First, two disclaimers: 1) I’ve never formally or informally studied either rhetoric, nor logic (except for mathematical logic). I suppose one could be charitable and say that I absorbed a bit of logic, informally, via participation in the James Randi forum.* 2) I have only a scant knowledge of the history of education, mostly picked up, I think, from hearing Noam Chomsky describe the desire of elites – decades before Reagan became president – to use the school system to turn out good, obedient factory workers. Consequently, I’m not a good candidate for writing a diary such as this. However, I don’t see diaries like this being written, much at all, in most all of the political forums – left or right – that I visit. If you are knowledgeable about these subjects, I invite you to write about them.
There was a very interesting comment in a diary at Old Elm Tree, called Conservatives killed the liberal arts, which supports a growing conviction, in myself, that activists should be looking to re-introduce elements of a classical education into school curricula, and should also be making some sort of concerted effort to educate adults along these lines, also. The diary itself was unimpressive, yet another example of “blame conservatives for everything” that one finds so often in lefty blogs. My guess is that the author has succumbed to the lefty side of cartoon stereotyping that infests the self-imagined politically aware, here in the US. However, the following comment was interesting, and inspiring:
Can I add to your fine comments, that whatever subjects are taught, the curriculum has been carefully “refined” so that no longer do students study rhetoric, poetry, or dialectics in terms of having basic logical foundation.
My father understood all those things. Born in 1911, he could pull apart the most supposedly logically conceived piece of rhetoric, and if there was no logic or truth in it, tear the argument to shreds. This from a man, who due to the Depression, never got beyond HS (with exception being accounting classes needed to get CPA license.)
The “fine comment” that this comment refers to was also more interesting and valuable than the diary, itself:
I actually disagree with this.
But there is another observation. If a liberal arts education is so important, why isn’t it stressed at the high school or general education level, which focuses only on “collage only” courses? Why isn’t there more effort to present liberal arts to the general public outside the venue of the university; such as in the form of documentaries or published books?
And just what is a “liberal arts” education any way? Is this something that has a clear definition? Are conservatives correct in simply calling it “liberal indoctrination?” Maybe because of the changing economy, it’s time we start looking towards more efficient education. What about other modes of education, such as strong social education, which adds emphases on art, music, dance, and social interactions.
Rhetoric and logic are considered part of a liberal arts education, whose roots go back to Ancient Greece and Rome. Believe it or not, there are conservatives that would probably die from joy if rhetoric and logic were re-introduced into school curricula. While I think it’s fair to say that ignorant, brain washed “ditto-head” type conservatives outnumber more rational, educated conservatives, I would question the appropriateness of calling such people “conservative”, to begin with. Yeah, they’re conservative in some senses of the word, but even ignoring the ignorance factor, “conservative” does not have a static definition. Noam Chomsky has written on this point, but I don’t want to look up references.
The phrase “liberal arts” is probably part of what’s causing the problem, here. Liberalism goes all the way back to the enlightenment, but Ancient Greeks and Romans’ arguing logic and philosophy go back further, still. How, then, could “pre-liberal” civilizations embrace part of what used to constitute a liberal arts education?
Well, this ‘paradox’ just emphasizes the need for a modicum of knowledge, and the ability to think, the need to be aware of nuance and ambiguities and human language, and the desirability to not be brain-washed into ‘thinking’ in stereotypes.
I’ve long been convinced of the fact that activists need to focus on the systemic rot that afflicts America, since “no good deed goes unpunished” in a society that’s been so thoroughly corrupted by financial interests. However, in recent years, I’ve increasingly become convinced that Americans lack the intellectual capacity to make deep changes in society, with any sort of rapidity.
I’m only a decade away from retirement age, and thus likely older than most people reading this. However, in spite of my high school “liberal arts” education occuring before Reagan became President, I myself was never educated in logic and rhetoric – these subjects were not availabe in my high school, which I considered pretty decent. Quite honestly, I don’t recall anybody of my generation telling me that they had studied either rhetoric or logic in high school. It sure seems to me that the dysfunctional intellectual roots of our current malaise go back much further than the “conservative” boogey-men that American lefties love to hate. Better to ask Noam Chomsky about this subject, than rely on clueless rants in “progressive” blogs…..
P.S.: I used to listen to Thom Hartmann, before his shilling for the Democrats became intolerable. Hartmann often reminded his audience that Reagan acted to take civics out of the Amerian classroom, but again, I don’t recall getting much of an education in “civics”, other than the basics of how the American system of government is supposed to work. If anybody is knowledgeable about the “when” and “what” about how civics was taken out of the classroom, please post.
* I have a very low opinion of most of the serial “debunkers”, there. They tend to be insulting, plus full of irrational ‘arguments’, themselves. As a group, they tend to use rational arguments, when available, and abandon them just as readily, when not available.
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An interesting comment, at Amazon.com, to the book The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric [Paperback], is as follows:
Why wasn’t this taught when I was in school??? January 19, 2004
By Michael Freeman
I wholeheartedly recommend this book; however, it’s probably so different from anything you were taught in school that it might be difficult to incorporate anything into your writing style.
I was never taught logic in school–either high school or college. Thus, I found the sections on logic very interesting. The author describes every logical argument you could think of in detail, and (the editor) provides examples for most. Not easy reading, though–I found myself having to go back and re-read/study portions routinely.
As an aside, I think this book, unintentionally, does a lot to point out the failures of modern government-controlled schools. The “trivium” should be taught to all grade-school students.