Monday, April 24, 2017

Accept Without Question

The polarization of society has created an interesting, and by interesting, I mean narrowly informed and arrogant  group of young people.  They are, in many aspects, similar to the generation that proceeds them, but I suspect they are markedly different than their grandparents.  One of the qualities of youth is the seemingly unshakable belief they know almost everything, and if they didn’t think of it, it’s probably not worth thinking about.  I can assure you my generation felt the same way when we were in our 20s.  But there is a difference.

So many of today’s young have been so sheltered from risk and harm they believe themselves to be indestructible.  Others, many others, have been indoctrinated by educators to think there is only one right answer to life, and they must accept without question the wisdom of this one way of thinking.  I am reminded of an experiment I conducted as a psychology student in college.  The experiment was originally designed and conducted by Social Psychologist Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College as part of his Conformity studies published in the 1950s.   

It was a simple experiment.  Asch had a “vision test” where groups were formed and asked to pick out two similar length lines.  The groups were about 5 or 6 individuals, all but one member of the group were confederates of Asch and privy to the experiment.  The one true subject was being evaluated on his/her responses with the group.  They started off the experiment with the confederates all agreeing on the right answer, but after a few samples they would begin to agree on a wrong one.  A minor difference at first but becoming increasingly obvious over time.  What Asch found was a significant tendency for individuals to conform to the group (~37%).  The majority, about 75% conformed at least once, and only 24% chose to consistently stay with their individual belief.[i]

So, with a consistent message and the right peer confederates on board the young are indoctrinated into the correct way of thinking as they progress through the educational training programs.  Let me stop here for just a moment to share my understanding of the difference between education and training. 

In training the whole purpose is to learn a skill to mastery and be able to perform that skill as necessary when called upon.  Learning a trade, or entry into the military provides the individual with the fundamental skills to perform his or her job.  As time goes on and their proficiency improves they will adapt and develop new capability as their understanding of the profession increases. 

Education, on the other hand is intended expand an individual’s ability to think, reason and articulate in the abstract.  A well educated person will read a variety of material, and be able to apply lessons learned in one field to the problems found in another.  Being well educated does not require a certificate from a university, although for selfish reasons many universities would have you believe so.

As we look at the educators of today, I wonder, why have they abandoned the Socratic ideal of questioning wisdom for the role of indoctrination?  It seems that to me, as so many young people move to emotional attack anytime a progressive idea is questioned, that their mentors and peer confederates must have provided less than just a complex education, but rather a training program on the right way to think.  They are first, and foremost, committed to defending a view that holds only the Democrats can have good ideas, and if anyone questions the validity of that idea they are buffoons and must be mocked.  However, the blind acceptance of progressive ideas comes with considerable risk, and I no longer see the debate of the consequences.

It is important to acknowledge there has always been friction between those who desire change, and those who don’t.  Does that mean those who don’t want change are backwards and those who do want change are visionary?  Hmmm, sometimes, but just as often – no it doesn’t.

Let’s look at some great progressive ideas brought to us in the twentieth century, and see how they have played out over the course of time.  Keep in mind, the idea of a “social scientist” is a relatively new phenomenon, and the theories they have about how society should be are often tainted by a deep personal bias.  The people who’ve bought into these ideas, and were able to persuade the rest of the nation, or the world, of their wisdom, most often view themselves as part of the intelligentsia elite and clearly more insightful than the common man.

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.”  Early in the twentieth century the movement to prohibit the production and sale of alcohol had spread as a national movement.  The progressives of the day felt we would be a much better society if we could just eliminate the drunkenness of so many men.  The movement gained support of the progressive politicians and the religious groups and we passed the 18th Amendment to the constitution, prohibiting the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol.  In the process, we ushered in the “Roaring 20’s with bootleggers, speakeasies, and organized crime.  This progressive decision was so popular it was repealed within 14 years, and remains the only amendment to be so honored.

We can build him better than before.”  A great number of progressives found the idea of eugenics attractive, and I suspect they still do.  We can, through selective breeding, eliminate all the ills that plague society.  As an outgrowth of Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, the proponents figured we could eliminate those pesky genetic traits that seem to weigh us down and hinder our progress towards a perfect world.  Proponents of eugenics included Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Sanger and a number of significant intellectuals.  It was all the rage; until Hitler started to implement it with his Aryan planning.  Autobahns and eugenics -- who said the Nazi’s weren’t progressive?  Some say it was the basis for the concept of family planning as implemented by Planned Parenthood.

Total Equality for All, A Workers Paradise.”  In 1848 Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels published the Communist Manifesto, detailing their social theories on class warfare and the problems with capitalism.  They believed capitalism would, over the course of time, give way to socialism.  In 1917, when Lenin led the Bolsheviks in the October revolution overthrowing the Czar he set up the government along the lines of Marx’s theories and recommendations.  All policy was supposed to comply with the Marxist-Leninist principles.  The Soviet Union lasted from 1917 to 1991, and during that time the government slaughtered between 56 and 62-million citizens, primarily under Joseph Stalin.  All I can say is it may have looked good on paper, but I don’t think communism worked out as well as the progressives who supported it initially thought it would.

Now we come to issues dealing with the relative value of life, and how a  wise and caring government bureaucracy will strive to improve the quality of life by assisting perceived terminally ill patients with suicide.  What a great idea, nothing could possibly go wrong with this, it is after all, just about helping the infirm die with dignity. So here we have the progressive movement denying life to the unborn and helping end life of the ill, why not just move to pure Darwinian theory and implement survival of the fittest?  
     I love the way those who accept without question the value of these programs view those who question the potential abuses as childish morons.  Claiming that any talk of a “slippery slope” is foolish, progressive ideas are always perfect. 

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