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“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

Category: Education (page 1 of 2)

Teaching Trump: The Rise of the Crowd-Sourced Syllabus

TRUMP SYLLABUS 2.0Leading up to the election, The Chronicle of Higher Education released a Trump 101 syllabus to explore his campaign academically. Following that, N.D.B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain released a corrective one called the Trump Syllabus 2.0 that more fully considered Trump’s campaign, focusing on xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Following the release of now-President-Elect Trump’s infamous “locker room talk” footage (wherein he made references to nonconsensual, predatory sexual advances towards women), Laura Ciolowski released the Rape Culture Syllabus in order to situate the culture in which Trump’s comments about sexual assault could be normalized.

Sexism and misogyny: what’s the difference?

Post-election, the Trump-related syllabi and online educational resources continue to appear. Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching released a five-step guideline with suggestions for faculty “Teaching in Response to the Election.” The Zinn Education Project released a special lesson and resource page dedicated to “Teaching After the Election of Trump.” And Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also offers Election 2016 Resources, including suggestions for recognizing and countering bias.

The rise of crowd-sourced syllabus is an important leap, in both disseminating and gathering knowledge and in shaping active learners, no matter what their age or location.

Teaching Trump: The Rise of the Crowd-Sourced Syllabus | JSTOR Daily

In 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Dr. Marcia Chatelain started the #FergusonSyllabus movement to help explain the history behind the protests over police misconduct and the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement sweeping the nation.

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era

“..the collective postmortem – on the left and right of politics – has focused on a concern with far greater long-term impact: the accidental or deliberate propagation of misinformation via social media.”

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, having initially denied that fake news was problematic, now wants us to believe that “we’ve been working on this problem for a long time.” Really? So it is a problem after all?Much has been written about the arrival of a “post-truth” era, in which facts become secondary to feeling; expertise and vision to ersatz emotional connection. Nazi Germany shows that this is not new, but the internet-driven efficiency with which it can be manipulated is.

One of the main drivers of this process is a click-based revenue model, in which algorithms prioritise items in news feeds based on how likely individual users are to “engage with” (ie click on) them – and thus be exposed to more ads. Whether these items contain carefully researched or fabricated material is of no concern to the algos: in fact, false, sensationalist stories that bolster existing prejudices are more likely to draw clicks than sober analyses that challenge assumption. With misinformation being incentivised in this way, who could be surprised when Buzzfeed found a group of young Macedonians copying the most outlandish fabrications to more than 140 specially created pro-Trump websites and sexing up the headlines to gain clicks and go viral on Facebook?

Among the most pernicious myths of our time is that the functioning of the web is neutral and immutable; that it has evolved of its own ethereal logic, like a galaxy, and can’t be changed or stopped.

This is important, because a recent study by the Pew Research Centre found a majority of American adults using Facebook as a source of news (which means Britain is sure to follow). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been resistant to the notion that his company, social media, or the web in general are undermining democracy (“a pretty crazy idea”), even after dozens of his own staff formed a covert taskforce to address the problem post-election. It’s easy to see why he bridles too, because if he accepts the truth that his algorithms function no more objectively than a human editor, then he bears responsibility for their choices. And once he does that, he allows the equally obvious truth that Facebook, whether it wants to be or not, is now a media organisation and must vouch for the information it disseminates.

The pedlars of fake news are corroding democracy | Andrew Smith

The most interesting question about 2016 is not why the Brexit result and Trump happened, but whether historians will regard both as incidental; whether this will go down as the year democracy revealed itself unworkable in the age of the internet – in which reality, already engaged in a life-or-death struggle with inverted commas, finally gave way to “alt-reality”.

The Cult of Ignorance

In 1980, scientist and writer Isaac Asimov argued in an essay that “there is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.” That year, the Republican Party stood at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, which initiated a decades-long conservative groundswell that many pundits say may finally come to an end in November. GOP strategist Steve Schmidt (who has been regretful about choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate in 2008) recently pointed to what he called “intellectual rot” as a primary culprit, and a cult-like devotion to irrationality among a certain segment of the electorate.

There are 200 million Americans who have inhabited schoolrooms at some time in their lives and who will admit that they know how to read… but most decent periodicals believe they are doing amazingly well if they have circulation of half a million. It may be that only 1 per cent—or less—of Americans make a stab at exercising their right to know. And if they try to do anything on that basis they are quite likely to be accused of being elitists.

Nonetheless, the widespread (though hardly universal) availability of free resources on the Internet has made self-education a reality for many people, and certainly for most Americans. But perhaps not even Isaac Asimov could have foreseen the bitter polarization and disinformation campaigns that technology has also enabled. Needless to say, “A Cult of Ignorance” was not one of Asimov’s most popular pieces of writing. First published on January 21, 1980 in Newsweek, the short opinion piece has never been reprinted in any of Asimov’s collections. You can read the essay as a PDF here.

Isaac Asimov Laments the “Cult of Ignorance” in the United States: A Short, Scathing Essay from 1980

Painting of Asimov on his throne by Rowena Morill, via Wikimedia Commons In 1980, scientist and writer Isaac Asimov argued in an essay that “there is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.”

Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.

“Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.”

We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.

Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.

The State of White America

Today, less privileged white Americans are considered to be in crisis, and the language of sociologists and pathologists predominates. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 was published in 2012, and Robert D. Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis came out last year. From opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they made the case that social breakdown among low-income whites was starting to mimic trends that had begun decades earlier among African Americans: Rates of out-of-wedlock births and male joblessness were rising sharply. Then came the stories about a surge in opiate addiction among white Americans, alongside shocking reports of rising mortality rates (including by suicide) among middle-aged whites. And then, of course, came the 2016 presidential campaign. The question was suddenly no longer why Democrats struggled to appeal to regular Americans. It was why so many regular Americans were drawn to a man like Donald Trump.

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