Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Legislating for Ignorance

To see just how quickly and how far we are sinking into the abyss, go to Common Dreams and read Florida’s Fear of History: New Law Undermines Critical Thinking by Robert Jensen
One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control over knowledge.
By that standard, the members of the Florida Legislature marked themselves as the folks most terrified of history in the United States when last month they took bold action to become the first state to outlaw historical interpretation in public schools. In other words, Florida has officially replaced the study of history with the imposition of dogma and effectively outlawed critical thinking.
One of the bedrock claims of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment -- two movements that, to date, have not been repealed by the Florida Legislature -- is that no interpretation or theory is beyond challenge. The evidence and logic on which all knowledge claims are based must be transparent, open to examination. We must be able to understand and critique the basis for any particular construction of knowledge, which requires that we understand how knowledge is constructed.
Except in Florida.
The current administration doesn't just try to control what we remember about our past. They also remove information that is critical of their decisions from government studies and facts that don't agree with their ideology from government websites. They teach sex education and lie about condoms. They sell books at the Grand Canyon stating that it was formed by Noah's flood. They simply repeat lies until we are supposed to accept them as truth. They choose not to believe in global warming. They attack Iraq, which had no weapons of mass destruction, and then wonder why the other two countries they have designated as part of "the axis of evil" speed up their nuclear weapons research. They decide that the public doesn't need to know about pollutants that can effect the health of their children.

The best way for authoritarians to stay in power is to frighten the public and keep it stupid. Remove evolution from science. Remove information on human sexuality and birth control from sex education. Remove interpretation from history. Subvert the ability to think critically, and no one can be critical of you.


Kate said...

WHAT?!!!!! They put up a plaque saying the Grand Canyon was formed by the Flood? OMG! I think it's time for a spot of monkeywrenching!

Maya's Granny said...

Yup. Pig ignorant, and proud of it.

Zan said...

I think the spread of fundamentalist Christianity has a lot to do with this, frankly. Questioning is seriously looked down upon. You're threatened with going to hell if you ask "Why would God do that?" You're being tempted by the devil. Better to just do what you're told, don't ask why, don't think about it and know you're doing God's will.

When you point out that the interpretation of the church is not in-line with history or you know, reality, they just look at you. It doesn't make any sense to most of them. Like you're talking gibberish.

It's also caused people to make illogical leaps in thought. I once had a conversation with my mother where I told her I did not believe the Bible was literal or inerrant. That's a fairly easy to understand statement, isn't it? Literal and inerrant are pretty specific words. She looked shocked and said, "You don't believe the Bible is God's word?"

Now, I didn't say that. It's true that I don't believe it's God's word in the same way she does, but I do believe there's some divine truth to be found in it. But her belief system doesn't allow for that. It's either her way or it's the complete opposite.

I have gotten so angry about this before. I honestly believe the spread of fundamentalist religion has lead to an inability to think, to be able to even put yourself in someone else's shoes. Everything, and I mean everything, has to be literal for them. There's no room for analogy or metaphor or allegory. Everything has to mean exactly what it means or it's a lie, some trick of the devil.

They have no sense of history. If they did, they're realize their particular brand of belief has only been around for 100 years. It's not the way things have always been, no matter how much they insist it is.

Deja Pseu said...

Subvert the ability to think critically, and no one can be critical of you.

Bingo. They need to keep the masses stupid, not only in the hope that they'll be uncritical, but also to provide an endless supply of cannon fodder for their holy wars. The Taliban works the same way.

Maya's Granny said...

Yes, it is indeed due to fundamentalist Christianity. Just like the Taliban. Right after 9/11 I received a mass e-mail to the effect that this is what happens when they forbid prayer in school, and I "replied to all" that we knew of 19 people on those planes who prayed in school, and that maybe what the world needed was more places where it is forbidden.