My Politics

not impressed

Growing up in the American South-by-Southwest, country music was ever present. For the most part I didn’t choose to listen to it, but it was the preferred genre for most kids riding the bus to school every morning. Later on in college, when I worked part time at a country steakhouse, it was the only genre that existed for fifteen hours a week. So let’s just say my brain has devoted a bit more room to country songs than I ever really wanted it to.

So Shania Twain had a song way back in the day called “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” In the music video, she’s clearly a prostitute in danger of dying of thirst (and also, weirdly enough, manipulating the nation’s natural gas supply.) There is so much wrong with this music video, but the point of the song is that Little Leopard-Print Riding Hood is consistently underwhelmed by the men in her life because they resort to the same old guy stuff to impress her and she just wants a man who can love her right (and caress her body as well as she can).

So, as little as I resemble a prostitute in the Mojave desert fleeing from handsome rocket scientists on motorcycles (you know that actor flunked geometry), I feel like Shania Twain in America’s political landscape. (It seriously bothers me now. There are so many actual rocket scientists they could have gotten to participate in the music video, and you know a lot of them would die for the chance to be turned down by a dehydrated Shania Twain.)

A Nation In Love With Its Own False Dichotomies

In case you’re unfamiliar, a false dichotomy is an either/or statement that’s not really an either/or. I create them for my children all the time, because they’re still learning how to make choices. “Either you can eat cereal or eggs for breakfast,” for example. There are other things he could eat for breakfast, including macaroni and cheese. But I’m not making mac and cheese for breakfast, so I offer a false dichotomy to push my kids to accept one of two possible outcomes.

At some point, though, we become adults and have to be able to think critically and make decisions based on complex information. Thinking critically, in part, means learning to recognize fallacies, the tricks and shortcuts our brains use to reach conclusions that don’t really work, like false dichotomies. When we see these fallacies come up, it should send up a red flag in our brains that someone is logicking wrong and we need to dig deeper.

Here is the link to Wikipedia’s list of logical fallacies. Your homework is to start with the informal fallacies and read on. This is a list of everything that’s wrong with our political discourse. I’m serious. Every item on this list is something that people do wrong when they talk about politics, and politicians are just the worst about it. Here’s an unedited sample.

  • Appeal to the stone (argumentum ad lapidem) – dismissing a claim as absurd without demonstrating proof for its absurdity.[13]
  • Argument from ignorance (appeal to ignorance, argumentum ad ignorantiam) – assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa.[14]
  • Argument from (personal) incredulity (divine fallacy, appeal to common sense) – I cannot imagine how this could be true, therefore it must be false.[15][16]
  • Argument from repetition (argumentum ad infinitum) – signifies that it has been discussed extensively until nobody cares to discuss it anymore;[17][18] sometimes confused with proof by assertion
  • Argument from silence (argumentum ex silentio) – where the conclusion is based on the absence of evidence, rather than the existence of evidence.[19][20]
  • Argument to moderation (false compromise, middle ground, fallacy of the mean, argumentum ad temperantiam) – assuming that the compromise between two positions is always correct.[21]
  • Argumentum ad hominem – the evasion of the actual topic by directing an attack at your opponent.

Familiarize yourself with these failures of thinking. Internalize them; breathe them in. Set up an alert system in your mind that is instantly triggered when one of these happens. And one of the worst ones in American politics is the false dichotomy.

Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. Either you think everyone should have assault rifles or you want to take away my guns. Either you want to bomb Iran or you want them to bomb us. Either you’re with us or against us.

Intelligent people everywhere should call it like it is: bullshit. (And I’m using the technical, philosophical meaning of bullshit.)

Which Brings Me Back to Shania Twain

I make it a point to stay well informed about the state of American politics, including the presidential race. This is all the more important this year, since I’m in grad school and I’ve sworn off fantasy football; I need an outlet for my desire to follow teams, players, and statistics, and to make predictions about how well they will perform. I’ve surveyed the political field as well as anyone else I know, and my conclusion is that that don’t impress me much.

Because every single one of those candidates uses fallacious thinking to support their arguments, including false dichotomies. It’s all what Harry Frankfurt calls bullshit, or hokum. With one or two exceptions, they don’t want to change how you think about the American political process. They want to change how you think about them personally and whether they have the personality and the convictions to be a good president.

The Problem with Convictions

But personality and convictions are the two worst things to elect someone for! I’m just going to come out and say it. I don’t trust convictions. Not in the least. Because convictions are just strong emotions, and emotions can’t perceive nuance and detail. Convictions make no rational arguments, no strategies. Convictions think in fallacies. Convictions are always wrong.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose. Emotions exist to give us a starting point for thought and action. This is what M and I are teaching our kids about emotions: When you feel something strongly, you need to think about why. Gather information to flesh out your understanding of the problem. It’s only after you’ve identified your emotion and thought about the problem that you should do something about it. And in the process, you will almost certainly have found places where your emotional understanding of the situation was wrong.

The best example of the wrong use of conviction in politics is the simple statement

X is wrong. Therefore, X should be illegal.

Building factories in developing nations to reduce personnel costs. Using speech in a way that demeans or insults a group of people. Hiring a white person instead of an equally qualified black person. Gay marriage. Abortion.

We feel strong emotions about these issues, as we should. And when we oppose them, our strong emotions push us to get rid of the things that make us feel that way. In politics, this translates to a call to outlaw something. We issue this call based on our convictions, but we almost always call to outlaw something without evidence for the costs or benefits of that action.

And these calls to outlaw something naturally become false dichotomies.

“Outsourcing American jobs is wrong. If you don’t want to outlaw it, then you hate the American worker.”

“Hate speech is wrong. If you don’t want to outlaw it, you’re sexist and racist.”

“Gay marriage is wrong. If you don’t want to outlaw it, you want to destroy American families.”

“Abortion is wrong. If you don’t want to outlaw it, you’re complicit in the murder of children.”

All I have to do is point to the War on Drugs. Drugs are wrong. Therefore, drugs should be illegal.

Millions of Americans incarcerated for decades at a time, removed from their families, removed from the workforce. More than a trillion dollars spent on law enforcement and incarceration. And the drug trade is strong. Whole nations have been destabilized as drug lords have gained power.

Or how about the War on Terror? Terror is wrong. Therefore, we should send our military overseas to fight terrorists.

Thousands of American servicemen and women killed on foreign soil. Another trillion dollars spent. And all we’ve done is make more terrorists. Whole nations have been destabilized as religious fanatics have gained power.

This is what happens when we make political decisions based on our convictions, and all of the fallacious thinking that comes with them, rather than evidence and reason. Do we really think that outlawing whatever it is that we hate will make this country unequivocally better? Then we’re fooling ourselves. There are always costs. Sometimes, those costs outweigh the benefits.

My Politics

I don’t pretend to have answers to America’s problems. No one has them, including (especially) our presidential candidates. They’re problems so big that it takes the combined intelligence and effort of millions of people to resolve them. We’re not going to resolve them by using flawed thinking and appeals to emotion. Even the “straight talkers” on the campaign trail bullshit us.

So when it comes to actual political decisions, my philosophy is simple:

Do what works; don’t do what doesn’t.

There is no perfect path. There is no one political answer that works to make this country great. “Great” is subjective. What you think makes this country “great” says more about you than it does about the country.

I do have political convictions. But I don’t trust them. I suspect I’m wrong about everything I feel about politics. Because that’s the nature of conviction. I’m certainly not going to legislate my convictions on other people, and I expect the same from everyone else. Every political decision, every act, every law is a balance between costs and benefits. We design a lot of laws that are intended to have certain effects; a lot of times they simply don’t work. If you want to legislate something, you’d better have evidence it’ll do what you want it to do, and you need to show that you’ve accounted for the costs and risks.

And if you want to persuade me to take your side on a political issue, don’t give me emotion. Don’t tell me how strongly I should feel about it. It’s not that I don’t care–I do–but emotions don’t fix problems. Emotions commit fallacies. Convictions don’t impress me much.

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Source: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Life is sacred. The greatest evil in all the world is that people — beautiful, complex,
purposeful people, intricately crafted in the image of God and full of boundless potential — are so easily destroyed. By disease. By thoughtlessness. By weapons. And this nation where I’m trying to raise my children to be safe, honorable, intelligent men and women seems to have a particular and unique affinity for the latter.

So long as our American society devours its children, with guns but not only with guns, it is not a free society. We are enslaved to death, and we return the fugitives to their master.

The pain will not end because of our political arguments. It will not end because we debated the 2nd Amendment. It will not end because we found just the right statistics or moral reasoning. You cannot legislate the national conscience. This is a place where politics cannot help us.

The rumor is that this latest shooting was inspired because the shooter spent time in divisive places on the Internet where people who follow organized religion were dehumanized. If this is true, then this is one more tragedy that is the result of extremism. Muslim extremism, Christian extremism, atheist extremism, racial extremism, political extremism, gender extremism: Allowing ourselves to think that we are the only decent, intelligent, correct people, and that people are fundamentally flawed when they disagree with us, is evil.

When we seek to dehumanize others, we only dehumanize ourselves.

The pain will begin to subside when we mourn for our extremism and reject it. It will begin to subside when we have stopped celebrating conflict. It will begin to subside when we value making peace above being right. It will begin to subside when we see that good, reasonable people will always disagree. It will begin to subside when we value the questions before the answers. When we value life before death.

And one morning, one morning, when my sky is torn apart, when we beat our swords into plowshares and our guns into trowels, when we finally understand what peace and justice really mean — one morning, our pain will be gone. “And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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Of Toys and Gender

Rings and Dolls

I remember when I was four or five, the grocery store down the street had those little coin machines with toys inside. I would ask my parents for quarters and go to the one with fake plastic jewelry and get pretty rings and stuff for myself. I think, because of cartoons, I had associated them with wealth and status. It wasn’t until much later that I wondered what my dad thought when I did that. He let me; I don’t remember him protesting.

Fast forward twenty-some years. M and I have a new baby in the house. Archer has a baby doll that was M’s when she was a little girl. And a few times, sitting on the couch with his doll, he lifted his shirt and held the baby’s mouth to his chest, mimicking the behavior he’s seen.

The first time he did it, I felt that kick in my gut compelling me to tell him to stop. Why?

Is it because I think that, by mimicking his mother, he will somehow grow up to be less of a man? No. I don’t think that.

It’s because gender norms are a powerful social construct, and social constructs already have a strong influence on how we behave. They’re one of the starkest lines we draw to divide us from them. What I experienced was a gut reaction to a transgressed rule. Thankfully, M had already told me that he had been mimicking her, and we had reasoned together that it wouldn’t have any negative impact on his development. I just left him be. A little while later, he put the doll down, picked up a gun, and went to shoot dinosaurs.


[[Pictured: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most successful men of the 20th Century and, it should be noted, entertainer of a mistress while in the White House, not a mister.]]

The Latest Hullabaloo

Last Friday, Target announced that they would be removing gender-related labeling from their toys and bedding. According to their website, “For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves.”

Soon after, on social media, evangelical leader Franklin Graham was appalled.


Since then, the social media response has been strong on both sides.


From my survey of responses against Target’s move, it seems that there are some strong assumptions on their part. One of the strongest seems to be that if we encourage children of one gender to play with toys meant for another gender, it will have negative results for their development, that what Target has resolved to do is somehow against nature.

Gender Development

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

–Earnshaw Infants’ Department, June 1918

Is their assertion correct? Will playing with toys from different genders lead children to developmental problems?

Let’s take a page from Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, the foremost scholar on how children interact with their environments to develop their identity. He and Kay Bussey from Macquarie University first review prominent perspectives on how gender identity forms, one of which is the notion that children spend the first five or six years of their lives developing ideas of what gender looks like before finally internalizing their observations and deciding on their gender. This seems to be the perspective taken by the people above who think that playing with alternate-gendered toys will change children’s perceptions of gender.

But Bussey and Bandura cite evidence that shows children develop gender stereotypes based on observation surprisingly early, much too early for this to be an issue. I’ve run into this quite a lot recently, as Archer, three years old, keeps using feminine pronouns for anyone with long hair.

No, what’s really going on is a lot more complex.Gender Graph

Starting in infancy, kids are reading every social cue they can find to figure out who they need to be. It starts with “modeled events”, the actual demonstrations of gender they see around them. Not all events are equal; some are more impactful than others. Children piece these together into a cohesive picture of how gender is represented in culture, and then they imitate that behavior and see what feedback they get. All of this is affected by incentives and barriers that entice or impede children’s motivation. And notice that, at each step along the way, observer attributes play a crucial role. Children are not born blank slates, only absorbing what’s around them. Each of them has a huge number of inborn and learned factors playing into how they want to display their gender, how they observe and understand what’s around them, and how they tend to view society in general.

So the crucial question is, if everything is factoring into how children learn to express their gender, including their own inclinations, what impact do we expect to see from how Target organizes its toys? Removing gender-specific labels from toys ultimately has little, if any, impact on how children define their gender.

No, there’s a lot more going on here.

A Tale of Two … Well, Tales

I think what’s really going on is that Target and the evangelical backlash are operating from two different and unrelated stories about what’s going on in society.

Target doesn’t make their narrative explicit on their website, but I suspect I know what’s going on. There’s been a lot of backlash on gender typing of toys, particularly for girls, limiting what expressions of gender are appropriate in society. Lego has faced a lot of this recently; a lot of girls love playing with Legos, but the famous building blocks usually come in styles and themes marketed explicitly to boys.

This effect has been implicated in the STEM gap. There are relatively few women in science, technology, engineering, and math careers, and the gender typing of toys has been cited as part of the reason why. Bussey and Bandura cite a lot of studies showing how parents tend to select toys that implicitly guide children toward careers; traditionally, girls have had homemaking toys, or toys related to beauty and fashion, while boys get tools, guns, and science sets. This sends the message from the very beginning of a girl’s life that she is not welcome in STEM fields.


[[Pictured: Isis Wenger defends her career choice from those suggesting she can’t be a real engineer.]]

So I think Target is reacting to criticism that they have been contributing to a narrowing of women’s career options by contributing to the gender differentiation of toys. And to reiterate, this is a perspective that is backed up by lots of evidence.

Meanwhile, evangelicals are responding based on a completely different narrative. From the evangelical perspective, we are moving from a time when society attributed all things–gender roles, governmental authority, even the creation of life itself–to God, to a time when these social structures are removed from his direct influence and made to stand on their own. Why must climate change not be happening? According to Rep. James Inhofe (R-OK), “If you look, you’ll see God is still up there.” Why is Target wrong about its approach to gender-typed toys? “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning created them male and female?”

In this story, Target’s actions are part of a long trend of the de-Christianizing of America. They’re not upset that gender roles are being redefined, per se. (Jesus himself did a little bit of that in Luke 10.) They’re upset because they’re being redefined without any reference to God.

That’s why events like this keep happening. People on each side get each other riled up and talk about how ignorant and foolish the people on the other side are, but they never get through to each other. Because they’re telling different stories.

My Perspective

I am a Christian. And I am getting really, really tired of people pulling out Jesus’s teaching Matthew 19 as a piece of ammunition in every battle of these stupid culture wars. That’s the passage Graham is relying on to sound his call to boycott Target. Religious teachers asked Jesus whether it was okay to divorce their wives “for any reason at all.” Jesus references Genesis 2, responding that God created men and women to be in relationships together, and divorce, in most cases, is the wrong way of addressing marital conflict.

It is inappropriate to use this verse to say that, because God created two genders, we must have two strictly limited sets of gender stereotypes that extend to how we label toys. Even if you accept that God formed a single man and a single woman in an act of special creation (which, as I’ve explained before, I don’t), then the best you can say is that the first two people were differentiated by physical gender. That’s it.

And the whole point of special creation is that it’s just that: special. Subsequent human beings are created by the biological processes that God has put in place, and those are prone to fail from time to time. This is why there are, as we speak, a few million people in the world are truly, physically, neither male nor female. And that’s not even touching on questions of gender identity. God doesn’t create everyone strictly male or female. Not even biological gender is set in stone; gender roles and stereotypes certainly aren’t, especially as we see them shift wildly from place to place and time to time.

If you want to make the argument that the Kingdom ushered in by Jesus includes specific gender roles, fine. Get in on that discussion. It’s been going on for a long time. You’d best be willing to engage people who disagree with you in a thoughtful and respectful way. Boycotting Target is neither.

In a discussion the other day about an unrelated topic, I told a friend that I think social constructs occupy a special place between objectivity and subjectivity. Decisions made by the community aren’t objective in the sense that they’re true features of the universe, but they’re not subjective in the sense that they’re individual assumptions that can be disregarded.

Gender roles fall into this category. They are part of the community we belong to, and I think they hold some sway over us in that regard. But they are neither purely individual nor absolute. We as a society can change them, and that is what Western culture is trying to do with gender norms and stereotypes. To what degree this change will happen is still a matter of open debate. If you want to influence it, engage in the debate. But punishing Target for accepting one narrative without giving them compelling reasons to accept yours won’t help anything.

I’ll end with Bandura.

Beneficial gender-role development is a social matter, not just a personal one. Handicapping practices that are built into the social order require social remedies. The collective social efforts must address the expectations, belief systems, and social practices in the home, school, mass media, and the workplace that not only diminish personal efficacy and aspirations but erect institutional impediments to making the most of one’s talents.

Bussey and Bandura. (1999). “Social Cognitive Theory of Gender Development and Differentiation.” Psychological Review 106 (4).

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The Amazing, Expanding Beard


Man, this class, though.

I’m most of the way through Week 6 of this 7-week course on online learning communities, and it has been, well, an adventure. I still have a lot to do, and my outline of what assignments I’m completing when is quickly falling apart. It’s every paper for itself at this point.

On the plus side, I have a lot more tools in my belt. A lot of concepts that I thought I understood, like communities of practice or cognitive apprenticeship, have taken on whole new levels of meaning this past month. This is a summer class that’s been focused on how people learn in relationship with one another, and it’s startled me just how much sociology I’ve taken in, though in retrospect it should have been obvious.

Since I’ve begun internalizing these concepts, I’m seeing them everywhere. As my church makes changes to its structure to make itself more accessible to outsiders, I’m seeing how it’s an example of Legitimate Peripheral Participation, the process of bringing people on the fringes of a community into the center of its function by involving them in important activities. As the 2016 presidential race heats up, I’m seeing ideological factions as loose communities of practice, dedicated to preserving the knowledge and traditions of long-gone practitioners.

The great thing about this class is that it’s helped to deepen my understanding of how people are. And that’s not to mention how it’s helped me to reconceptualize my work. One of the major readings in the class was a four-stage process describing how people learn to integrate new technology in their practices. That model has essentially become the backbone of my whole strategy as my organization changes from one system to another.

This has, unfortunately, come at the expense of my sanity. My sleep schedule is all out of whack. When I’m stressed, I have dreams about tornadoes spawning willy-nilly out of the sky, and I’ve sure been having them lately. M has graciously taken on more of the cooking. But last night I took time I could have spent writing an assignment and I made an involved dinner instead, mostly because cooking relaxes me and that seemed more important at the time.

All this is to say, if my eye twitches while you talk to me this week or next week, there’s a reason. That reason is education. It hurts. It’s awesome.

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On the Origin of Interests

Just a short thought this week.

The original Jurassic Park has always been one of my favorite movies. When I was a kid, it was just cool because dinosaurs. Now that I’m older, I recognize that it’s very well written, well acted, and well directed; it’s just a good movie. This year, with the new one out, we decided to share it with the boys.

They loved the original, and they love the new one. Because dinosaurs.

They didn’t have any interest in dinosaurs before this summer. They only had limited exposure. They were into superheroes and cars, and I had read books about dinosaurs to them before, but nothing had really ignited any interest.

But now whenever Archer comes home from the library, he has a new book about dinosaurs. And there was a week or two there when Freeman would only wear his dinosaur pajamas. It’s magical to watch a concept take root in a child’s imagination and blossom.

I remember when I was a little kid, when I was fascinated by dinosaurs I wanted to learn everything about them. I had books full of information about them. I still have one that I got when I was 4 (before Jurassic Park came out), and I brought it out for the boys. Archer has devoured it.

It’s funny looking at that book and remembering when I had some pages memorized. I’d gone to high school and developed other interests, to college and pursued a career, and into the workforce and pursued an entirely different career. I think some years went by in there where I didn’t really think about dinosaurs at all.

Kids have lots of passions like that. They find an interest and it drives them for a while, and then they move on to something else. As parents it’s easy to drift into, “He loves dinosaurs! He’s going to be a paleontologist!” “He’s organizing his toys! He’s going to be an accountant!”

But right now I’m watching the boys stomp around and growl and I’m thinking to myself, “They’re going to be well-rounded people. They’re going to learn to enjoy learning new things. They’re going to know what it feels like to be passionate about something.”

Thank God for dinosaurs.

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Our Children and Their Technology

[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

–Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus


Socrates had opinions

My parents’ generation regularly laments that we never invented flying cars. The 1950s and 60s were a time when people were high on jet exhaust; the relative ease with which people could then travel from London to Singapore in a single day had created romantic notions that perhaps one day everybody would have their own private plane and go wherever they wanted. It was going to be ultimate freedom.

While all this was happening, computer scientists working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed an unprecedented network of computers that could communicate with each other. By the time the system was fully implemented in the 1980s, personnel with the Department of Defense could communicate with each other via electronic mail. As computer technology improved along with the ability to store digital memory in smaller and smaller spaces, computers became household objects, and early in the 1990s the Internet was born. It took off quickly, and companies all over the world soon invested untold billions of dollars in the ability to do business with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Meanwhile, companies like Bell and Motorola invented cell phone technology, and networks were gradually constructed across the world. By 2013, about 86% of people on the planet had access to smart phones (compared to about 64% with access to working toilets). Now a poor mother in Addis Ababa can communicate with a fisherman in Port Moresby voice to voice, in real time, all made possible by more untold billions of dollars of investment.

So why, in 2015, don’t we have flying cars? Because we have smartphones. That was the trade off. You don’t have to take the time, expense, and risk to fly somewhere when you can already talk to whomever’s there from the comfort of your own home and see what it looks like on Google Earth.

[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. … The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.

— Albert Einstein, when asked whether he could recall the speed of sound. New York Times, May 18, 1921

One smart man

Many people have questioned whether cell phones and the Internet will have a positive effect on our children, or whether these technologies will take something valuable from them. How different will they be? Will they be something less than human? Something more?

It’s in this spirit that Nicholas Carr, in an ultimately ambivalent assessment of this question for The Atlantic, relays the story of Friedrich Nietszsche and his typewriter. The old existentialist had bought the contraption late in his life, as his eyesight was failing, and a friend remarked that “His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic.”

Said Nietzsche in reply, “You are right, our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

That’s the thing we realize when we look at this question with an eye toward deeper history. Will global telecommunications change the way our children think? Yes, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. But every technology has done that. The printing press did it. The clock did it. The alphabet did it. The cave painting did it. We think differently today than people in 1900, those in 1900 from those in 1600, those in 1600 from those in 500. There is no “original” or “ideal” way for humans to think. We adapt to our context.

Was Socrates in some ways right about the dangers of writing? He certainly was. But he didn’t understand the benefits. (Without it, how would we know what he had said?)

Our technology is our context. We use our technologies as “cognitive tools”, as extensions of our intellect. Computers are especially good at this since they’re so much better at basic calculation than we are, freeing up our faculties for higher-order thinking that computers are still far from mastering. It’s people who excel at these tasks who will succeed in the 21st Century.

Which brings us back to our children.

In a blog post for Psychology Today, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic discusses some of these positive and negative effects of modern technology (and I encourage you to go read them, as I’m short on space here) before concluding that “the technological transformation or revolution we have experienced over the past 15 years must have clear educational implications.”

What good is it anymore if M and I train our children to memorize vast swaths of science, history, or philosophy if a) all of that information can be accessed with our cognitive tools and b) the sum of that knowledge is growing so quickly that no one can hope to keep up? Some people may argue that the act of memorization is a discipline that builds important aspects of character. If you believe that’s the case, have your children practice memorization for that reason (says the guy who recently memorized all 193 countries, the 100 largest cities in the United States, and Dr. Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish). But don’t make it the centerpiece of your children’s education.

The centerpiece of their education has to be the ability to read, interpret, and judge new information. That’s the world we’re sending them into. There is so much garbage in the world, and every side in every battle has distorted facts and statistics that they use as torpedoes. Man the tubes! Fire the ten-year-old Gallup survey! Full speed ahead!

The world’s information is out there. We as parents and as educators are responsible for helping our children to draw connections, to understand the big pictures, and to evaluate what they see. If Einstein wasn’t above outsourcing his basic factual knowledge to books, neither should we be.

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