In the below quote I’ve italicized the best phrase in Joseph Epstein’s article from The Weekly Standard. It states a problem that applies not just to higher education, sad to secondary and elementary education as well. And it’s a problem not just in the teaching of history, but in the teaching of science, too – especially ecological and environmental science.
It is sometimes accompanied by talk about teaching young people to think critically. But in practice, teaching them to think critically usually consists of indoctrination rather than education. But if students are given lots to think about, they often WILL learn to think critically. But they need to have in their heads facts about who did what to whom, and when, or information about natural histories of organisms. If they have their heads stuffed full of facts, then they have some of the raw material necessary for critical thinking about higher-level interpretations of history and of ecological systems.
Another advantage of giving students detailed information to work with is that it’s interesting. Broad generalizations about history or about ecological systems tend to be boring unless they are accompanied by detailed factual knowledge.
I just now realized that I didn’t practice what I’ve been preaching. I gave some broad generalizations without providing specific examples. I guess I’ll let it stand for now. Make of it what you wish.
Soon, the guys in the next room, in their hunger for relevance and their penchant for self-indulgence, began teaching books for reasons external to their intrinsic beauty or importance, and attempted to explain history before discovering what actually happened.