Sunday, March 25, 2012

CHANGING THE HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM

This should probably be a tweet rather than a blog post, but I've been watching and reading the news lately (something I swore off several years back because it was so depressing) and I keep having the same thought over and over.

High schools (and colleges) nationwide should add a required course of study in effective thinking or informal logic. Given the state of public debate in the United States today, I can only conclude one of three things, none of which are encouraging--either our leaders are clueless, or they think we (the public) are clueless, or both we (the public) and our leaders are clueless. What passes for logic in public debate this day and age shows a dreadful lack of critical analysis. There is almost no appeal to logic in public debate, and what little "logic" I see is fallacious.

A celebrity's thoughts on [insert issue here] are no more profound than anyone else's. Expert opinions are no better than anyone else's when the expert is giving an opinion outside his/her area of expertise. Driving a particular brand of car, using a particular deodorant, or drinking a particular brand of alcohol  is not going to cause members of the opposite sex to fling themselves at your feet. Describing your opponent in abusive language does not demonstrate that your opponent's position is wrong. All members of [insert group here] are not villains; but the fact that all members of the group are not villains doesn't mean that all members of the group are saints. Bad people can have good ideas, and good people can have bad ideas. I could go on, but then I might slip into the fallacy of argumentum verbosium.

If everyone had at least been exposed to a course of rigorous instruction in critical thinking skills, maybe our leaders wouldn't be so quick to make such poor arguments, and maybe we wouldn't be hoodwinked if they did.