zenpundit.com » politics

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Giving Critical Thinking Some Critical Thought

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

This is a useful, quick read…

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?: Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters

….The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

Read the rest here.

Most people will say (without critical thought) that critical thinking is a good thing but fail to define what they mean by that term. Usually right before they complain that schools and higher ed aren’t imparting the desired but undefined critical thinking skills to their students. While this stereotypical complaint is accurate as far as a generalization, it underestimates how much imparting such skills in students is generally opposed in practice by Left and Right. Argumentative peons who can think for themselves? Really, when in history has this ever been popular? Seldom with rulers and not often with the ruled; sheep do not enjoy the bark of the sheepdog even when the dog is defending the flock from the wolf.

There are idiotic factions on the Right, often socially conservative home schooler types who openly complain about “critical thinking” in the public schools as s kind of liberal conspiracy to replace content knowledge. It isn’t. Though the reverse idea, to minimize the idea of a canon of core content knowledge,  has appeared in ed fads, including aspects of the (deservedly) controversial Common Core Standards which was pushed by a cabal of billionaires, establishment GOP hacks, the Pearson corporation and the Obama administration in order to nationalize the school curriculum and vastly increase standardized testing. It is this recurring pattern of of political-academic-big business charlatanism in American education that gives this perennial right wing complaint traction. The public ed community in the past 40 years has pushed a lot of dubious programs and theories on students and the taxpayers. And still are; often in service of bureaucratic or political agendas like corporate ed reform.

The political  Left is no better and in some ways, worse. If ever there was a cultish, anti-critical thinking, movement for brain dead indoctrination, it’s the social justice/identity politics movement. Rarely have more intelligent people been made to say stupidly nonsensical things on a college campus than in the past two years. It’s play-acting Red Guardism  and vicious moral one-upmanship but as an ideology, SJW identity politics works socially as a self-referential, closed system to inoculate the believer from any need to consider contrary ideas and justify, if need be, violently suppressing them in others.

Critical thinking involves a capacity to use logical reasoning, the skills at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, probabilistic reasoning and several other important intellectual skills in pursuit of rational, skeptical inquiry. It’s powerful.  So powerful that it has been an engine of mankind’s progress whenever it has been given enough freedom to flourish. The flip side is that critical thinking in essence and outcome is also ultimately subversive of all ideologies and regimes. Without exception – and there is the rub. There’s a reason in other words, that Athens put Socrates to death. And we are no better. We do it daily on Twitter, albeit metaphorically because millions of Americans today can neither think critically nor stand to see others do it if it calls their cherished sacred cows to account.

We can teach critical thinking skills along with content. It’s not hard, assuming you can think critically yourself. We don’t systemically do this because we create ed systems designed to prevent it (public ed) or hire an army of people opposed to critical thinking on principle (university diversity bureaucracy). I’ll end my rant on this thought: immediately improving American education across the board at all levels could be done without costing one additional cent, but it means getting a lot of self-serving, politicized, rubbish out of the way.

Guest Post: Hays on Choosing a Side

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

 “Jack Hays“.  Mr. Hays has considerable experience in a number of political and policy positions inside government and out and shares with the ZP readership our appreciation for history, strategy and other things further afield. He wrote this brief essay elsewhere and gave permission to share it freely.

Nearly the entirety of American history resolves to an argument over whether the Declaration of Independence is true. If all men are created equal and the sole legitimate purpose of government is to secure liberties conferred by a Creator, then those premises yield a series of imperatives that tend inexorably to the expansion of the American promise to all men of all origins.

This is not a new observation: to the contrary, it has been the engine of our life as a free people. To paraphrase Ferling in his epic 2015 “Whirlwind,” the American Revolution did not end monstrous injustices like slavery — and by implication every societal oppression rooted in a denial of man’s nature — but it made inevitable their end. Throughout the history of the republic we see Americans return again and again to this: that however awful the circumstantial particulars of America, the only hope is the fulfillment of the aspirational idea of America. So we see Frederick Douglass, a former slave at the apogee of the slave power, nonetheless declare the Constitution a “glorious liberty document.” So we see Abraham Lincoln conclude that the Declaration inexorably moves his governance to the end of enslavement. So we see Jose de la Luz Saenz, a south-Texas schoolteacher in a decade when the Texas Rangers waged a campaign of murder and terror against Mexican-Americans like him, respond with enthusiasm to his draft notice to serve in the First World War — and exhort his students to remember George Washington and Valley Forge in his farewell. So we see Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ascend the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declare that he has come to redeem the “promissory note” of the American Founding.

So we see my father, who attended a (de facto) segregated elementary school in the Rio Grande Valley and was told as a child that as a Mexican, he should be “realistic” about his prospects in life, join the United States Air Force and serve America in war and peace.

On the one side, you have these Americans. They see America and her imperfections with immediacy and pain. But they also see the ideas and symbols of America, and they understand that these things are for them too. And they know their only recourse is the “appeal to heaven” — and the appeal to America’s promise.

On the other side, you have the others: those across nearly two and a half centuries who have argued, implicitly or explicitly, that the Declaration of Independence is a lie: either because its core assertions are false, or because America is so corrupted by its nature that those assertions are effectively fiction, un-fulfillable and kept vital as an opiate to the masses. There have been many of these too.

So, on the one hand you have the American Founders, Lincoln, Douglass, King, Saenz, and every single man and woman who saw the flag or read the Declaration and believed that this too was for them and their children.

On the other hand you have His Majesty George III of Great Britain, John C. Calhoun, the Confederate States of America, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the alt-right, and all the Pittsburgh Steelers save one.

Choose your side.

Polarized light — pls review before final exam, Thurs

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — actually the exam is daily, ongoing — and we’re not scoring very high marks ]
.

Unpolarized light vibrates in any planes:

A light wave that is vibrating in more than one plane is referred to as unpolarized light. Light emitted by the sun, by a lamp in the classroom, or by a candle flame is unpolarized light. Such light waves are created by electric charges that vibrate in a variety of directions, thus creating an electromagnetic wave that vibrates in a variety of directions. This concept of unpolarized light is rather difficult to visualize. In general, it is helpful to picture unpolarized light as a wave that has an average of half its vibrations in a horizontal plane and half of its vibrations in a vertical plane.

Polarized light vibrates in only one plane:

It is possible to transform unpolarized light into polarized light. Polarized light waves are light waves in which the vibrations occur in a single plane. The process of transforming unpolarized light into polarized light is known as polarization.

The most common method of polarization involves the use of a Polaroid filter. Polaroid filters are made of a special material that is capable of blocking one of the two planes of vibration of an electromagnetic wave. .. In this sense, a Polaroid serves as a device that filters out one-half of the vibrations upon transmission of the light through the filter. When unpolarized light is transmitted through a Polaroid filter, it emerges with one-half the intensity and with vibrations in a single plane; it emerges as polarized light.

This works either way — so to speak, either vertically, or horizontally — though not, by definition, both at once. Ohh, and there’s paradox involved:

Read the whole lesson at The Physics Classroom: Polarization — and memorize, remember?

**

Ali Soufan notices polarization in our political sphere wrt events we label or do not label terrorist:

NPR likewise:

Tim Furnish sees this polarization as avoiding mention of Islamic influence when it is clearly present:

And then there’s this:

Sebastian Gorka told MSNBC

Gorka in full:

Sometimes an attack is unequivocally clear for what it is. When somebody shouts ALlahu Akbar as they’re stabbing a police officer, it’s pretty clear it’s not a case of the mafia robbing a bank, wouldn’t you say so?

Eh?

Vox is oppositely polarized to Gorka et alii:

As, indeed, am I.

**

Incientally, all you special ops types with cool shades:

For lightweight, functional shades that protect your eyes in any lighting situation, Oakley has designed the SI Flak Jacket. Featuring an innovative 8.75 base lens curvature for optimal peripheral vision, these sunglasses provide side eye protection as well as a maximal field of view. The stress-resistant O-Matter frame found in many Oakley tactical models is lightweight, ergonomic and will not succumb to the pressures of constant wear and travel. The Plutonite polycarbonate lenses fully filter out harmful UVA, UVB, UVC and blue light up to 400 nm for maximum sun protection. Oakley also has included an Iridium coating on the lenses which reduces glare in extremely bright light. For adaptability in any environment, the lenses are easily interchangeable. « less

Take heed:

Polarization has a wealth of other applications besides their use in glare-reducing sunglasses.

Like — in USian politics?

**

Okay, time for the test. Sample question:

Answer:

A. Referring to the above question, the glare is the result of a large concentration of light aligned parallel to the water surface. To block such plane-polarized light, a filter with a vertically aligned polarization axis must be used.

Matryoshka Trump

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — NYorker invokes the nested dolls archetype — not kind to Trump ]
.

You already know that I sit up and take special notice when certain forms (symmetries, helices, ouroboroi, etc) show up — because forms are a particularly powerful way in which the mind orders its world, or because the world teaches the mind that it is ordered in formal ways, take your pick — well, one of those forms is the nested form called Matryoshka, which I’ve discussed before:

  • Nesting Buddhas and insubstantiality
  • ISIS goes Matryoshka
  • **

    Imagine, then, my interest to read today’s New Yorker post, Valley of the Russian Dolls: A Hollow, Repetitive Form Proves Perfect for Trump.

    **

    I invite you to read the article yourself to learn about Halina Danchenko. who sells Matryoshka dolls. Shoppers are asked not to open the dolls on display in her stone themselves — however “If you want to see what’s inside the leader of the free world, Danchenko will open him for you.”

    The article is witty, if you share her perspective:

    Trump, who is as matronly as a big bullying man can be, already has the de-facto physique of a nesting doll (and something very like the shellac)

    The dolls are witty too, or should I say catty? Read about the two Trump sets that the article describes in detail..

    **

    If you think Trump is father to a host of lies, as the NYT does, why then this article will amuse you, and conversely, if you see him as a straight-shooting man of truth, not so much.

    The writer, Kathryn Schulz, is clearly in the first category:

    Never has a President seemed so entirely hollow as Trump, so intellectually and morally vacant. Nor has any Administration, so early in its tenure, concealed such a lengthy series of deceptions, or grown so bizarrely, fatally fractal: its lawyers have lawyers, its scandals have sub-scandals, its lies have little lie-lets. It’s easy to imagine, given this prevailing opacity and the incompetence of those nominally in charge, that there is another Trump Russian doll out there, this one filled up with actual Russians.

    And her conclusion:

    That might or might not prove to be the truth about what’s going on inside Donald Trump politically. What’s going on psychologically is a different story. All of us are largely hidden from one another, our most important attributes by definition invisible: minds, hearts, psyches, consciences, souls. Even for ourselves, we can access these aspects only through sustained introspection, a habit anathema to Trump; other people, meanwhile, reveal their innermost selves to us chiefly through their actions. On that evidence, the most accurate Trump doll is the one made of Donalds all the way down: utterly full of himself, in all other ways utterly empty.

    Realpolitik as if angels were real

    Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
    .


    St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

    **

    It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

    **

    Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

    an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

    Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

    **

    When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

    and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

    and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

    I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

    Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

    **

    Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

    **

    But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    **

    An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

    Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

    Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?


    Switch to our mobile site