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On Listening and Learning

The occasion was a recent picnic and my discussion with a pharmacist began well. I mentioned that I have often consulted pharmacists about prescription medicines’ side effects and interactions and that experience had led me to study such matters myself. Along the way, I said, I’ve learned that some doctors pay little attention to patients’ reactions to medications.

For some reason she seemed upset by that statement and dismissed it, saying “The great majority of side effects are minor, and the serious ones tend to occur only in a small percentage of cases.” What an odd response from a pharmacist, I thought; it sounds more like something from a pharmaceutical pamphlet implying that suffering is less real or problematic if it occurs infrequently.Read More


Restoring Restraint & Civility in America

Recently, in an essay titled The Root of Violence, I proposed that the solution to the problem of violence is not to deny anyone’s freedom of speech, but to restore the moral context of that freedom—respecting others and exercising restraint and civility regardless of our feelings toward them. Such behavior is not inborn but must be modeled and encouraged in the culture.

Much more difficult than saying that respect for others must be encouraged in the culture is determining exactly how that can be accomplished.Read More


The Decline of Common Sense

Education, 37748881_sThe news is filled with evidence that common sense is increasingly uncommon. Here are a few examples:

“Sanctuary Cities” like San Francisco refuse to follow federal law and federal officials ignore the offense. (Common sense suggests that laws should be enforced or repealed, never ignored.)

An illegal alien murders a young woman and some commentators blame Donald Trump for the crime because he previously said illegal immigration is increasing crime.… Read More


Overcoming Inner-City Poverty and Unrest

Kids in ClassroomPoliticians and community activists often claim that the solution to inner-city poverty and unrest is to increase educational and employment opportunities. This notion may get headlines and votes, but it ignores a number of realities. The following ones are among the most important:

Few good teachers are willing to work in schools where there is a high truancy rate and many students who do attend are uninterested in learning and disruptive; also, where large numbers of parents are unconcerned about their children’s performance and where physical assault is a daily concern for teachers.… Read More


Flirting with Fascism

MussoliniAmerica has undergone a dramatic cultural shift in the short space of a half-century. The 1960s celebrated freedom from the restraint of traditional morals and mores and celebrated open-mindedness and diversity. Among the guiding principles of that time were “Truth is relative—everyone creates her own” and “No one should be able to impose his beliefs on others.” Today those principles are largely ignored by the very people who embraced them in their youth.… Read More


Moral Dilemmas in Washington

choose-which-way-signA moral dilemma is a situation in which a choice must be made between conflicting courses of action, each of which is morally supportable. The key word is conflicting—meeting either obligation necessitates violating the other. In other words, the person is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Figuratively speaking, of course.

By bureaucrat I mean anyone who works for the government in any capacity.… Read More


The Most Serious Thinking Error

Man Browbeating 4926088644_226da4a963_zWhat mental error poses the greatest obstacle to intelligent thought and behavior today? It’s hard to pick just one, but if pressed, I’d say “mine is better” thinking. The term can’t be found in most logic books—I coined it many years ago in a book on thinking to describe a mindset that was becoming increasingly evident in all walks of life.

Today, evidence of “mine is better” thinking is everywhere, including education, journalism, law, and perhaps most notably, government.… Read More


The Role of Attitude in Learning

Photo, Kids Saying Thank YouThe role of attitude is often ignored in discussions of educational achievement. One reason is that the usual definition of attitude—a “disposition” or “feeling”—is too vague to be helpful. A better definition is a belief expressed indirectly through tone of voice, mannerism, or behavior.

Like other beliefs, attitudes can be reasonable or foolish. Unlike other beliefs, they are seldom put into words and therefore must be inferred.… Read More


What’s Really Wrong with Education

Kids in ClassroomIt was recently revealed that the “Common Core” curriculum crams partisan political ideas into children’s minds. For example, a grade school grammar exercise has students write, “[The president] makes sure the country’s laws are fair,” “Government officials’ commands must be obeyed,” and ”An individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well-being.”

Though troubling, this offense is merely a symptom of a much greater problem—the persistent fallacy that students cannot be taught how to think and must therefore be told what to think.… Read More


Education Is Failing? What Else Is New?

It’s all over the news. Between 57% and 61% of high school graduates have little chance of succeeding in college. That’s according to the organizations that produce the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT).

High school students are fearful. Parents are alarmed. Elected officials are tripping over one another to get to the nearest microphone and promise an investigation of this outrage.… Read More