On argument, open-mindedness, the Common Core, and educational discourse in the blogging era

This is the first time I have “re-blogged” (can that be an intransitive verb?) but the thoughts Grant Wiggins shares here strike a major chord with me. I love the bit about argument being “a serious and focused conversation among people who are intensely interested in getting to the bottom of things cooperatively.”   I also love his reference to Popper’s remark that, “when arguing with Freudians, religious people or Marxists, – and, if I may say so, educators in far too many cases – there is apparently NO evidence that can ever refute their views: they have an explanation for every conceivable event, opinion, policy or practice – that just supports their existing opinions. It is just one long confirmation bias, not argument.”  As a school principal, I noticed that same approach to argumentation in many parents who, when I did not agree with them, would tell me that I simply “was not hearing them.”  Perhaps I hadn’t, but clearly we were not having a discussion that was aimed at getting to the bottom of things collaboratively!

Granted, and...

Singin songs and a carryin’ signs.

Mostly say “hooray for our side”

Stop. Hey, what’s that sound?

It’s the sound of –

  • Most bloggers and tweeters speaking only to their allies in a bubble.
  • Not of “argument” but “cherrypicking facts” to support immovable strong opinions
  • attempts to persuade not discuss
  • endless ad hominem and snarky remarks
  • heat not light.

Ah, but stubbornness masquerading as reasoned conviction – and its cousin, “confirmation bias” – is an old song. Here is Francis Bacon, from 400 years ago:

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects…

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