Saturday, February 19, 2005

Far left takes aim at Instructivist

One of the joys of blogging is the responses one gets from various perspectives. Every once in a while this blog elicits a ferocious response from the far left. The latest attack on this weblog comes from Science And Politics, a blog that occasionally advises on education.

In one post, Science And Politics advises doing away with teaching the basics (they would be learned incidentally) and replacing them with
critical thinking and "sense".

Why does one so often hear that education can be improved by concentration on three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic? The way this is usually implemented is by giving students exercises in these three areas, then giving them simple tests to evaluate if they learned them. This makes the mechanics of teaching and testing easy, that’s for sure, and the test results can be used to punish under-performing students, teachers and schools.

But these exercises are boring and meaningless examples of rote learning. Is that the way we are schooling in the 21st century? What kind of ‘product’ is the result of such schooling? People who can read, write and add up numbers, people who are devoid of skills of critical thinking and discriminating between sense and nonsense.
Apart from the false dichotomy of teaching either basics or "critical thinking", what struck me most is that this advocate of critical thinking and sense writes in a later post that he cannot make up his mind whether calling the victims of the 9/11 attack Nazis who deserved to be incinerated is justified.

I was asked the other day what I thought about the Ward Churchill affair. Frankly, I had not followed it at all (but you can: Apparently, Whingers want to kill him, or at least get him fired [. . .] while Progressives are divided: some distance themselves from "an obscure nobody that Right-wing pulled out to push their agenda [. . .], while others assert that he is telling the truths that are unpalatable to those whose emotional health depends on buying into neocon proto-fascism bait, hook and sinker [. . .] I have not read his paper (but you can:, so I will not take any sides. Perhaps he said the truth that makes Right-wing loonies uncomfortable, perhaps he crossed the line into conspiracy theories - I do not know.
I bring all this up because it touches on a larger issue. I have been puzzled for a long time about the nexus between educational philosophy and politics. It should be possible to ascertain solid educational content and sound instructional practices on neutral, scientific and non-political grounds. But somehow education arouses political passions as illustrated by this ferocious attack on this weblog by the same writer:

There is this batshit frothy-at-the-mouth winger who blogs at and who did not like my piece at the last Carnival of Education ( Quick perusal of his blog shows that he is all for teaching critical thinking, AS LONG AS such thinking leads inevitably to medieval right-wing ideological conclusions. He wants kids to learn the "facts" but it is his deluded hateful superpatriotic ( facts, not the real truth that he wants them to get to. He also keeps putting up the "postmodernist/deconstructionist liberal" straw-man, not realizing that such people are a) rare in academia these days, b) particularly reviled by liberals (do you think Sokal is a right-winger?), c) not really liberal [. . .], and d) more resembling current right-wing moral relativism (which is presented as moral absolutism, but it is really the same thing) than anything close to liberalism. These are the kinds of people, like the "instructivist", that Horowitz wants to push into universities (and lower-level schools), so they can raise yet another misguided Strict-Fathering generation of batshit brownshirts unquestioningly loyal to the Great Dictator and his minions.


Quincy said...

I love the ad hominems. Seriously. They lend oh so much creedence to this guy's point.

I'm whipping up a post on why real critical thinking cannot happen without the basics as we speak.

Quincy said...

From Science and Politics:

I would like all kids to learn how to recognize all the logical fallacies (ad hominem, straw man, red herring, slippery slope, begging the question, argument from authority, etc.) and to use that skill throughout their schooling, no matter what the subject matter is. Such skills are rarely taught, even in college, unless one takes a course in logic.The irony is WAY too delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

I found a site offering primary sources on Ward Churchill
and thought you might be interested

The documents and information are organized and indexed by topic:

1. all the pdf files from the American Indian Movement Documents on Churchill
2. the pdf fils of academic research demonstrating academic fraud found in his research
3. very old interviews with Churchill over his battle with AIM, his claim to Indian ancestry, his road to tenure and so forth.
4. records of Churchills publishers and their descriptions of goals and their reputation

It's set up for easy access

Most of it cannot be found through a google search but was accumulated by a combined research effort. Anyone wishing to use the documents for further research on Mr. Churchill may help themselves.

Instructivist said...


Thanks for the link. It looks very informative.

I don't intend to become a WC expert. There are quite a few ad hoc experts already.

There is even a blog devoted to WC.

One should not forget, though, that WC is not an aberration.

Quincy said...

Instructivist - Glad you liked the internalized knowledge post. I've got one up on the basics v. critical thinking that you're bound to enjoy.


PS, I think the dude over at Science and Politics is due for a good fisking, what do ya think?