Progress

“One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/science/30profile.html Perhaps the most frightening thing about this statistic is that the NYT felt obliged to end the sentence “… an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century” as if this, too, were something its readers might not have known.

It seems to me that one of the positions that progressives simply cannot abandon is that teachers know better than parents what should be taught to children. And when that position goes, usually in the name of democracy, there is no limit to the folly that ensues. Creationism is only the beginning.

Of course, it’s not just science which is the victim of this sort of thing, but history, geograhy, languages, and so on. We take for granted American ignorance of anything that happened more than three years ago, or off-camera anywhere; very probably Europe is approaching similar levels of ignorance. Sing all together now, with uncle [“Hamish”:http://www.thewormbook.com/helmintholog/archives/001553.html#001553]: “We are here to compete in a global, knowledge-based economy”

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4 Responses to Progress

  1. Ian Hobson says:

    And “an article at Guardian/G2”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1559743,00.html from Richard Dawkins/Jerry Coyne is frightening reading too.

    However, Andrew, I haven’t followed all your arguments about globalisation fully. Are you implying that increasing globalisation goes hand in hand with increasing ignorance? Hamish’s arguments tend to be at an economic level only. And, I think the consequences for the world of shunning globalisation are worse than the problems of dealing with it. Unfortunately, we seem to be dealing with it in all the wrong ways – “my belief system is better than yours” teaching for example.

    If we don’t embrace the economically globalised world, we will suffer severe economic hardship in this country which will not be tolerated. Yet, we must also embrace an interconnected globalised world at different levels – not just economically. Only that way can humanity survive in the (very) long term.

  2. H. E. Baber says:

    So what? Isn’t an 80% hit rate for Copernicus in the US good enough? Aren’t we doing as well as Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan or even Bolivia? It’s unfair to compare us to affluent Social-Democratic European countries where there is the will, and the resources, to educate all citizens. We have a real peasantry and a growing wage gap. We are Third World.

  3. acb says:

    Ian — sorry not to have come back earlier. My comment notification system has been acting up.

    I don’t think that anyone has a choice about whether to participate in a globalised economy or not. Even North Korea has to trade with someone.

    What I find absurd is the proposition that we will be able to find the interesting and well-paid niches in such a system. This is for three reasons, two of which strike directly at Hamish McRae’s optimism. The first is that there are not nearly enough of these interesting and well-paid jobs to go round. Most service industry jobs are horrible; and the drive to micro-manage and deprofessionalise previously skilled occupations is relentless.

    The second is that I can’t believe our educaiton system will be much of a match for India’s or even China’s in the foreseeable future. They want to learn more than most Europeans or Americans do. So if these good jobs are shared out according to merit, we’re not going to merit many of them.

    Thirdly, and to some extent in contradiction, why does anyone think that there will be a free global trade in professional services of the sort that are pleasant and lucrative to provide? The first thing that lawyers, doctors, and so on do is to set up a cartel and prevent or make it hard for foreigners to practice.

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