Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Stupid Epidemic

So yesterday I asked you to consider your personal reasons for not challenging statements people make that are completely wrong, and often absurd.

We are in the area of science and history, not opinion. Opinions are valid. Of course, people trying to pass opinions off as facts are included in the problem here. There's a lot of that about.

Expert opinion is a different matter. Maybe you've seen this:

We are in deep trouble if experts are excluded from decision making processes, but already in the United States, certain right-wingers have openly stated their disdain for education because it opens young minds. Watch this doesn't spread.

The problem is obvious. Politicians have agendas, and increasingly today, like it or not, these agendas are often self-serving or even corrupt. Follow the money. Instead of decisions being made because they are the right thing to do, they are being made for expediency, cost, or profit. Lobbyists are powerful here. They don't want facts getting in the way.

The stupid is strong in US politics.

WHY? Were these people not given an education?

What happens when administrations, at any level, even local, and possibly especially local, are more interested in agendas or money than in education? I think the answer to that is obvious. We are even seeing it in the local High School, where the French immersion programme is being axed because only a few kids are enrolled in it, and it's not cost effective.

Investment in education should be a priority everywhere.

I have some data for you.

Education as a percentage of national budget (latest year available):

USA 17.1%
UAE 22.5%
Mexico 24.3%
Morocco 26.4%
Philippines 37%

But, all is not what it seems. Germany only spends 9.5%. You don't need me to tell you that the quality of that education is very high, I think that's well known, so how the money is spent matters too.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Literacy rates in Canada are officially 99%, but just yesterday I saw the letter R used as an abbreviation, not for "are" but for "our"! People tell me they used to be able to spell, but sort of lost the ability over time after leaving school.

Oh. So, maybe we can't entirely blame the education system. What's really going on then?

Here's an insight:

It's no secret that I have no love for the far right. I don't like extremism of any kind, but at its purest, most honest level, in theory, at least the far left are egalitarian. And I just can't do bigotry. I can't do discrimination.

With one exception. The wilfully stupid.

Now, this is tricky. You see, to be stupid - as in ignorant - is not necessarily your fault. If you have a low intellect, then that's how you are made. And if you had a very poor upbringing/education, then you were a child and are not responsible.

When you reach adulthood, you have choices. You can get extra help to learn, and people do. Even young people with Down syndrome are getting college diplomas with assistance. If the only thing holding you back is lack of opportunity, then there are many ways of making up for it.

But you have to want to. And you may need support. And if you've never had anyone encourage you, there's no impetus. You may even think it's hopeless. I speak from experience here, even though I'm not often believed.

Eventually I educated myself because it was the only option I had, and thankfully I was intelligent enough to realise it was necessary. So I had a massive advantage there.

As frustrating as it is, we must have some sympathy for the wilfully ignorant, because they were unlucky. They were not given that spark that encouraged the rest of us to seek knowledge and understanding.

“The acquisition of knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

BUT. I draw the sympathy line at those who have had the advantage of a college education and remain bloody stupid, because there's no excuse for it WHATSOEVER. They open themselves to scorn, they deserve it, and I don't hold back.

Others? If they are never given an education, or are never told they lack it, how can they ever improve? They may be annoyed when we correct them, their feelings may be hurt, but this is a good thing. If we arouse emotion as a result of pointing out their flawed reasoning or gaps in their knowledge, that may be the catalyst to their own efforts.

If they are actually embarrassed then that's a powerful experience for them. Feeling like an idiot, and caring about that is the perfect motivation to DO SOMETHING. To care.

It's not necessary to be an expert on everything. It's not even possible. But it is possible for everyone to learn how to think, to learn how to question, to learn how to discern, to learn how to learn.

You don't have to be rude. Calling somebody an idiot never helps anything. Suggesting they may be mistaken, guiding them towards reading material that explains things, and offering to explain things you are comfortable with yourself, can be done kindly and gently.

If you leave a person in ignorance you are actually part of the problem.

Now remember, this applies to facts. Not opinions. So, ethics are probably best dealt with differently. And there are those who are a hopeless case anyway. Trying to teach an octogenarian not to be homophobic would take more time and energy than most of us have, and is probably like teaching a pig to dance.

Still, you can correct misinformation even if it's ignored. Sometimes repeating the truth, even if it's thrown back in your face time after time, sometimes does work eventually. People can resist new information because it messes with their entire worldview.

Remember that ignorance leads to hate.  That's why it matters.

Education, good, flexible, determined, repeated education is needed.

Meanwhile, we'll just keep seeing stuff like this.


  1. "...consider your personal reasons for not challenging statements people make that are completely wrong, and often absurd."

    Gee, you want to wring all the fun out of life, don't you? ;)

    I agree that good education is needed; however you made the ultimate point yesterday that your own education progressed highly AFTER you attended 'formal' schooling. Whereas, so many hold their educational experience within the boundaries of the 'official' years. Anything learned outside the classroom is more like 'street cred,' or something.

    Part of what makes a professional or specialist what they are is their dedication to continuing education. For many people today, their idea of profession and education are not inextricably tied. Many are not apprenticed for skills or schooling as in previous generations. The disposable society in which we live has given way to disposable jobs, and we may extrapolate what that means.

    Moreover, education is work: it takes time and effort to learn and retain that knowledge. It takes trial and error to apply those skills in various environments, with different parameters and people, in order to determine progress. Considering that 'A high tide floats all boats,' I make it part of who I am to exemplify...and I think you relate to this exemplary life as well.

    Another adage about leading a horse to water also applies. These days, people have to ascertain their NEED to learn. People who attend college, even part-time, in the midst of work and family life, are like heroes to me. Just as heroic are those who dropped out of school and may be technically 'illiterate,' and who fight for the knowledge they denied themselves before because they realize the value of education in their lives--to them, personally.

    So...beat a dead horse?....or foster a curiosity that can turn into a lifelong love of learning? I find curiosity continues to carry me along rather well, and I would hope the same for others. Dead horses are good fodder for decomposition and the soil and do have their place. So, it is all good. ;) ~ Blessings! <3

  2. I have come to the conclusion - in this country at least - that education is no longer *education*, it's packaged career preparation. That is all it is. Nobody learns anything outside their tiny field of specialisation - or even wants to learn anything outside their tiny field of specialisation. Just today I came across someone writing an official application using "2" instead of "to".

    1. ...and that person was a college graduate, by the way.

    2. I think that's true in North America too Bill, and it was true in Britain even when I was at school.

  3. I have this long blog brewing about Data and Lore, and the nature of risk management, and the difference berween the scientific way of thinking and the scientific establishment of any given moment. I have the highest regard for the former, and a deepening distrust of the latter, as corruption creeps in everywhere. Trying to stay away from bandwagons. Trying to keep my mind open, and give the right attention to glimmerings of intuition which have often proved right.