Years ago, while researching parenting philosophies, I delved into the ideas of the Taking Children Seriously movement, which is based on the educational philosophy of Austrian-British philosopher of science and professor Karl Popper (1902-1994). While I have not found TCS philosophy workable for all aspects of my parenting, I did and do find Popper’s theory about how people learn to be true and especially relevant in today’s social and political climate, in which we are often urged to deactivate the learning-switch of our brain, and just decide which side (of any issue) we are aligned with, and then leave behind our questioning phase, shut out opposing opinions, and possibly even refuse to associate with those who’ve been publicly associated with “the opposition.”

To be tentative, is to apply scientific theory to all the important questions and problems we’re addressing, both individually and as a society. More specifically, it’s to approach a problem we want to solve by forming a tentative theory, and then setting out to disprove that theory by subjecting it to rigorous testing through the following behaviors:

  1. Engaging in discussion and debate with diverse people, whether online or face-to-face
  2. Experiencing our lives, and listening to others’ observations of their own lives, with an awake and open mind
  3. Exploring the issue through books, articles, videos, and various other forms of media

Throughout this process, some aspects of our theories will be disproved and we’ll get new information that leads us to rearrange and modify what we think, and form newer, better theories, which we’ll then subject to the same testing process out of which new theories will be born, tested, and partially or totally disproved and modified, over and over again, ad infinitum.

Now I’ll come back to what I said about today’s social and political climate, in which we are often pushed to align ourselves with one side or the other of an issue, and in which questioning any assertions made by the prevailing philosophy puts us at risk of being branded as an “apologist” for certain inhumane behaviors. For example, if I express concern that at many universities, students like “Rose” who are accused of sexual misconduct, are being denied due process in the way that their cases are being considered and resolved, someone may attempt to shut down the discussion by calling me a rape apologist.

If I express disapproval of any behaviors executed by key figures in the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the BLM activists who decided last year to prevent Bernie Sanders from speaking at one of his own rallies, someone may attempt to shut down the discussion by calling me an apologist for racism.

In today’s climate, it’s seen as impossible to both care about the people whose issues are being raised in a particular movement, and still criticize decisions that we feel are taking the movement in a harmful direction. Criticism tends to get you castigated as an enemy of the movement, as equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has been discovering throughout her life, and again quite recently when she gave a talk at CSULA titled “Where feminism went wrong” — students protested the event, and one even said “This is my freedom of speech” when questioned about why she was ripping down posters advertising the talk.

The more dogmatic, divided, easily offended and disinclined toward debate I see people becoming, the hungrier I am to find a place where we can all bring in our different perspectives and talk, respectfully and passionately, about the things we all care about. I’m starting this blog in the hopes that there are others who want to open the same conversation. I hope you’ll leave a reply below!

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2 thoughts on “The tentative learning style (click this title to read more)

  1. Susie, congratulations on your new blog. It’s a big step forward.
    Compromise in today’s very polarized society is anathematic. Back about 50 years ago, compromise began to die as thought leaders interested in peaceful change were killed; I am thinking in particular of the civil rights movement, an emotionally charged period marred by violence. Necessary change was no longer asked for; it was demanded.
    When the Civil Rights Act was passed, those who opposed change needed to find another way to maintain control. Over the next twenty-five years, the opposition found that measure of control by pre-empting the agenda of those who fought for civil rights by pretending more outrage than those who had gained equal standing before the law.
    The Cold War also played an important part in keeping the United States unified. It is far easier to stand united when there is an “us” versus “them” dynamic; so long as the US remained “us” the rate and degree of change was subordinated. As the Cold War ended, however, the previously unified American society fragmented into subgroups, each with a list of grievances and each demanding recognition of their legitimacy.
    America complied by granting them protected status. They were now added to the list of categories which were given preferential treatment.
    Fast forward another twenty-five years and you arrive at the present: a society so fragmented into subgroups that it effective has no unifying identity. Groups listed for protected status now include so many people that very few are left outside of “cultural diversity”, a euphemism for a far more sinister thing: control.
    Yes, I said control. Look at the analysis of the current election: voters are subdivided into groups along the same lines as were used to grant protected status, and voters within protected groups are galvanized by political spin of any opposition as a “-phobia” or an “-ism”.
    Stand against male dominance, and you are a feminist. Stand against female dominance, and you are a misogynist. Point out that men and women are different, and you are a sexist.
    The divisions are played upon one another to engender discord. Clever statements gain overwhelming support from a group against another, effectively gaining control of bloc after bloc of voters. Those who oppose this process on any level are castigated and marginalized; those who are nominally members of a protected group but who stand up to point out the system’s flaws are branded as traitors to their kind. Merely refusing to accept change without discussing the ramifications of said change is enough to bring about visceral, sometimes even violent reactions.
    Within the groups, hatred abounds. Hatred of those who are different, hatred of those who disagree, and even hatred of asking questions. “Tow the party line” is the message within these groups; that party line is often even more bigoted that the ignorance that triggered the formation of the group in the first place.
    These divisions need to be healed before society can truly evolve. The pretended evolution that is so flawed and so lauded is actually a sign that the fragmentalization of American culture is approaching a critical point, after which it will disintegrate. It’s happened before in Western civilization: the Roman Empire crumbled into hundreds of successor states over centuries, not all at once.
    America may survive yet for a long time. It may even flourish. But the unified cultural identity that bound the several states and immigrants from dozens of nations into a new common culture is dying.

    Liked by 1 person

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