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The Habits of Using Evidence & Reason Can't Wait


Dear Diane,

"To the extent that we can teach students to seek evidence and rational explanations, we will reduce magical thinking and encourage the application of reason and intelligence." —Diane Ravitch, Bridging Differences, Sept. 29

We agree! That's my "core."

We also agree that Arne Duncan's agenda lacks evidence or rational explanations. Why? Partially because he ignores his own privileged schooling as irrelevant for all of those millions of "others." He's creating a system, a big business. He forgets that business data doesn't always speak for itself. Witness our current crisis.

Well-educated or not, all of us fall back on "common sense" and "street smarts." It's not a bad idea. But our street smarts differ (and which ones are relevant is tricky). Evidence that seems out of synch with our own experiences should make us pause. We need open minds, but not naïve or vacuous ones. The idea of a good education for democracy requires the recognition that one may be wrong. But one can also be right. Such an education requires respect for the evidence of our daily experience, too. Thus, self-interest, our individual slant on life, plays a role under the best of circumstances.

Personal experience: as a teacher, I have not found a student's past test performance on commercial standardized tests to be useful evidence. Unless. Unless I'm able to go over them, item by item, with the students at my side explaining their own reasoning. Yes, tests always tell us something, but what they tell us is a very different question. It's hard to "reason" me out of this conviction, but I do learn from my colleagues. (For public information about the state of education we can do better with low-stakes sampling.)

What I'm most interested in is the highlighted sentence above: how my students tackle knowledge claims. How they wrestle with their own, their neighbors', and society's dilemmas—how they make judgments on matters central to their and our future—including where to get advice.

My point about Dante, Shakespeare, et al was based on someone else's list of what every educated person should have read (or be able to pretend to have read). There are many such lists floating around. My school had its abbreviated list, too. For kids who've been exposed in the normal course of life to virtually nothing on those lists, the assumption that they can all be "covered" and memorized without damage to our core agreement above is the crux of the dilemma. Doing them together is time-consuming! Since the habits of using evidence and reason can't wait until we pour all the facts into children's heads, a good education must engage in both together. "Even" 5-year-olds learn by reasoning about the world while trying it on for size.

Even great teachers of important subjects are not The Answer. I took an amazing physics course with David Hawkins in Colorado one summer. I drove away with a seemingly deep understanding of one or two basic principles...or so I thought. On the drive east, they slipped away after about 650 miles. But what didn't slip away was my fascination with physics. I actually think I had good science teachers in both high school and college. But they couldn't get through to a roomful of teenagers as "out of it" as most of us were—particularly when it came to modern "counter-intuitive" science.

I liked my high school history teachers, but most of my smart friends found them "bor-ring." And mathematics? I didn't come near to learning what I wish I had, either about its beauty or its practical value. Why, if beauty matters, do we teach five times as much math as all the arts put together—without catching its beauty or its usefulness?

Yes, we are amusing ourselves to death, but in part because we are not "amusing" ourselves in our classrooms. My dictionary suggests that amusement includes pleasure. There's no reason tough stuff can't be a pleasure to take apart. Poor science education, as you say, that tries to fill the bucket (brain) makes us more, not less, susceptible to magical thinking. Because in the hurry to "cover" a lot, we teach scientific laws as though they are merely the word of authority. I always kept the textbook at my side when looking in the microscope in bio labs to be sure I was seeing the "right thing." I threw out all the potted plants that my kindergarteners had dutifully planted the week before—in a controlled experiment—when I discovered Monday morning that the ones in the closet were doing fine and the ones on the window sill had all died! My favorite college physics teacher did the same with an experiment with marbles rolling down a ramp. At just the critical moment when the teaching of science should have come into play, we both were too afraid the "kids" would learn the wrong thing.

In the effort to cover it all, even the best-educated are often cheated. Especially when it comes to judgments about what's in the best interest of all of us. (Fortunately, they may be somewhat better off regarding their own self-interest.) To better level the playing field we cannot cover everything in ways consistent with your highlighted motto. That's one dilemma. Nor do I expect that the "experts" who are in a position politically to write such standards (the details) are likely to be the best of their kind. (And, god help us, surely not the testing companies that turn them into test items with one right answer! Which, for teachers, is the real curriculum.) That's a dilemma, too.

Meanwhile, we need every potential juror and voter alike to know how to reason well, to deal with uncertainty et al. We need 100 percent of them to have had a shot at using their minds well, day after day after day for 12 years; at working through ideas, arguments; and, piqued by unexpected phenomenon or claims. They all deserve wise expert guidance that can catch them when they slip, shift the subject when needed, ask uncomfortable questions and more. For that we need a very different kind of schooling—for all. It won't happen overnight, but it's worth moving toward. Back to "Alice in Wonderland." If we don't care where we're going—and the only measure is a standardized test score—the more difficult reforms won't be tried, until we fail once again with the latest fads. The vocabulary section generally tells the meat of the story. It's a measure not of the test-taker's intelligence, but the language of his community and peers.



Deborah & Diane,

This is slightly off topic, but I thought you might be interested in my analysis of the scope of the proposed Common Standards for English:


Deb, so many good questions and points and so much broad thinking!!

The answers, of course, lie in the magic that was always the American genius...the secret to our success. The key insight of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Conventions, the Federalists.

It is that we allow decisions to be made at the closest to the individual that we can. We put matters of foreign policy and currency in the Federal govt so that we look strong to those in the world. We make most laws at the state level so even those are kept to a manageable few.

Everything else we leave to personal and community choice.

The second real genius, though didn't come til the 1870s or so when rails made it easier for companies to offer a standard item to many across the nation. Therein was an invention of great utility! Standard items, without mandatory standards! Just find enough people who will buy the same thing, and you are leading the way.

Suddenly, standardization is dynamic! It is not written in law, but chosen by constant negotiation between provider and consumers. If Quaker Oats is good for a hundred years, so be it. If CDMA cell technology must give way to orthogonal FDMA, so be it. You needn't win the presidential election to move forward. Or stay put.

The problem with schools came when we adopted another path: give the power first to a mega-school district. And a mega-union. Then make the state more powerful to contend with the mega-district and the mega-union. Add the SEA's and the NEA and their lawyers. Then, because of the ensuing problems, empower the feds even more.

No genius in DC, nor set of them, can lead us down a good path for long.

Returning power to the small schools and their boards, letting them collaborate and join networks. That will get us farther down the road.

That's what the tests were always about, believe it or not.

Ed - I'm still at a loss to see how all powerful the teacher unions are. Teachers find NCLB an atrocity ... after 8 years it's still here and gaining strength - I'll be doing more testing and evaluation this year than ever before. Teachers are paid poorly, their benefits get eroded away more every year .. If the unions are so powerful why is NCLB still untouched and going strong ... why is pay stagnate and benefits and retirement disappearing? I belong to a teacher union ... about all we change about school policy in our state each year is we get a minute of TV exposure to state how upset we are at the state of education. Sorry don't see or experience how powerful teacher unions are. I guess though someone that has stated that 95% of teachers are Democrats might think that.

I'm with you all up to the point that you write "That's what the tests were always about, believe it or not." How are tests that specify what all students should learn in particular state supposed to return power to schools and communities. Is this how things work in the private sector? Local businesses only consider how to accomplish a task? But never which tasks should be accomplished? The tests, particularly high-stakes tests, define the purposes of schools for schools. It would seem that the power of defining purposes is exactly the kind of thing you would want to return to local communities. Look at Deb's post . . . As far as I can tell she has never been "mega"-anything, and here she is resisting the "consensus" of experts and bureaucrats on standardized testing, pleading for the power to for individual schools to set an agenda other than raising test scores. And yet your final sentence implies that resisting testing is favoring the status quo of centralized "mega" authority. I don't follow the reasoning. I don't buy the argument. "Believe it or not", I don't believe it.

Edward de Bono says that intelligent people are often not creative thinkers. Because they have good critical thinking skills they are to defend their positions, but they lack the ability to be creative with an idea , instead of rejecting an idea , explore it , take it further , let it act as a trigger to a new idea. Education today for sure does not teach critical skills and certainly not creative or magical thinking.

We live in a world where teachers of information and subjects are becoming obselete - it is all on the internet and kids know how to mediate the information world , use the technology better than their teachers. The question is not what we teach but how do we teach , it is about focusing on questions , getting kids to talk ,discuss and question , go to books as resources , it is about how to ask the questions a historian would ask , developing a ' fascination for science ' , a love for learning. The knowledge base is driven by the love of learning , the curiosity , stimulation and interest it engenders , not the otherway around.

Exciting things are happening with tech education, learning by doing . Here there is an exciting partnership between teachers and students , the students are tech savy and teach the teachers , the teachers help students ask questions and use the technology to construct modern knowlege.

Alfie kohn has an essay on what it means to be well educated. Imho , when looking at schools we should take note.


I tend to agree with Deb - and with Diane - regarding the need for evidence-based reasoning. However, I don't want to see evidence-based reasoning stressed at the cost of "magical thinking." Magical thinking, or creative thinking, or creativity, or whatever else you call it, is an essential component of good inquiry. It helps transcend the boundaries of the obvious to consider the not-so-obvious. For me, the key is to develop the habits of mind which consciously embrace both the evidence-oriented world and the magical world, and the disposition to use both in deliberate ways.

All, so many threads of ideas; let's return to the title: The Habits of Using Evidence & Reason.

Allan says "We live in a world where teachers of information and subjects are becoming obsolete". Assuming he's not tongue in cheek, lets look at this.

Teachers since Socrates have taught both background knowledge and information gathering. That today much more knowledge is available at the click of a mouse changes nothing. The world 70 years ago held many times the knowledge a person could absorb; it still does.

What has changed since 1990 is the traction of the idea that teachers need not hold kids to learn facts. Few of us below the age of 50 or so were taught basics like Geography and the leading touchstones of world history. This trend has got worse.

Defending their own ignorance, these generations of teachers were even more adamant that they not teach facts to the next generation. Go to Classroom 2.0 and other forums and you will hear the no facts argument repeated as mantra.

In reality, you need facts to use evidence and reason.

Its impossible, for example, to think about what to do with Iran if you do not understand that the leading authority in Shia Islam is the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, who holds court in Najaf, Iraq. That Iran and Iraq share a border of about 1500 miles (the driving distance from Boston to Miami). That both countries have majority Shia populations, unlike the larger Arab world.

The great teachers thus will be leading their kids through fact mines like these, or at least allowing the kids to lead themselves.

Its the other teachers we are concerned with in ed national policy. What do we do with them?

How do we scale up the solutions so that all kids win?

This sets the stage and brings us to Nev's illegitimate whine that "Teachers are paid poorly, their benefits get eroded away more every year ".

Since the teacher's houses around here are the finest, and they enjoy the nicest vacations and vehicles, I'll just ignore the claim itself and concentrate on the effect of that argument on the kids.

In the 80's we began to ask if some kids in the worst schools in the worst cities could not at least be given the experiment of vouchers to private schools and/or charters.

In every state, the SEA's fought these tiny experiments with a vengeance. The slightest little hope that might have been held out to these suffering neighborhoods was throttled in the crib by SEA lobbyists and lawyers, where-ever and whenever they could.

The SEA's were affronted by the idea that say the Ohio legislature would take money from the local road improvement fund and allocate it on a 75% per kid basis to a few charters in failing Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. Rather than celebrate the additional education dollars, rather than embrace the small experimtens and await the lessons learned with excitement, the SEA's went into full reactionary battle.

Dear Deb,

Just curious, the physics teacher David Hawkins whom you mention, is that the same person who is now living in Sedona and who wrote Power vs. Force?


Lynne: No. He is no longer alive. He was a professor at the U of Colorado and had a distinguished longtime career in the field--but is especially known as the historian of the Manhattan project. I think that he was actually a professor of philosophy in Colorado! He wrote many wonderful essays on teaching included in a book entitled The Informed Vision--which is still available. They are marvelous essays.

Would the two Davids have liked each others ideas? Tell me more.

I'm for facts. A good classroom is full of "facts"--"objects"--events-- observations. Many different books on the same subject, and as many resources as possible to fill up the children's and their teacher's heads. Enough for them to really use their minds over. Of course, their minds are already full of facts--or what they resume are facts-- too, and these facts need to be brought out into the light of day and chewed over, and lead the student to new reading, observation, experiment.

But nothing, Ed, going on educationally in the charter sector, or in totally free private schools is more "experimental" than what I have seen in the public sector. Oddly enough. (I shouldn't say "nothing", of course. There are wonderfully a few freaks out there too.)


Ed - As usual you make blanket statements about unions and situations in general which you are called on, and then you refuse to answer what you are called on, and instead refer to a local issue (which may or not be a true representation) and paint everyone with that brush ... I think maybe I will just ignore your nonsense from now on. Not sure why I didn't before. My error.

"I'm still at a loss to see how all powerful the teacher unions are."

Not all powerful, but still influential. And that is a good thing in what regards their collective bargaining for salary, benefits, and teacher rights.

Now here is an example of union overreach. When Massachusetts planned in 2000 the introduction of the MCAS, the Massachusetts Teachers Association spent $600,000 on advertising against the move.


Andrei - Not saying unions are perfect ... I'm saying the blame for what is wrong or not working in education is too often passed off on teacher unions like what they say goes, and that what they say is never in the interest of students or education. I can give an opposite example. When I taught in California my union voted to spend the money that would have been given to us as a raise to purchase supplies for the classroom since that money had been cut ... was over 1 million dollars for one school district's students. Unions over-reach and make mistakes just like any other group. But they are not the main reason for what ails education like some would have us believe in their search for demons and easy answers.

Hi Deb:

I tend to come down with you on the idea that schools should teach concrete skills about the use of evidence and reason. This is a broad goal that I think is non-controversial and appropriate. And indeed, it typically becomes controversial only after the bureaucratic need to measure whether or not a student, teacher, or school is actually implementing a curriculum asserted. In the process I think that the very nature of evidence and reason gets reduced to testable minutiae.

It seems to me that much of the controversy about the “common core curriculum” emerges because political bodies hang hyper-specific definitions about what subjects such concrete skills, evidence, and reason need to be rooted in, rather than such skills themselves. In the process, the people designing tests focus on bits of “evidence,” rather than the capacity to reason. I think that this happens in large part because the facts=evidence assumption fits so well with the testing regime. In the process, the discussion about reasoning and concrete skills gets reduced to people like Ed claiming that curriculum needs to be rooted in the received wisdom of traditional American history, while Mike keeps confronting us with the evidence behind the inequality in today’s society. It strikes me that both are using evidence and reason well. The disagreements emerge because they cannot reach consensus on whose data is more important. But so what? Is this really that important if your real goal is to teach concrete skills about the use of evidence and reason? Indeed, isn't this what reasoned democracy is rooted in?

As an example of the problems that hyper-definitions of school curricula involve, I would like to cite E. D. Hirsch’s new book The Making of Americans. He has excellent description of how being “American” emerged out of ideas of the nineteenth century common school, and linguistic conventions. This is all right and good, and I will use Hirsch’s ideas in my own writing because he describes the process of “making an American” so well.

But my problem with Hirsch’s ideas emerge when he cannot resist taking his well-developed generalizations about the emergence of American identity, to the specific bureaucratic level which he claims is necessary to create this common culture. In the process, for example, he implicitly asserts that first graders should study Ancient Egypt and specifically the pharaohs Tutankhamen and Hatshepsut, rather than Ancient Peru. But the fact of the matter is that Egypt and Peru both work for teaching concrete skills about evidence and reason to first graders. But are these two particular pharaohs really a basis for the common culture our seven year old first graders will have seventy years into the future? It certainly has not been for me; indeed, until I just looked in the back of Hirsch’s book, I had forgotten who Hatshepsut was, and I knew about King Tut primarily because of a 1960s popular song, and not what I learned in elementary school. Indeed, I will probably forget again who Hatshepshut was until I need to again use her as a rhetorical device to reason about the nature of school curricula. Nevertheless, it is such a soon to be forgotten fact will presumably be what is on the multiple choice test that becomes the basis for promoting students, teachers, and schools. And as the testing regimes become more the point of schooling, it is such facts that become the purpose of schooling, and this is what I have a problem with.

Which of course brings me back to the nature of evidence and reason. I don’t have a good idea about how whether what is taught today in elementary school can translate into an adult who uses evidence and reasoning some 15-70 years into later when they become adult. But I am pretty sure that the exam given to evaluate today’s teachers will not be it.

Ed Jones,

You write:

"It's impossible, for example, to think about what to do with Iran if you do not understand that the leading authority in Shia Islam is the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, who holds court in Najaf, Iraq. That Iran and Iraq share a border of about 1500 miles (the driving distance from Boston to Miami). That both countries have majority Shia populations, unlike the larger Arab world."

The facts of Iran and Iraq are meaningless without a theoretical basis for understanding. In other words, it is useless to just lay out data and facts and expect them to speak for themselves.

For instance, you are probably rationalizing a plan to bomb Iran's alleged nuclear arms facilities. What is implied in your plan of action is your theoretical view of history. The question is really about identifying your historical understanding and weighing whether it makes sense.

Understanding neoconservatism, problematic in itself (the differences between Leo Strauss, Buckley, Podhoretz, the Kristol's, Max Boot, Douglas Feith, and other neocons might be glaring- and especially in juxtaposition to Trotsky), will go a long way towards helping one understand your militaristic stance.

But first another caution on facts. Lord Acton, the late 19th century historian famous for the well known dictum, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", was so obsessed with collecting empirical evidence that he never got around to actually writing a book. He thought that if he just had ALL the facts then written history would be perfected.

However important it is to collect data, the human experience is the experience of complex phenomena. No laws of social science may be derived via pure observation because there is no determinism in human behavior, and thus, no constants in human relations. All data of human experience is historical, unique and irreproducible.

Therefore, there needs to be another way of making sense of reality.

That way is deduction based on what we do know apodictically. A few of the first things we know are that humans have the ability to perceive reason and that they act purposively; aim at ends using means; always prefer something over another; would do less work to achieve a goal if possible; always value higher a first acquisition of a good than the second; and that the social division of labor is good for all that take part- and that voluntary relationships based on property are a necessary element for its expansion.

Observation can help one discover the rules of human action and to see where certain events fall on the spectrum of theoretical understanding. But this is different than positing a sociological "law" of human relations based on watching the stock market for 20 years.

History is not the tale of a static chain of facts attached by some law of history derived by borrowing from the natural sciences. It is the application of all the current knowledge of every branch of science to the study of man's past actions. The key word here is action.

To flash forward to the Iran situation: by applying knowledge of human action, one would then understand the CIA's Operation Ajax, which overthrew the democratically elected leader of Iran in the early 1950's, to have most likely led to the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and the Iranian Revolution, most known for the Hostage Crisis. I am sure you are familiar with the term "backlash"?

The CIA was also responsible for the growth of Islam in Afghanistan (though the Taliban were mostly a Pakistani Intelligence creation). The CIA promoted Islam in order to orchestrate the overthrow of the Soviet friendly government in Kabul.

Without understanding the theoretics of human action then the facts would not necessarily support the idea that the US government's involvement in other nations' affairs have led to more destruction abroad and insecurity at home than would have been sans intervention. Surely 9/11 would not have happened if the American people had stopped the government from violently intervening in the Middle East and instead of supporting hegemony, worked peacefully to increase the social division of labor.

But of course, by keeping to facts only, your underlying militarism and fake support for democracy go unquestioned. This makes you and Peggy Noonan, whom was supporting war on Iraq way before 2003, ideological compatriots.

The question imho is not whether information and facts are useful and important , but their place in intellectual inquiry and learning. If we had perfect knowledge we would not need to do much thinking , at most critical thinking skills to make sense of the information . Thinking needs to take place at the beginning of the process. We need to know how to ask questions , that will lead us to the right information in the context of the questions asked. So as far as the question as what to do about Iran, a progressive teacher would ask - what questions do we need to raise in order answer our question. I am sure kids when given a chance to think will come up with questions like - what type of government there is in Iran , allies , economic, geographical considerations etc. Knowing facts does not take you very far and in time we forget facts , but what we will take with us is the ability to ask questions , to find the missing information through our questions and thinking and then critical analyse the information and try to be creative with it.

In the ' Talmudic ' learning environment we see the progress of a student by the questions he asks , also we say , a good question is half the answer.


"No laws of social science may be derived via pure observation because there is no determinism in human behavior, and thus, no constants in human relations."

I had bought a text on Auguste Comte ("An intellectual biography", by Mary Pickering). It was yet untouched on the shelf, but I think I should now have an incentive to pick it up. I bet Comte would have begged to differ with that assertion.

In what regards the discussion surrounding Iran, last night I watched 'Persepolis' of Marjane Satrapi. It is the story of a little girl that grows up in Iran, during and after the Revolution. I could easily relate to her. I also grew up in a dictatorship, felt trapped the same way.

It's hard to understand from the outside what Iranians go though, under the boot of the Basij militia who can beat couples on the street for just holding hands. I feel these people need help, desperately, on the other hand it's not just as simple as bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. I am really conflicted about this.


I hope you find the Pickering book on Comte exhilirating- especially since you know that controversies abound. I am definitely of the anti-positivist school. I believe that social science cannot be conducted in the manner of physics or lab science. When dealing with physical objects it is relatively possible to isolate changes and make discoveries. This is not possible with humans since they think and change their minds. No controlled experiments can be made.

Comte believed in what is now called social engineering. I believe that Brazil has a motto "Order and Progress" on their flag that comes from Comte directly. I am not an expert on Brazil, but it seems to have a long history of technocratic failures by the elites- including dictatorships. The Soviet attempt at scientific socialism- which really devolved into bureacratic tyranny, chaos, black markets, a huge prison complex, and state capitalism, also may be seen in light of Comte's "social physics".

I am wondering, however, if Comte has been perverted by his followers? Maybe you can read on and report back? Damn, I too want to get to that Pickering book but will not see a library this week because there are bills to pay.

On the Iran issue and dictatorship. First, I want to say that I am glad you escaped the oppression- if that was the case for you and your family. The USA has a certain growing hegemony about it but has not experienced outright dictatorship for long periods. The presidencies of Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt represent the closest America has come.

All dictatorships, all governments really, are still at the whim of public opinion. How else could such a minority maintain power over so my people but by matching the majority ideological outlook? All too often individuals want dictatorship because they see in the leader an expression of their own will. But one thing can be sure, the more that the government has to resort to violence to maintain control, the more that it is out of sync with the population- and the sooner it will be overturned.

A historian once remarked that Hitler was the worst thing that could happen to the prospect of spreading German culture and language.

The real war is always for the minds of people. What can violence accomplish in this regard?

Choosing the CIA, Pentagon, USAID, etc option for Iran is problematic because these entities 1) represent parasitical oppression themselves; 2) are incentivized to create or give the impression of crisis (Gulf of Tonkin); 3) are subject to manipulation by narrow interest groups i.e. pro-Israeli lobby, oil industry, military contractors; 4) end up killing more innocent people than the regime they overthrow; 5) foster "backlash" and the emergence of worse problems than what they started with (9/11); 6) have a role in making dictatorship at home (or away) in order to achieve their goals; 7) are ineffective at actually providing 'defense' anyway - and sometimes on purpose in order to exploit tragedy; and, 8) have a primary goal of creating dictatorship, or at least aspects of a dictatorship, at home anyway (Patriot Acts, Military Commissions Act 2006, conscription, increased taxation and Fed Reserve inflation....).

All said, it is the US war machine that is causing more hell in the world than Iran. Under the US's own rationale, it is high time that the US regime is overthrown- and should have been long ago. It is ironic that Iran has major elements of democracy (I am no fan of democracy either).

Remember that back in the 1980s the US was aiding Saddam and his war on Iran while selling weapons to that same Iran, the 'sworn enemy of the American people'. This is the same government that funded genocide in Guatemala and needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese women and children via fire bombing and nuclear bombs.

Besides, Scott Ritter, the former weapons inspector (who unfortunately is also a sicko interested in young teen girls), has said that the Iran nuclear program is not developing weapons uranium but a similar form used for other purposes.

Israel already has dozens of nuclear weapons and refuses to join international governing bodies. Should the US invade there too?

All of this rhetoric does not mean that something should not be done from the outside to effect change in Iran. But I say to the eager, if you want to do it then organize your own private force and get on with it. Do not drag me and my labor unwillingly along. Any other option is indicative of an unfree society.

But mainly, I am criticizing the choice of means, the military industrial hegemony, to solve any problem at all because it in itself is a much larger problem that creates even more problems- like mass murder and dictatorship.


Fallon, the tragedy is indeed that the majority of Iranians do support the theocratic regime. The students on the streets of Tehran simply belong to another world than the rest of their countrymen. This is a battle of ideas in the end; but the end is not near.

Marjane Satrapi felt just as alienated when she arrived in the West, escaping her oppressive country. The movie is very subtle on this, but the point is unmistakable.

As to Comte, you can get an idea of what he would have thought of experiments like autocracy in Brazil and communism in Russia. He grows up in a regalist family and town, in the midst of civil war, but finds the Revolution salutary. He disdains Robespierre and Marat as extremists, hates Napoleon for his militaristic adventures (stands up in class and declames his hope the Spaniards will win over the French), and at Ecole Polytechnique he gets in a fight with a regalist teacher which results in the school being closed by the Bourbon authorities. He was pretty much a recluse himself, never happy with the powers that be.


Wow. Thanks for the info on Comte. I am always fascinated by actual details. It is so often the case that the originator of an idea has no intention of having it used for bad consequences. In Comte's case, he did not see the fallacy in his thinking and that the application of his idea could only lead to tyranny. But of course, Comte is not to blame for the 20th century's horrors. Rather, it is the application of bad ideas, like Comte's in the following quote, that plague humanity.

"Men are not allowed to think freely about chemistry and biology: why should they be allowed to think freely about political philosophy?"

This is an interesting discuss.

For the record "the idea that schools should teach concrete skills about the use of evidence and reason" is called teaching the scientific method.

The teacher's unions are only a problem in that, at a national level, their bureaucrats have sold them out. While their publications drip with platitudes that no one can argue with, there is not an ounce of will to tell he NCLB proponents to go to hell.

Children are being poorly educated because the system is punishing gifted teachers and rewarding parrot-trainers.

As long as the federally advocated and state-enforced funding extortion scheme called No Child Left Behind is in effect, talented teachers will be sacrificed, children will continue to be mis-educated, and this country will continue it's accelerating destiny of mediocrity.

NCLB must be eliminated.

Local control of schools must be honored.

Individual children must be allowed to learn at their own pace with their own interests in mind.

Anything else is criminal.

- Frank Krasicki

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