May 27, 2010

I sometimes wonder if it’s too big a stretch to compare the decline of a thinking education to the increased popularity of “opinion media.”  Is there a connection between this “dumbing down” and the audiences for obviously-opinionated “news” networks like MSNBC and FOX News?

Have we regressed so far that we are exclusively interested in our own embryonically-formed opinions being reinforced by equally incompletely-informed “talking heads?”  Have we stopped wanting to examine “all sides” in order to increase our knowledge and, in that process, been able to move beyond “surface opinion” and onto wisdom and understanding?

Two days ago, I wrote about the importance of a liberal arts education.  On other occasions I have pointed out the decline of so many of our leading universities when it comes to a meaningful education.  (Too many of those universities have adopted a trade school philosophy in which professional training has replaced critical thinking and intellectual exposure.)

In that light, it’s worth examining some comments by Peter Berkowitz, the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and the author of “Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation” as well as other publications:

Liberal education supposes that while individual rights are shared equally by all, the responsible exercise of those rights is an achievement that depends on cultivating the mind.

.  .  .

How can one think independently about what kind of life to live without acquiring familiarity with the ideas about happiness and misery, exaltation and despair, nobility and baseness that study of literature, philosophy and religion bring to life?  How can one pass reasoned judgment on public policy if one is ignorant of the principles of constitutional government, the operation of the market, the impact of society on perception and belief and, not least, the competing opinions about justice to which democracy in America is heir?

.  .  .

A proper education, culminating in a liberal education, gives science an honored place.  It teaches students, among other things, the fundamentals of the scientific method and the contribution that science has made to human security, freedom and prosperity; it exposes all students to the basic achievements of biology, chemistry and physics; and it encourages those with aptitude to specialize.  At the same time, a liberal education brings into focus the limits of science, beginning with the impossibility of explaining the value of science and math in scientific and mathematical terms — to say nothing of science’s incapacity to account for the worth and dignity of the individual.  .  .  .”  (“Why Liberal Education Matters,The Wall Street Journal)

It’s clear to me that without such a full and meaningful education it becomes much harder to think and reason — let alone, exercise our responsibilities as American citizens.

More on Monday –  –  –

     — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

(This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)