Just admitting that certain evidence supports an idea contrary to our hopes, our dreams, and our previously held beliefs can be the hardest thing to do. In theory I try to be much more skeptical of evidence which supports my views than that which contradicts it but that can be very hard at times.
The one thing that helps me persist is seeing how sad it is when others insist that evidence which contradicts a particular claim actually supports it. In politics it has been the conclusion of the special counsel investigation and its apparent recommendation of no indictments in the Trump campaign-Russian “meddling” issue. Yes, for all I know Trump was the spotter for Khrushchev on the Grassy Knoll, but nothing we’ve seen or heard in the characterization of the report supports a belief in collusion. Period. Maybe just admitting that it doesn’t support your prior belief, or perhaps even openly questioning your own understanding of what has been alleged, would be a good idea. Especially if what you thought was an absolute, undeniable, obvious truth ends up, after two years of investigation by a capable investigator, not being conclusive enough to even recommend an indictment of anyone. Ham sandwiches everywhere, breathe a sigh of relief!
I listen to a podcast called the Scathing Atheist. It’s funny. They have been open in their belief of the Russia-gate narrative. I was wondering how they’d handle what we’ve learned so far of the Mueller investigation; how they responded wasn’t just denial that what we know so far of the Mueller investigation doesn’t support their belief, in the very opening moment of the podcast there was an allusion to a hypothetical “uncle” that you’ll have to interact with now on this topic who is the type of moron who won’t be swayed by evidence! Engage in psychological projection much?
In urbanism this presents as the insistence that Millenials will save our struggling cities. “They don’t want cars, and houses with yards, they want to live in cool, gritty places and transform places like Springfield into San Francisco, or New York, or Boston!” No they don’t. They want to live in San Francisco, New York, or Boston, or move to the South and West; and if they aren’t superduperstars who can make enough cash to live like they wanted in those places then they’re either going to move back home and live where they can afford to live until economic circumstances allow them to buy the suburban home with the two car garage, or they’re going to move to the pre-designated quasi-hip location for the quasi-succesful, quasi-urbanist: Northampton, West Hartford, or whatever it is where you live; the place with a kinda walkable downtown with enough brown people to make you feel, you know, not racist, but not so many that you feel like “they” might actually run the place.
The only thing that changes the outcome is that bit about “the suburban home and the two car garage” not ever being affordable. This is absolutely NOT what I want to be true. This is the opposite of what I have always wanted to be the case, but you can read here, and here, and here, and here, about empirical evidence which indicates that it IS the case. The only blip in the data is from the period from 2008 through maybe 2010 when what appeared to be the new reality was causing fewer people to move to the South and West and more people to opt for urban lifestyles even in less prosperous cities. Once the options appeared to be available again, people began to take them again.
As far as education goes, I have a story from back when I was on Facebook more often. At least once a month I’d see a post lamenting the decline of the Pledge of Allegiance in America’s public schools; a horrible loss pointing to the decline of educational standards and academic achievement in our country. Except, I teach in one of the most liberal, secular regions of the United States and I’ve never taught in a school that didn’t have the students recite the pledge, and data doesn’t support the hypothesis that educational attainment is down.
In my Dear John Michael Greer post I tried to encourage JMG to perhaps rethink his views, and perhaps take back some of his ridiculous statements, regarding public education. He, nicely, doubled down on his willful ignorance by asserting that the people he talks to say the system doesn’t work. But I’ve read what he’s said, and it’s incorrect. Students are taught civics, they are taught about the three branches of government, checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights. Obsessively. Do children internalize those ideas and grasp their significance? Did you? At 15? Cool. You’re probably fooling yourself, but cool. It’s amazing how facts and data are great, super-important…until they contradict your previously held belief and then “a guy told me” becomes the solid foundation for real understanding!
“Back in my day we did experiments in cold fusion in Kindergarten, and we watched YouTube on our abacuses, and debated holograms of Stephen Douglas we made out of used toothpicks in our Social Studies-Woodshop classes!”
No you didn’t. You sang along with Paul Simon: “When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all!”
It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. If all you learned in high school was crap, it was your fault. If all a child learns now is crap the same holds true. There was no Golden Age when all the youth sought learning earnestly and were met by nothing but dedicated professionals who all were completely dedicated to their craft. There have always been good students and bad students, good teachers and bad teachers, areas in which education excelled and ways in which it was flawed. Making claims that this or that is no longer taught makes you look ridiculous to anyone who knows that they are.