The ridiculous attack on reason
by Amy Brooke
News Weekly, May 16, 2020
I remember once coming across a saying that the dead have as much power to influence us as the living, through what they have written. Yet today educationists ignore so much of what our greatest writers and thinkers had to say, with most ”educational” activity no more than a complicated way of inflicting on children little of lasting value.
Plato, however, reminded us: “If a man neglects his education he walks lame for the rest of his life.” Yet the once widely acknowledged fact that teaching each generation how to use their minds well is at least as important as sporting activities, has long been displaced by curriculum subjects incorporating radicalised propaganda. Today we can add our Ministry of Education’s insertion of global warming groupthink into our schools curriculum.
I recall years ago one of my sons remarking that his secondary school was hosting a government-sponsored representative to make sure all students embraced the “correct” thinking in relation to the politically hijacked Treaty of Waitangi. The latter’s simple, straightforward provisions have long been distorted by activists for political advantage.
What was particularly striking was the local newspaper’s picture of this young woman addressing some senior students, and frankly admitting she was there to correct any “wrong opinions” their parents might be passing on to their children.
My son could always hold his own in debate, and I reminded him how important it always is to examine thoroughly both sides of any issue, weigh it up as objectively as possible and then defend his own thinking. After all, I pointed out in my naivety, he would have been taught at school, too, that the most important thing is to follow one’s own conscience with regard to what one thinks is right.
Now, incredibly, this is the last thing children are taught. Rather, that for the sake of social harmony, one should endorse groupthink.
Recently, reflecting on the irrational thinking now given ritual obeisance – with so many conforming to a herd mentality embracing the delusional – I was reminded of Aristotle’s “man is an imitative animal”. The advertising industry knows this well. And it goes a long way to explaining the conviction many individuals now have that the fact they were born biologically male or female is irrelevant. They seem convinced that by feeling differently they really become different. By such logic, if I feel I am a child again, not an adult, then I am. Or an elephant, if the feeling takes me.
And we are now being asked to endorse, with the capitulation of the hierarchies, allowing males claiming to be females to participate in women’s sports, to use women’s private facilities, toilets, changing rooms — to be lodged in women’s prisons where incidents of rape unsurprisingly result. But why this acceptance of groupthink – of insisting that self-delusion is acceptable?
One well-respected English writer, using the pseudonym of Alpha of the Plough, maintained: “There is a large part of the public, possibly the majority … born to be fooled, which will believe anything because it hasn’t the faculty of judging anything but the size of the crowd, and will always follow the ass with the longest ears.”
DISCOURAGING THE ‘FOOL’
One of the books I most treasure is Unended Quest, by Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper, who lectured for a time in New Zealand at the University of Canterbury, where my father sat in on his lectures. Popper gave this autographed copy to Dr Margaret Dalziel, in 1982.
Before she became Emeritus Professor, I had Margaret as a tutor at the University of Otago. She passed the book along to me. In it the author of The Open Society and its Enemies discusses an issue long puzzling me: the nature of intelligence.
In my time working as an independent consultant to a think tank in Wellington, particularly in relation to education and treaty issues, I became increasingly struck by the fact that many highly regarded individuals, having achieved outstanding marks in scholarship and other national examinations, were puzzlingly rigid in their thinking. I came to realise that very “clever” individuals, some holding positions in Treasury, others with leadership roles in political parties, were by no means deeply intelligent. They, too, took their cue from the intellectual fashions of the day.
Popper clarifies this, distinguishing between the dogmatic and the critical methods of thinking. He writes that the dogmatic way of thinking comes first, due to an inherent need for regularities, preceded by learning – first in the sense of discovery, then by imitation and by practising.
He postulates, however, that it is the critical thinking of a minority of individuals, examining and attacking presuppositions, that is particularly valuable. He argued that what characterises their creative thinking, apart from the intensity of interest in a problem, is a much more rare ability to break through the limits of the range of dogmatic thinking.
Given the sheer irrationality with which we are now faced at every level, and the aggressive attack by the now dominant left, perhaps it is time to reflect on George Bernard Shaw’s assertion that the future depends upon those whose laughter discourages the fool — a word that we understandably tend to avoid — rather than encourages him. Today we can certainly add her!
In fact, there is an important battle now under way. So is “risus est bellum” (“laughter is war”) a reality we are overdue to embrace?
Amy Brooke is an award-winning New Zealand children’s author, commentator and critic.
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Amy Brooke convened The 100 Days – www.100days.co.nz with the support of a core group of colleagues from the annual Summer Sounds Symposium. See her book “100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians.” Available through her BOOK Page at www.amybrooke.co.nz, or at Amazon’s Kindle.