Has America Lost Its Ability To Reason?
Has America Lost Its Ability To Reason? The following is an excerpt from this article (link above)
I was sure I’d heard the high school teacher wrong. He told me the biggest problem he has with his students — many of whom end up in America’s top universities — was that they didn’t know how to read. “Oh, they’ve cracked the alphabetic code,” he clarified. “What I’m saying is they don’t have the ability to sit still with a text and read it for comprehension. Even worse, when they come across something they disagree with, they think it isn’t true. I’m not talking about opinions; I’m talking about facts.” What troubles the teacher is not that his students are reaching wrong conclusions. What troubles him is that they don’t grasp that they should make the effort to reason at all. He’s right to worry. If the best and brightest have lost faith in the power of critical reasoning to illuminate the way forward, we’re in trouble. Whether they realize it, ordinary people have become more comfortable with the idea that truth is relative and that emotion is a reliable and sufficient guide to finding it. For many of us, what’s true is whatever is pleasing and useful. The late critic Jane Jacobs defined culture as the worldview-defining thoughts you carry around in your head. Not long before she died, she wrote, “A culture is unsalvageable if stabilizing forces themselves become ruined and irrelevant.” Traditional belief in the effectiveness of reason, however imperfectly realized, has long been a stabilizing force in our liberal democracy. If that faith is slipping into irrelevance, we are going to lose more than our minds. That beleaguered teacher’s incurious and indifferent students are bird brains in a cultural coal mine. -- By Rod Dreher of The Dallas Morning News
Commentary: Throughout our nation’s history, there have been differences of opinion concerning the ways in which we collectively manage our economy and our social services. Until the past ten years or so, differences have been worked through via compromise. We all should understand and appreciate the extent to which significant compromise was necessary to draft our Constitution, to organize our government and its three branches, and to provide for both unity of the nation and sovereignty of the individual states. Our history lessons should teach us that compromise is the most necessary component of sound governing. As citizens we should elect leaders who are excellent listeners, who have impeccable reasoning skills, and are effective at the art of compromise. All of our greatest and most accomplished leaders have possessed these traits, up to an including Ted Kennedy.
President Barack Obama earned the votes of many independent voters because they saw in him the capacity to listen and to compromise. If he is losing their faith now, it is because he seems to bend to the will of the Democratic Party in ways that run counter to effective listening and effective compromise. One can only hope that, if we keep putting our message forth, both the Democrat and Republican party members who make up about 90% of our elected officials will begin to realize that this nation will never come together through a single party’s dominance. The only way we can create effective policy is through compromise that is truly bipartisan. And the only way our government can be bipartisan is if each individual elected at every level of government is personally willing to take a bipartisan stance, which means they must be willing to negotiate and compromise on every issue, across the board.
We hear a lot about “special interest” groups. In reality, each of us belongs to numerous special interest groups, and as we go through our lives trying to reconcile all that affects us, we find that we cannot adhere strictly to that which would completely satisfy any one “special interest.” For example, we can’t always do what’s “best” for our children unless we often do what is not “best” for ourselves. So we compromise – every day. And that is the lesson our elected representatives need to take with them into political office. Rather than going in with intentions to “fight” for “causes” (all “causes” are special interests, by the way), they should go in with intentions to forge the best policies that will work well for the largest numbers of citizens. And because no one person or ideology has all the right answers for everyone, they should, above all, go in with the intention to listen to how policies and practices actually affect people in reality.
Ideologies, such as political party platforms, are theoretical. They make fine starting points but poor frameworks. Most theories, when put into practice, require extensive tweaking (also known as compromises). In the State of Kansas, for instance, we’ve found that too much tax cutting leads to no money available on a “rainy day.” We’ve also learned that too much free spending leads to no money available on a rainy day. When it is obvious that everyone has made costly mistakes during a time of plenty, then it becomes equally obvious that everyone must sacrifice (also known as compromise) in a time of need.
In the current fiscal crisis, rather than a spirit of compromise, what I see everywhere I look is a spirit of stinginess. Some of it is born of true greed, but most of it comes from people mistakenly believing that their particular ideology holds all the answers. In a word, this is self-righteous. The counterpart of self-righteousness is humility. Those who are humble understand that solutions often create problems, and that the more complicated the problem, the more problematic any one solution is likely to become. The self-righteous don’t worry about the problems their solutions will create. They are certain that they are doing what is best for others, and they seldom check with the people they think they are “helping” with their self-satisfying solutions.
One of my particular “special interests” is small businesses. Whether they are single-crew construction companies, stand-alone retail stores, small manufacturers, or any other business employing less than 20 people, collectively they are the largest employers of U.S. citizens. Currently, they are going out of business in droves. They are not large enough to get a bail-out like Citibank or GM. They are self-employed, so they do not qualify for hand-outs such as unemployment checks and subsidized health insurance. They are not counted among the jobless but they account for a large number of those who are losing their health insurance, losing their homes and losing their livelihoods. The ideology of the Democratic Party looks past small businesses in their fervor to inflict punishment on large corporations. They don’t realize or don’t care that their policies affect small businesses far more punitively than they affect large corporations. Neither is the Republican Party in small businesses’ corner. Their policies might provide some benefit to small businesses, except that their policies apply equally to large corporations, effectively creating an unequal playing field that gives all the advantages to large businesses, putting the small businesses out of the competition and, in tough times, out of business entirely.
I believe that most small business owners and most of their employees would like to see some balance in taxation and spending that promotes the establishment and growth of small businesses. I believe that it would be very simple to create effective programs for LLCs, S-Corps and sole-proprietorships that would help these types of businesses create new jobs. The only way out of the fiscal crisis this State and this nation are facing is to get people back to work. The best way to accomplish that is to help people help themselves. That is what small business does. If we reason this out, independent of our favored ideologies, we can surely see the merits of preserving small businesses. No matter how good our roads are, no matter how well-educated our children are, if people cannot find work, they cannot put those roads and those educations to use. But if we have good-paying jobs, we have the means to build roads and to educate our populace, as well as the ends to achieve cost-effectiveness in all our social programs.