Opinion: We must learn not only the true part of science but also the contending perspectives
Category: The Lighter Side/ HumorVia: hallux • 3 weeks ago • 4 comments
By: Alexandra Petri - WaPo
“For courses in the social studies curriculum in Texas history , United States history, world history, government, civics, social studies, or other similar subjects: (1) a teacher may not be compelled to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs; (2) a teacher who chooses to discuss topics described by Subdivision (1) shall, to the best of the teacher’s ability, strive to explore those topics from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective."
This is so good. It will be nice to teach about the Civil War without having to say who won or whether or not that was a good thing, on the grounds that this is too widely debated and controversial to be the kind of fact you could possibly impart to an impressionable mind.
But I think it is bad that we’re limiting it to just history when other subjects could also benefit from a similar diversity of perspectives. Why, for instance, do we limit scientific instruction to saying certain things rather than other things? Some people say the earth revolves around the sun. Some say the sun revolves around the earth. Others say the earth is a flat disk surrounded by an ice wall and the sun is an illusion. Still others say that the sun is being pushed across the sky each day by an enormous dung beetle (glory to Ra!). Why give one of these beliefs any kind of precedence over the others? They are all so lovely, and I like the dung beetle one because that involves biology also.
For too long, history has been bound by the injunction to teach, as best as possible, what we think really happened, rather than what we would like to have happened. Now that we are freeing it from this obligation, why stop there? What subject couldn’t benefit from this?
Biology is just one. Look, it is certainly possible that all these neurotransmitters and things are running around in the body, but what about humors?
They say that our mental processes are regulated by the action of the brain, in men and women both. But what if, in fact, it is the womb for women, loose in the body, trying to trick them with its hysterical emanations? I think we had better hear both ideas without giving preference to either, which would be bad.
Some people say that when you toss an object into the air, gravity compels it to return to earth. But what if it isn’t gravity at all? What if it’s an invisible man named Dave who likes to swat things out of the sky and has never missed?
They say that carbon dioxide is innocuous to have in the air around you, whereas carbon monoxide is toxic. Well, this seems like an unnecessarily negative pronouncement to make about carbon monoxide, which is, after all, made up of the same things as carbon dioxide, just less so. Shouldn’t it be safe to fill the classroom with? It is important not to prejudice people by saying yes or no to this proposal.
It is not the function of education to teach us that some things are true whereas others are false. It is the function of education to just spray a fire hose of diverse and contending perspectives at us and let us choose the ones we would like the best.
The mitochondria might be the powerhouse of the cell. But what if, actually, capitalism is the powerhouse of the cell?
We all know people saying pi is 3.1415926535897932384626433 or something. But what if pi is just the feeling you get when you see a flag?
People say magnets are real. But — maybe they are not.