It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Friday, December 21, 2007

What is Education For Anyway?

This, found at Dot Earth, strikes me as very disturbing. I can only conclude that what passes for education in America isn't really education in any form needed to support the sort of Jeffersonian democracy that Americans aspire to.
A lot of us live in intellectual silos, it seems. A sobering survey of more than 1,700 voters, published by the Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press in January, found that more education, for example, does not shift attitudes, and instead actually hardens them.

In the survey, Republicans with a college degree were substantially more skeptical about global warming than Republicans without one. Democrats with a college degree were significantly more convinced global warming was a problem than were Democrats who didn’t go to college.

This is bad news for anyone commenting on Dot Earth who plans to try to win over readers with starkly different attitudes. My hope is that the interactions here will be a little bit like the scientific process, whittling away at unsupported arguments, building on areas of agreement and creating a trajectory toward understanding and meaningful action.

The linked survey also has a number of other daunting statistics, but I think the one that Andrew Revkin focuses on is particularly suprising and unfortunate.

Does anyone know of comparable data in other countries?

Update: I found comment #10 on the referenced Dot Earth article especially interesting among many interesting responses. Consider this advice:
So if you’re interested in bringing doubters/skeptics over to an understanding of the theory, be a little be humble, be as familiar with the limits of the theory as you are with the strengths, and try to resist making calls to ban SUVs, restrict reproductive rights, constrict the economy and other nutty ideas.
So what am I to do? Of course the science stands by itself, and I am glad that occasionally someone can be won over by reason.

On the other hand, I think the taboo against considering the nature of the growth imperative is very much a core issue in coming up with a sensible solution to our problems. Even if a growth-imperative-friendly greenhouse gas strategy is meaningful, something else will break soon enough. I don't understand why this particular belief, that it is "nutty" to "constrict" the "economy", is immune from skeptical inquiry.

Update: My response to comment #10 is visible as comment #131

Update: Some excellent postings by Edwin Hall on the Dot Earth article. Please take special note of this one.

2 comments: said...

Comment #10 was quite the most intelligent thing I have read in a while. It is the fervour that offends.

Anyway, the very best of Seasons Greetings to you and yours, Michael.
David Duff

PS: I sign and title thus because I object to 'Blogger's' policy of refusing to link to commenters from other ISPs.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, David, if you agree with #10 that amounts to some progress. Best wishes for the holiday season.