They’re ‘avin’ a larff

America is broken, so we asked some of its greatest minds how they would fix it

OK, Krugman? Nordhaus? Freeman Dyson is gone of course. But OK, who are these great minds?

Rebecca Solnit, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Robert Reich, Darren Walker, Bill McKibben,

Oh….

29 thoughts on “They’re ‘avin’ a larff”

  1. To be fair the article starts strongly with Rebecca Solnit arguing for critical thinking to be taught in schools. As she says,

    “Over and over, I run into statements from people who don’t understand that the conclusion they’re brandishing can’t be reached from the data they’ve glommed on to or that their information is itself corrupt or simply wrong.”

    Cue the other ‘great minds’, proving her point.

    I’d like to believe that whoever assembled the article put it in that order for a reason. One can dream…

  2. Had Pinochet been available I expect his response to have been “You’re going to need a bigger helicopter.”

  3. My daughter, now 23, did critical thinking in sixth form college. The textbook was reasonably entertaining to read. I think that a thread of critical thinking and scepticism should be present throughout school really.

  4. Well, yes, except what Ms. Solnit means by “critical thinking” and what logic does are rather different.

  5. Critical Thinking yes, Critical Theory no!

    Of course the problem (as others have mentioned before) with asking ‘the greatest minds’ is that no matter how intelligent a person is, outside their area of expertise they’re no better a judge on an issue than anyone else (plus, as our host points out, who chooses who counts as a great mind?)

  6. “plus, as our host points out, who chooses who counts as a great mind?”

    The ones that wrote history. The rest of the thinkers great and small are obviously the Villains since they had the temerity to have a different opinion.

    Mind… This principle pretty much precludes the status of “great thinker” to be assigned in ones’ lifetime, given that History takes a bit to mature.
    So anyone dubbed as such while still alive most likely isn’t.

  7. So, Africans, Hispanics and Jews, plus a couple of token GoodWhites™, got together and have discovered that…drum roll…White people are bad!

    Will they manage to come up with a final solution to the BadWhite™ problem though? We wait with baited breath….

  8. ‘Had Pinochet been available I expect his response to have been “You’re going to need a bigger helicopter.”’

    Thank you, RLJ

  9. (plus, as our host points out, who chooses who counts as a great mind?)

    Let’s see: “Krugman?”
    Not our host then.

    . . . arguing for critical thinking to be taught in schools.

    Someone capable of critical thinking might conclude that it’s not something that can be taught at school level. Better thinking, maybe.

    America is broken, so we asked some of its greatest minds how they would fix it

    Great minds would have spotted a question so obviously begged.

  10. I remember reading a piece about logical fallacies once. Tautology or circular arguments, non sequitur, begging the question, the straw man, unsupported assertion, argument from authority etc. It gave a clear and concise explanation as to what each one meant, why it rendered an argument invalid, how to spot said fallacies etc. Knowing about these is a good foundation for critical thinking.

    Once you know them, adverts are a really good place to practice spotting them. The VW Toe Rag, it’s better than a random 20 year old banger and rap music is superior to Mozart.

  11. Check out the entry requirements for a ATEM course in a reputable university and you will fond something like this:

    Grades AAB at A-Level. This must include A-Level Mathematics, and Physics or Chemistry. Excludes General Studies and Critical Thinking.
    Full entry requirements (link)

  12. “no matter how intelligent a person is, outside their area of expertise they’re no better a judge on an issue than anyone else”

    I can see that that’s true when they decide to recommend a policy. But I would expect them to be better than average at picking up logical flaws in someone else’s policy recommendations.

  13. I don’t think that Stony junior did critical thinking to score uni points so much as because she thought that it would be interesting and useful.

  14. Good for Stony junior.
    One wonders at the selection system and the worthiness of the candidate if he/she does something just to score uni points. [Bah! that stirs up an embittered memory of STEM students having to take a “Use of English” exam even if they had two English ‘O’ levels but Arts students not being required to even if they had no English ‘O’ levels]

  15. I didn’t read the article, but lemme guess…

    The solution is something along the lines of “be more like us,” right?

  16. The problem with teaching critical thinking in schools would be that the kids would realise that a large proportion of what they’re being taught is bullshit, useless or both.

  17. I did General Studies back at school to get practise in writing essays. Summary, introduction, thesis, evidence, conclusion, references, etc. Did quite well as in my time university expected you to enter already knowing how to write essays. Also useful for writing documentation.

  18. “The problem with teaching critical thinking in schools would be that the kids would realise that a large proportion of what they’re being taught is bullshit, useless or both.”

    Indeed, and those kids would grow up into sceptical adults who would be more difficult for the politicians to dupe.

  19. I see they included the execrable Bill McKibben, a thoroughly horrible human being. Anyone who hasn’t would be well advised to pick up Michael Shellenberger’s new book Apocalypse Never.
    I always knew the greenies were lying little pieces of filth, but it seems I had somehow underestimated them. McKibben in particular comes in for a bit of a bollocking.

  20. Let us stipulate that anyone who allows the name Robert Reich and a description of anything other than malicious, ignorant fool in the same thought is either lying, is peddling a load or is certifiably insane. Now then…………

  21. The problem with teaching critical thinking in schools would be that the kids would realise that a large proportion of what they’re being taught is bullshit, useless or both.

    Kids are both incredibly credulous at a basic level and incredibly sceptical at a higher level.

    They lack experience with people having them on. So when a colleague told his class that I had played for Aston Villa before the staff-student football match, they fell for it utterly.

    But they experience people that are full of shit all the time. So they maintain a very healthy scepticism about the outlook of teachers and what they are taught.

    Critical thinking cannot be taught, except by experience. Putting it on the curriculum would simply give less time to useful things.

    When I tell my colleagues that supposing lockdown eradicated Covid in NZ is a post hoc, ergo propter hoc error, because Japan reached the same point without lockdowns, they don’t get it. We locked down, we eradicated Covid, therefore lockdown must have caused it. These are the people who would be teaching any critical thinking course, remember.

  22. Dennis, Climate-Change Denying Fruitcake

    Gee, the world is shit. Let’s ask some wankers to wank. That should make it all better.

    Note the irony: Asking a group of individuals who are entirely representative of the Establishment Political Class that has “broken” ‘Merica to offer their thoughts on how to fix it.

  23. It’s amazing how they all identified the same key issue.

    Oh, no, wait; they didn’t. Each child just trotted out its favourite bedtime story.

    Quelle surprise.

  24. “Over and over, I run into statements from people who don’t understand that the conclusion they’re brandishing can’t be reached from the data they’ve glommed on to or that their information is itself corrupt or simply wrong.”

    If Solnit said this, she has a lack of awareness larger than a supermassive black hole.

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