beyond_the_pale: (Default)
[personal profile] beyond_the_pale
Funny thing, the First Amendment.

What brings this up? Well, I was readying this entry in Pharyngula

The key bit is at the end: "Irreverence is our answer, not dumb humble deference."

I hold the view that one of the key points behind the First Amendment is that through open speech and discourse, silly ideas can be put into circulation and shown, through rational discussion, to be nothing more than silly ideas. Granted, it is a messy and inexact process, but over the long haul, it works out fairly well, all things considered.

One of the biggest dangers in the free exchange of ideas is... not exchanging ideas. Things like the Creation Museum, frequenting blogs and websites and listening to news programs that only speak from the point of view you hold isn't exchanging ideas. You're not leaving your comfort zone, you're not considering new things. You're getting feedback that your point of view is right. In many cases, people just trade opinions without re-examining the facts. People on both sides of many arguments are guilty of this. What people on both sides of many arguments forget is that there are people on either side who have a huge stake in what turns out to be correct, and they're willing to distort facts or resort to outright lies to protect their little sandboxes from outside influence.

I've been guilty of accepting certain things at face value once or twice in the past, when I was younger and didn't know quite as much about how the world works. I now do my best to keep an open mind. Sure, I apply my bullshit sifter to lots of things that come through the inbound channels, but every so often someone holding an opposing view from mine throws something my way that makes me think. And I do think. And research. And examine.

And sometimes it changes my mind. Sometimes it doesn't. The bottom line is that I try not to let other people do my thinking for me. I can't be an expert on everything, but I can be informed.

And I worry that lots of people don't really care about being informed. They just want to be happy, and feel safe. There's nothing wrong with that, hell, that is what everyone wants. I'm just not sure that's how the world works. I'm positive we don't make any scientific progress that way, and I'm less sure we make progress as a species that way.

If I do nothing else with my life, I'm doing to do my best to make sure my kids ask questions.
That they keep thinking for themselves.
That they keep their sense of wonder for the world.

Date: 2009-08-12 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Richard Feynman wrote in his memoirs that his dad, though not by training a scientist, was irrepressibly curious about the world and used a scientist's approach to everything. When Feynman was a boy, his dad would constantly ask him questions about things, like "Why do you think those pigeons spend so much time picking at their feathers with their beaks?" He would listen to what the young Feynman would say, and ask further questions. And importantly, he never gave him the answer himself-- Feynman wasn't ever sure if his dad *knew* the answer to the question and was just guiding him with more questions, or if his dad was just asking these questions because he was curious himself. Probably a little of both, if your above post is any indication.

This method, that Feynman describes his father using with him, is what Education consultants these days call "teaching by the inquiry process." It teaches more than anything the habits of mind that a young scientist needs to approach the world with, and *that* more than anything if what young citizens need whether they're going to be a worker in science, in the applied science fields, or a business man and total non-scientist. We don't have to have citizenry that can give rote recitations about science content, but we really do need citizenry who can examine any claim and look for the evidence, and determine whether that evidence is trustworthy or not.

It's an idealized world, but one that I hope for as well. I hope that many of my students' parents take your approach on this, and I also hope that your students' teachers appreciate this approach. I am completely in love with what strong, capable people you and your lady are building for the world.

And seriously pondering what it would take to be teaching in their school district when they hit middle school. *plots*

Date: 2009-08-13 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, Cera.

Most of the time, I'm of the opinion I'm raising unruly little hooligans who can't listen or sit still for five minutes and it is /all my fault/. Willful doesn't even begin to describe it.

Date: 2009-08-13 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, gosh, I wonder where they got that from.

Date: 2009-08-13 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Their mother, of course. As well as some of the choice bits in their language.

Date: 2009-08-12 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you're writing again. Maybe it'll help me get the motivation to do the same.

Date: 2009-08-13 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah! Write!


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