Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

18 May 2007

Reason as rule

Clark @ 8:52 AM

Harold Jarche has a post in which he points out that good education and civics are necessary but not sufficient, citing Al Gore. The necessary additional component is dialog around ideas. I have to agree, we can’t advance if we aren’t collaboratively creating our future in an open and informed way.

It reminded me of this quote from Al Gore (excerpted from his comments at Sierra‘s Climate Forum) that I’ve been meaning to blog, which mimics my feelings about current US politics (and, to some extent Australian, my other home):

With regard to our political system, it now devalues knowledge and facts. It didn’t used to. What was special about the America we were born into was that it still embodied the highest values of the Enlightenment We grew up in a world where truth mattered, and when new ideas came … the merit of those ideas was judged against the rule of reason. … The political system doesn’t act that way anymore. As in the feudal era, wealth and power regularly trump knowledge, facts, and reason.

We don’t value reason any more. We deride scholars as eggheads or wonks, and laud those who have acquired money or celebrity through questionable means or for no notable contribution at all. This does not bode well for governments based upon the collective will of the people.

I’m an optimist, and I think that technologies like the internet give us hope, but we can’t be distracted by rote testing when our nations needs critical thinking and reasoning. You can’t care about the world and not be passionate about education.


  1. Just picked up on your post, but wanted to add some thoughts.

    Clark, I agree. And I wonder if the obsession with assessment is perpetuated by an increasing risk averse culture, and decreasing personal responsibility for actions.

    Education appears to be all about making the grade, and curricula are designed to pass the tests, not to think about the world in which we live. In fact, in many cases, the only thing that matters is the piece of paper at the end, not what you actually practice in your job or home life. I’m experiencing this at the moment through a professional accreditation body.

    @ technology. Sometimes I wonder if the internet will actually hinder a change in emphasis. Other times, I’m really positive about the possibilities, but here is what makes me hesitant.

    Considering there are more conversations about the fripperies of our culture in most communities, I’m not sure we are seeing the internet as a vehicle for more critical thought entering the mainstream.

    It’s a bit like:

    “Here, here’s American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up, go back to bed America, here is American Gladiators, here is 56 channels of it!” (Bill Hicks)

    But replace Bill’s example with Tatler, Hello, Big Brother, Survivor, American Idol or any other distracters out there, and you can see the scale of the problem. The public loves that stuff (more people voted on American Idol than they did for Bush in the last US election).

    It’s a bit like shouting at an amp turned up to eleven.

    I can see it’s easy to accuse free thinkers of being disconnected from reality around these topics, and I guess people will carry on feeling comfortable and not worry about most of this. After all, assessment of ‘facts’ got them where they are today, there can’t be a better way, right?

    Comment by Dominic Atkinson — 14 June 2007 @ 3:33 AM

  2. I’m quite in tune with your comment, Dominic. I do think the media is culpable in distracting us from more important issues (and bugger the rationale that “that’s what people want”). We also need our schools to be focusing on problems like we want them to solve in the real world (ala Jonassen). However, I continue to try to be an optimist, so I hope we’ll somehow achieve some mental penetration. Like: hopefully the internet will provide a channel for more open viewpoints. Fingers crossed.

    Comment by Clark — 14 June 2007 @ 10:30 PM

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