jerryking + historians + critical_thinking   4

US declining interest in history presents risk to democracy
May 2, 2019 | Financial Times | by Edward Luce.

America today has found a less bloodthirsty way of erasing its memory by losing interest in its past. From an already low base, the number of American students majoring in history has dropped by more than a third since 2008. Barely one in two hundred American undergraduates now specialise in history......Donald Trump is a fitting leader for such times. He had to be told who Andrew Jackson was.....He also seems to think that Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave and 19th century abolitionist, is among us still.....But America’s 45th president can hardly be blamed for history’s unpopularity. Culpability for that precedes Mr Trump and is spread evenly between liberals, conservatives, faculty and parents........Courses on intellectual, diplomatic and political history are being replaced at some of America’s best universities by culture studies that highlight grievances at the expense of breadth.......Then there is the drumbeat of STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Most US states now mandate tests only in maths and English, at the expense of history and civic education...... In a recent survey, only 26 per cent of Americans could identify all three branches of government. More than half could not name a single justice on the US Supreme Court.....
the biggest culprit is the widespread belief that “soft skills” — such as philosophy and English, which are both in similar decline to history — do not lead to well-paid jobs.....folk prejudice against history is hard to shake. In an ever more algorithmic world, people believe that humanities are irrelevant. The spread of automation should put a greater premium on qualities that computers lack, such as intuitive intelligence, management skills and critical reasoning. Properly taught that is what a humanities education provides.......People ought to be able to grasp the basic features of their democracy. [Abiding] Faith in a historic theory only fuels a false sense of certainty....What may work for individual careers poses a collective risk to US democracy. The demise of strong civics coincides with waning voter turnout, a decline in joining associations, fewer citizen’s initiatives — and other qualities once associated with American vigour......There is no scientific metric for gullibility. Nor can we quantitatively prove that civic ignorance imposes a political cost on society. These are questions of judgment. But if America’s origins tell us anything it is that a well-informed citizenry creates a stronger society.
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here is what robots can't do -- create art, deep meaning, move our souls, help us to understand and thus operate in the world, inspire deeper thought, care for one another, help the environment where we live.......The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonalized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded: the voracious lust for understanding, the enthusiasm for work, the ability to grasp the gist, the empathetic sensitivity to what will attract attention and linger in the mind. Unable to compete when it comes to calculation, the best workers will come with heart in hand.
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algorithms  automation  citizen_engagement  civics  Colleges_&_Universities  critical_thinking  democracy  Donald_Trump  Edward_Luce  empathy  engaged_citizenry  false_sense_of_certainty  foundational  historians  history  historical_amnesia  humanities  ignorance  political_literacy  sense-making  soft_skills  STEM  threats  U.S.  vulnerabilities 
may 2019 by jerryking
'12 Years a Slave,' and Historians' Problems with Slave Narratives : The New Yorker
October 23, 2013
Slavery’s Shadow
Posted by Annette Gordon-Reed

The historian’s task is to recognize this truth, figure out what problems are inherent to each form of evidence, and find ways, if possible, to surmount them. Take that most cherished of historical documents, the family letter. Letter writers often used the medium to create a pictures of what their families were like, and to illustrate what role they played in the family. Sometimes the picture was good. Sometimes it was bad. But the family letter is always subjective, and carries with it the problems that go along with all subjective judgments. We must be wary of them—not reject them out of hand but, rather, recognize their limitations.

What do we do to satisfy ourselves that any critical or important information contained in a family letter, or in any letter, is reliable? We look for evidence outside of the document, preferably created by someone other than the letter writer, to support what it says. If the letter presents information that we have no good reason to question—if the writer is not saying anything that is fantastical, or which contradicts other known information—we tend to accept its assertions. There is only so much time in the day and in life. The same process can be, and has been, followed with slave narratives.
slavery  storytelling  historians  history  critical_thinking  problems 
october 2013 by jerryking
A First Draft of History? - WSJ.com
March 12, 2005 | WSJ | By BRET STEPHENS

The cliché is that journalism is the first draft of history. Yet a historian searching for clues about the origins of many of the great stories of recent decades--the collapse of the Soviet empire; the rise of Osama bin Laden; the declining American crime rate; the economic eclipse of Japan and Germany--would find most contemporary journalism useless. Perhaps a story here or there might, in retrospect, seem illuminating. But chances are it would have been nearly invisible at the time of publication: eight column inches, page A12.

The problem is not that journalists can't get their facts straight: They can and usually do. Nor is it that the facts are obscure: Often, the most essential facts are also the most obvious ones. The problem is that journalists have a difficult time distinguishing significant facts--facts with consequences--from insignificant ones. That, in turn, comes from not thinking very hard about just which stories are most worth telling....As for the media, it shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources. Beware of exoticizing your subject:
Bret_Stephens  journalism  journalists  critical_thinking  history  signals  noise  frictions  pain_points  worthiness  countervailing  storytelling  seminal_moments  wide-framing  discernment  origin_story  historians  consequential  clichés  worthwhile_problems 
may 2012 by jerryking
Norm Augustine: The Education Our Economy Needs - WSJ.com
SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 | WSJ | By NORM AUGUSTINE.

We lag in science, but students' historical illiteracy hurts our politics and our businesses.
illiteracy  history  historians  students  high_schools  critical_thinking 
september 2011 by jerryking

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