, and left a different mess for succeeding centuries to deal with.
The 20th century was an incredible century advancing the sciences — chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, geology, and archeology, engineering, electronics, set and graph theory, gaming, and computation. But socially, we deal with each other much the same as we have for a hundred years: unable to identify how a different culture was destructive or explain why.
Ethics did not mature in the 20th century. Morality never grew beyond Machiavelli and politics became what you can get away with. The ‘-isms’ that come to mind — Libertarianism, Conservatism, Classical Liberalism, or any of the political parties — have not inoculated individuals to defend themselves. Nor have they countered the political class with an alternative that values the individual and explains the tie between individuals and society.
Most unsettling of all, institutional subjects like history, philosophy, art, science, language — the subjects traditionally used to compose alternatives — have themselves become suspect.
You cannot value what you cannot see. If you can’t see why individuals need society, manufacturing society will remain unimportant.
It’s not hard. It’s just not habit. A person keyed to search for a pattern in personal experience is more likely to recognize when that pattern shows a useful way to behave.
A pattern gives you a tool, not a rule. It does not insist how you should behave. Practice to recognize patterns in personal experience is useful with governance, thought, language, ethics, and culture.
People trust their own judgment, when they know it has failed in the past and will likely fail again. Their thinking machinery jumps to conclusions it tries to justify by the flimsiest of means. If one can’t trust oneself, how can one trust others equally likely to jump to their own conclusions? Conversely, how can they trust you?
Our country is exceptional because it has confidence in its citizens. Confidence in “We, the people” was and remains the singular most important revelation about the founding of our country.
As a corollary, education is not used to achieve power or to maintain it. Until now. The most powerful advisers in government suggest that manipulation of citizens by government is okay. It is an inversion of the relationship of citizens to their government from which the founders of the country sought to insulate us.
A proper goal for school is not to be “college and career ready”. It is not even to create government–approved “good citizens.” The goal is to develop maturity and independence that lead one to value and guard society.
The question “Is there room for the individual in society?” was put to bed a century ago, and certainly put away during Ronald Reagan’s confrontation with the Soviet Union. After years of dullness and lack of vigilance, the question returned.
People become uncomfortable if the question is recast as “Is society a user of people?” or “Should individuals be suppressed for the advantage of society’s powerful?”
Individuals need to claim space in a dominating society. Technology has blinded you; you are connected but not social.
The Greeks valued liberty and for that liberty were willing to sacrifice everything rather than give up. Too many today would casually trade in liberty for the empty promise of security and the certain slavery of a free lunch, never appreciating its true price.
Ours is a generation so free that it has lost the meaning of freedom, the reason for freedom, and the will to reach for it. As surely as people who have no liberty yearn for it, the people who have liberty handed to them lust for absence of risk.
Humbling, isn’t it, to know your consciousness:
- In size fits between the breadth of the universe at 156 billion light years and 1016meters at the level of quarks,
- In time fits between 13.7 billion years of history and an infinite future, and
- In a world is just one of 6,800,000,000 people, many of whom are in need of help.
One’s shoulders are not broad enough to carry them all. So, does one give up? How many does one help? Should one help as many as someone else helps? Should everyone tithe?
That could make one feel small, but it puts each individual in charge of that single point in the universe that is the center of their unique consciousness at this one instant in time, gifted with the will to make decisions. Whatever its physics, the center of the universe is here, now, where each unique individual meets it.
Just as you are in charge of your point of consciousness, others are in charge of theirs. It is your responsibility to defend your point and path from others, and, reciprocally, resist the temptation to impose your trajectory on them. You can teach, but you cannot coerce except insofar as others violate the minimums of society. How does one decide what to do?
Socially imposed altruism uses others to pressure individuals into what to do for those in need. Charity is how one decides for oneself what to do. Altruism gives no practical way to answer the question, ‘Do you help one, two, ten, or ten thousand?’ But if altruism is unworkable, one needs to come to personal terms with generosity to create a reasonable, human alternative that puts one’s today, one’s life, and that of others in context.
Decide first whether to give up on altruism. Altruism is a premise whose time has never come and never will because others use it too easily as a club to pursue their own interests. One has no obligation to help others — although those who would take advantage of an individual for their own reasons may try convincing them that they do.
Instead, recall Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge after his epiphany. Scrooge’s new perspective on his own existence led to reverence for the situation of others. More alert to one’s own journey, one is more sensitive to others, which presents opportunity and personal interest in charity.
Few people read Adam Smith‘s first book, Theory on Moral Sentimentsany more, but he recognized that altruism was not an effective virtue. Self-interest brings the truth of experience and, ironically, can be more effective at prompting people to help others. That may sound contrary to observation in today’s selfish world, but Smith described a principled position not to be confused with unthinking consumerism. Consider these good people:
- David Livingstone, the explorer, missionary, and physician of the “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” fame. He worked to abolish the slave trade, educate Africans, and improve their health care.
- Albert Schweitzer was a theologian, philosopher, musician, physician who organized clinics in west equatorial Africa, and who sought a universal ethical philosophy.
- Mother Theresa ministered to the poor, sick, and terminally ill in Calcutta for almost 50 years.
For whom did Livingstone, Schweitzer, and Mother Theresa do their work? Not the poor as conventional wisdom would have it, but for themselves. Joseph Campbell advised people to follow their bliss. That’s what Livingstone, Schweitzer, and Mother Theresa did. They put themselves where they felt they belonged.
Central Africa, India, or our poorest neighborhood may not be where you belong. It is not a role a teacher, a parent, or someone else can press upon you. Not altruism, but your own inquiry into yourself will lead to your particular answer.
Approach the issue obliquely with these questions. Figure how far along a continuum you’d place yourself:
- Are you most comfortable when you are busy or idle?
- Are you most comfortable with physical work or mental work?
- Are you most comfortable solitary or social?
Along the X, Y, and Z axes an individual can, respectively, place answers to those questions. There is only one location in the graph that describes one’s unique comfort zone for today. It will be different on other days and different for other people. Certainly there are more questions and axes possible, and all of them challenge one to be responsible for setting the mean between the extremes. Aristotle called one’s balance point the virtue between the vices. The balance point for each question can change over time. The task is not to put oneself at the center of one continuum or another, but to understand where, along each continuum, is at the time the healthy, comfortable place for one to be.
And if, among the considerations, one finds bliss tending to a garden, tending to family, tending a neighbor, tending to community, or tending to the world, at that moment, that is where one belongs. If it is in the heart of Africa, at a soup kitchen at the Welcome Hall, teaching, writing, or coaching Little League, or simply loving family or friends, go for it! It is not the job of someone else to shame one into altruism. How dare they try!
When you are at peace with your place in the universe, when you are in balance, one will find that Kant’s concept of duty is not the powerful motivator. Reciprocity — the sense that others live their lives as acutely as you live yours — is a powerful motivator to help and share, and find great joy in it.
A philosopher asked the meaning of life.
To anyone who asks, say, “You selfish, egotistical bastard! You sit there, surveying the world from a very pretty perch, indeed, provided you by everyone who has ever gone before. And you dare to break the gift they have given you. You contemplate abstracts self-indulgently, complain how hard you have it, and that there is nothing to live for, when you cannot see the gift you have been given. You rush to escape, into drugs, alcohol, television, hedonism, small talk, self- pity — anything to stop looping in your head or facing the reality of the meaninglessness of it all. Oh, the horror! Well, grow up! You may not find meaning, but meaning can find you. Your job is to get out of bed, no matter where that bed may be, and say, ‘Damn! This is a wonderful day, and I’m going to make the most of it. I am going to laugh, cry, and work myself until I’m happily tired. And, by God, when I die, someone will be able to look back on what I have done, and say thank you for clearing my path just a little more.’ ”
Uncertainty — that is what we are given. Certainly, we are alone, but we are also together. Sartre reminded us that, although alone, we still have those that we love on whom to practice loving.
Society is so simple, but it is not understood easily or often because appreciating ‘why society’ takes more steps to independently deduce than it takes steps to see clearly once society’s simple elegance is pointed out.
Once you do figure why society matters, you can sell the personal advantage society offers others, and, furthermore, you are armed with the tools and the courage to defend it against those who, resigned to living just the law of the jungle, would destroy it.
To protect society, you need to know what it is and what it does. That arms you to detect and label behavior that would undermine it.
The first weapon of choice is laughter, but every weapon in the arsenal is available to those who would use every weapon in the arsenal against you. Speak softly, but carry a big stick. Keep the big stick but keep it sheathed if possible because you can’t predict its unintended consequences. In the end, use the tools you’ve got.
Whatever authorities may try to impose in schools, we have the tools to independently educate ourselves. Books give you insight, perspective, hope, and companionship. Books nudge you toward a way out. They give you clues to what is wrong. Literature is the way to become sensitive to patterns and the consequences of them. Literature compresses enough experience into a concentrated point that one can manufacture a way to bust out of limitations.
People have every reason to hope. Just as Confucius’ carvings on some bamboo could reach out to touch someone 25 centuries later, any insight recorded now can reach out to touch someone else in the unimaginable future.
Congratulations! Individuals get to disperse the creeping fog — now that they can survey the past centuries in coffeehouses, work, journalism, art, education, character, individuality, politics, economics, advertising, history, academia, religion, literature, language, community, and culture. Now, make your own hope.
According to today’s schooling, your place in society is less as an individual than a participant. To do that, authorities have filtered out of education the best of what has been said and thought. Seldom do students learn to work the complexity of life.
Montaigne, despairs of making sense of himself and speaks to the internal complexity with which every individual must cope,
“All contradictions may be found in me—bashful, insolent; chaste, lascivious; talkative, taciturn; tough, delicate; clever, stupid; surly, affable; lying, truthful; learned, ignorant; liberal, miserly and prodigal: all this I see in myself to some extent according to how I turn — I have nothing to say about myself absolutely, simply and solidly, without confusion and without mixture, or in one word.”
Many ought not trust what they think. Too many people with degrees have not the skill set, attention span, or interest to recognize everyday flaws in themselves, journalism, or society. People like to think they are rational, but fresh evidence arrives every day to question that. Besides, people are not so much rational as learn to use rationality to check their work.
We clutter the curriculum when the central subject worth teaching is how to live.
Discover that you matter. You matter and you need to discover how much you matter. Then you need to learn to defend yourself. Once you discover that you matter, you can shoulder the responsibility to make sure you are up to the task. The resolve not to be taken in by ignorant, selfish game-players depends on you developing process, pattern recognition, defensive rhetorical skills, experience, and a will to work at it.
The tools are simple, yours to discover, and yours to own:
- You plan decisions using a map of reality, not reality itself. That’s humbling, because you understand limitations leave the possibility of being wrong.
- You value reciprocity because you recognize others in a similar situation live their lives as acutely as you live yours.
- You have a sense of time and your place in it.
- You value critical judgment.
- You value constructive habits.
- You separate your ‘self’ from your ideas.
- You disdain facades as unfair to others as others’ facades would be unfair to you.
- You value what is possible.
- You value perspective that gives you balance, consistency, and simplicity.
- You value tools like recursion and continuous re-evaluation but recognize their limitations.
Where do you learn to struggle? The myth of Sisyphus tells how the gods condemned him for all eternity to roll a boulder up a mountainside only to have it tumble down again just before it reached the top. The myth is a metaphor — a fiction that tells a truth.
In his interpretation of Sisyphus in Once and Future Myths, Phil Cousineau reminds us of something every generation has to learn for itself: It is not what happens to us that matters; what matters is our attitude towards what happens. The story doesn’t ennoble suffering, it ennobles struggle.
Struggle is inevitable, and those who learn to see it as an obstacle rather than a burden make life a lot easier for themselves. Cousineau concludes, “the secret of the creative life consists in taking the next step, doing the next thing you have to do, but doing it with all your heart and soul and finding some joy in doing it.”
If you forget all the facts and formulas you learn in school, you will nevertheless have grown to be an educated person if you shun the self-absorbed, downward spiral of suffering and develop in yourself, instead, the will to apply yourself each time you approach the mountain.
Minds are not always changed constructively. Sorting out unsound ideas becomes every individual’s responsibility. Unfortunately, citizens schooled today often are only partially prepared to weigh what others feed them and what they think.
Individuals today have the advantage of a world of experience that those in the past did not have. That makes it easier to avoid the tar pits others in Philosophy attempted to explore and got caught in. Our predecessors did heavy lifting, but we have incentive others before did not have — the need to act before civil society is trashed.
It is too dangerous to be ignorant about judgment in our age. As powerful weapons become more readily available, this becomes a race between civilization and Armageddon.
Mother Nature doesn’t care if we succeed, but we do. We care for ourselves and for our children. Nor can we put off our work, now that isolation no longer protects us. As Jacob Bronowski noted, science has put the power of knowledge in the hands of anyone who cares to learn, so that no longer will a strong box protect our wealth or barred door protect our families.
We are in a race with no guarantee civilization will win. The race is to self-inoculate to recognize and defend against others who would destroy rather than build society; a race to expand civilization with an accessible, compelling message others might decide to value and adopt as their own.
Happily, civilization has a better chance today than ever before, because all it takes is a change of mind. It took only a change of mind for villagers to see that the emperor, parading in what he and his officials supposed was finery, wore no clothes.
Adrift on a communal sea of individual ideas clawing at each other to grow and survive, ideas will be lost, and many should be. The way forward is to sift down to the useful because truth is not so easy to prove. The purpose of logic and rhetoric, the way it used to be taught, is to serve as a sieve to sort out what works from what has not in the past and is unlikely to work in the future.
Viral ideas transmit experience that tempers wisdom and culture. The viral nature of ideas is why some pre-computer Balkan states registered typewriters and why the Soviet state later concluded that a country with individual computers could not be restrained.
Individuals motivated by strong ideas can influence people and great nations. The future of humanity depends, not on the success of one country, but on the preservation of sound ideas and sound processes to think about them, until sometime, somewhere, soil is ripe for germination. We touch others with sound ideas. Some Confucian ideas engraved 25 centuries years ago on strips of bamboo projected good sense into the future. That can happen at any time.
Patterns from experience nudge us to embrace the compelling process to engage in life-long learning mastering the tools by which to proceed. Although written about for millennia, they have not always been universally taught.
Confucius taught the sense that other people exist, “Don’t do to anybody else what you wouldn’t have them do to you” in the form of the Golden Rule phrased as a negative, and much more practical way of expressing the idea. Karl Marx followed Hegel’s notion that we must constantly evaluate where we are. He fostered a process by which we can examine the way things are; the way we can use time. Unfortunately, and to the pain of millions, after Marx developed the tool his successors mistook a single iteration, rather than continuous review, to be process.
Across all grade levels and subjects, current courses already contain teachable moments to which practical wisdoms easily attach. Process matters because, as Robert Heilbroner pointed out, when you master logic, logic masters you. It becomes compelling and unavoidable. When you understand that two plus two equals four, nothing will entice you to believe it equals five.
Herodotus believed the Greeks at Thermopylae found courage because they valued liberty so highly that they would rather sacrifice their lives to try to preserve it than live any longer without it. Socrates was a tenacious soldier during the Peloponnesian War because he understood his duty. Defending Little Round Top against all odds at Gettysburg during the Civil War, earned a grammar teacher from Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Courage to defend what is important springs from mastering why something is important. Teachers nudge individuals to master living for themselves and, from that, to discover courage.
Journalism has not failed. Media failed journalism. Editors failed their newspapers and news programs. They insulated you from news and made it difficult for readers and viewers to notice.
Newspapers, many with wire service reports, are read each day by 35 to 40 million people. Almost 30 million viewers watch cable or network television news. Many traditionally accept at face value what is delivered and may not know they should expect better.
The hazard is extraordinary if so many millions of citizens are put at risk because of the quality of news they are fed. Smart people can become petty and careless if the information they are provided is inadequate.
People can pay a heavy price for pettiness. Your future means more to you and your family than to anyone else. If you don’t care, who will?
This book offers a framework to see how individuals, journalism and society fit together in elegant simplicity. You can become more cautious. You can defend yourself from “words, words words.”
Poor habits may have contributed to the circumstance. Still others would manipulate what people know, incapacitate their ability to think, and render them more docile and compliant.
Reading Book 1 helps prepare you to flush the sewers. As long as pseudo-journalists bury what is said and done, they deserve to be called out for cheating Americans of news. Calling them out stands forjournalism, not against it. Insist on relevant facts, make connections, and refuse to mimic baseless debate points. Journalism offers much to embrace.
Book 2 encourages you to join those who see how schooling can shortchange students. Graduates should be equipped with adequate tools for thought. Schools degrade when teachers are obliged to teach material that is misleading or irrelevant.
Revisionists propose to remake schools to be “better” through “representational equity” and other rhetorical gimmicks that elbow out useful learning. Their focus on “skills and concepts” reduces what students actually know. Sleepy “mindfulness” does not promote balance and awareness.
Central control of schooling tends to limit the quality of education to what government approves using jaundiced “evidence-based” accountability to guarantee compliance.
Reading Book 3 offers a yardstick to value society with others, cherish it, and protect it. You can see that society depends on individuals, not centralized communitarian rulers.
Donald Trump regularly tweets to get past chaff launched by the mainstream media, Washington apparatchiks, and partisan demagogues. By so doing, Trump — whatever his real or imagined faults — reveals the need to recast American media and politics to reclaim words and meaning.
Too many mistakenly focus on Trump as an anomaly—asking whether Trump happened because people wanted to be clear of Washington balderdash or, as NeverTrumpers might characterize, that Trump the salesman orchestrated a worldview in which he might claim to be the only savior. Such an either/or logical fallacy does not have to be the case.
Hegel’s dialectic poses that thesis results in hypothesis, eventually creating synthesis. A cycle of progress requires recognizing shortcomings underlying previous views. The lesson to learn by reviewing what media and wire services have reported is simple: All is lost without individual vigilance.
Examples in this book cover mostly national reporting, but vigilance is called for at every level and elsewhere besides journalism.
People counterfeit journalism because real journalism has value. If it were common practice yesteryear for people to bite a coin to check for a soft tin phony, it is up to individuals to bite each news story to test for authenticity and value.
We met with wire service representatives June 27, 2017, to urge them to grasp that the future of the wire service brand was at risk. Afterwards, we wrote:
Hi, [wire service staff] . . .
Thank you for the opportunity to visit [the wire service] this morning and to discuss both local newspaper and global concerns.
As I reinforced this morning, in the context of the last 500 years, not too many yet recognize our time as pivotal. Nor do they value how journalism fits between individuals and the rest of society.
We editors may wrestle with adjectives, clauses, and structure, but of greater import is how we lay out an accurate “nautical chart” of news for our readers. What a great time to be a journalist. We can feel very proud of what we do.
Freedom must be accompanied by responsibility. Fortunately, individuals can learn to take responsibility for distributed media. They can learn to clear away the rubbish. As that happens, local journalism will survive and flourish.
Journalism reclaimed is a fine gift to give your children and your children’s children.
Sayers, Dorothy. “Lost Tools of Learning.” Web. 17 Jan 2010. <http:// www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html> back
Studying journalism exposes “gotcha” techniques, style over sub- stance, ignorance, misuse of statistics, gullibility, historical amnesia, double standards, misrepresentation, misplaced tolerance, misplaced judgment, silence, politics, overused and underused language, rhetorical games, and logical fallacies. back
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In medieval times, students might argue such things as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. They didn’t care how many angels that might be. They cared to exercise skills used in discussion. The purpose was rhetorical, to exercise detection of logical fallacies. When one was detected, a student would call out, “Distinguo!” to challenge what had been said. Detecting logical fallacies, a core rhetorical skill, is only incidentally part of the ELA frameworks. back
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Prof. Allen C. Guelzo explained counterfeiters counterfeit currency because real currency has value. He used the analogy to show people counterfeit history because history done well has value. Like currency, people often misuse history on purpose. back