I Beg to Disagree — Please? May I?

25 Jul

My favorite writer, Thomas Sowell, expressed the following in an essay he wrote 5-10 years ago.  It is perhaps even more applicable today than it was then.  The essay was titled “I Beg to Disagree”, and this is just an excerpt from it.  Dr. Sowell is an outspoken black conservative economist and author, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  His collections of essays are among the best books I have ever read.

 Excerpt:  [Bolding is mine; content within brackets [] is mine.]

 Too many people today act as if no one can honestly disagree with them.  If you have a difference of opinion with them, you are considered to be not merely in error but in sin.  You are a racist, a homophobe or whatever the villain of the day happens to be.

 Disagreements are inevitable whenever there are human beings but we seem to be in an era when the art of disagreeing is vanishing.  That is a huge loss because out of disagreements have often come deeper understandings than either side had before confronting each other’s arguments.

 Even wacko ideas have led to progress, when dealt with critically, in terms of logic and evidence.  .  .  .

 Unfortunately, our educational system is not only failing to teach critical thinking, it is often itself a source of confused rhetoric and emotional venting in place of systematic reasoning.

 It is hard to think of a stronger argument for teaching people to examine arguments critically than the tragic history of 20th century totalitarianism .  .  .  . [Sowell goes on to discuss Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot – and even Jim Jones]

The point is not to teach [children] correct conclusions but to teach them to be able to use their own minds to analyze the issues that will come up in the years ahead .  .  .  .

 Rational disagreement can be not only useful but stimulating.  .  .  .

[End of Excerpts]

What are your thoughts about this?




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