De-Programming Students

by | Feb 9, 2009

Letters from parents often complain of a sense of futility in trying to argue with their own children, who have been fed a steady diet of the politically correct vision of the world, from elementary school to the university. Some ask for suggestions of particular books that might make a dent in the know-it-all attitude […]

Letters from parents often complain of a sense of futility in trying to argue with their own children, who have been fed a steady diet of the politically correct vision of the world, from elementary school to the university.

Some ask for suggestions of particular books that might make a dent in the know-it-all attitude of some young people who have heard only one side of the story in classrooms all their lives.

That is one way of going about trying to de-program young people. There are, for example, some good books showing what is wrong with the “global warming” crusades or showing why male-female differences in income or occupations are not automatically discrimination.

Various authors have written a lot of good books that demolish what is currently believed– and taught to students– on a wide range of issues. Some of those books are listed as suggested readings on my website.

Yet trying to undo the propaganda that passes for education at too many schools and colleges, one issue at a time, may not always be the best strategy. There are too many issues on which the politically correct party line is considered to be the only way to look at things.

Given the wide range of issues on which students are indoctrinated, instead of being educated, trying to undo all of that would require a whole shelf full of books– and somehow getting the students to read them all.

Another approach might be to respond to the dogmatic certainty of some young person, perhaps your own offspring, by asking: “Have you ever read a single book on the other side of that issue?”

Chances are, after years of being “educated,” even at some of the highest-priced schools and colleges, they have not.

When the inevitable answer to your question is “No,” you can simply point out how illogical it is to be so certain about anything when you have heard only one side of the story– no matter how often you have heard that one side repeated.

Would it make sense for a jury to reach a verdict after having heard only the prosecution’s case, or only the defense attorney’s case, but not both?

There is no need to argue the specifics of the particular issue that has come up. You can tell your overconfident young student that you will be happy to discuss that particular issue after he or she has taken the elementary step of reading something by somebody on the other side.

Elementary as it may seem that we should hear both sides of an issue before making up our minds, that is seldom what happens on politically correct issues today in our schools and colleges. The biggest argument of the left is that there is no argument– whether the issue is global warming, “open space” laws or whatever.

Some students may even imagine that they have already heard the other side because their teachers may have given them their version of other people’s arguments or motives.

But a jury would never be impressed by having the prosecution tell them what the defendant’s defense is. They would want to hear the defense attorney present that case.

Yet most students who have read and heard repeatedly about the catastrophes awaiting us unless we try to stop “global warming” have never read a book, an article or even a single word by any of the hundreds of climate scientists, in countries around the world, who have expressed opposition to that view.

These students may have been shown Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” in school, but are very unlikely to have been shown the British Channel 4 television special, “The Great Global Warming Swindle.”

Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that students are being indoctrinated with the correct conclusions on current issues, that would still be irrelevant educationally. Hearing only one side does nothing to equip students with the experience to know how to sort out opposing sides of other issues they will have to confront in the future, after they have left school and need to reach their own conclusions on the issues arising later.

Yet they are the jury that will ultimately decide the fate of this nation.

Thomas Sowell has published a large volume of writing. His dozen books, as well as numerous articles and essays, cover a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to judicial activism, from civil rights to choosing the right college. Please contact your local newspaper editor if you want to read the THOMAS SOWELL column in your hometown paper.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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