Category Archives: Ibn-Khaldun was here

The Two Towers

The many faces of the many races.

There is the problem of trying to reduce something complex, into something managable. I’m not sure which competing vision is correct, or to be honest if they are even at variance with each other, although I could spend a couple of hours figuring it all out for you, my dear, dear, readers. In fact I probably will, but it isn’t something I would blog about in the framework presented, either by CNN or Balloon Juice, or by Mr. DeVega. I would wager that there are right wing sites that are using the same charts to draw opposite conclusions from the data.

While I tend to criticize college kids of any age, it is for this very reason, not because they can study the same statistics and draw different conclusions, but that they do so using the same methodology, that they were taught to use in their various colleges. For want of a better analogy it is symmetrical analysis of the data. It means what you were taught what it could mean. College required you to see the information, and analyze it, within an acceptable framework of thought, in order to receive the approval of the professor or instructor and obtain a grade. By not having gone through that process I am free from those constraints and may either accept your analysis, varied as it may be, or do my own asymmetrical analysis and draw very different conclusions with very different objectives than those of your own.

Those of you who have followed this blog know that. I do not criticize college education for the knowledge it imparts, but for the knowledge it covers over, not because it limits anyone’s thinking abilities, but their abilities to think. These are distinctions that seem to be easily missed by the college educated as they become defensive of their training. I think many of you take what I view as a systemic failure, to be an accusation of an individual one. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not our ability to think that concerns me, it is our capability to think that does.

Just to add, if you think the Muslim and Arabic worlds are stuck in the Middle Ages, how much so are we, stuck in the Scholastic methods of education of the 10th century?

Right, Right , You’re Bloody Well Right

via Atrios, so even more props abound all around,

A journalist named Michael Hastings has a must-read piece out tonight, riffing on a longer article by Leslie Gelb (and called to my attention by Jay Rosen, so props all around!) analyzing what went wrong with media coverage in the run-up and then during the war in Iraq. As Hastings deconstructs it, there were many factors, including lack of foreign policy expertise by the journalists covering the story, a focus on the story from the White House perspective and on the politics of it all, and not the actual policy.

It wasn’t just a matter of the policy either. It was matter of ignoring the facts.

I rarely say anything uplifting to, or about America, because as a people we don’t need to be encouraged in self regard and self esteem. The fact that 99.9% couldn’t pass the fifth grade exam of the 1870’s makes it easy to persuade them into anything wrapped in the flag or served with apple pie. Some like to attribute this to the “system”, when in fact most of it is attributable to the primary school teacher’s social and professional perceptions of the students right to succeed, and the rest of us quit reading outside of our main interests after what ever level of schooling we may have obtained to, if we are not in fact so bored with the structured education that we have stopped reading even before we leave.

Speaking For Myself Only

In politics that is the point.

This brings us around to some of my longstanding ambivalence about blogging and journalism more generally. On the one hand, while it’s probably not enormously important whether most people have a handle on the mind-body problem, a democracy can’t make ethics and political philosophy the exclusive province of cloistered academics. On the other hand, I look at the online public sphere and too often tend to find myself thinking: “Discourse at this level can’t possibly accomplish anything beyond giving people some simulation of justification for what they wanted to believe in the first place.” This is, needless to say, not a problem limited to philosophy. And I think it may contribute to the fragmentation and political polarization we see online, which are generally explained in sociological terms as an “echo chamber” effect or “groupthink.”

Worth a look in my opinion.