The Purpose of General Education: Teaching Analysis

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright August 2011

A Roger Observation

Universal education is a benefit because we aren't living in the Stone Age. We all benefit the more everyone learns the skill of analytic thinking. This is the bedrock benefit of universal education but it has gotten obscured with molehill issues.

Once again: that bedrock benefit is teaching future citizens how to add easily employable analytic thinking skills to their easily employable instinctive thinking skills (gut feeling) in making decisions.

This ability is the root of informed democracy, as well as making good day-to-day choices in the civilized environment.

That said: I fear that teaching our kids advocacy and self-esteem is distracting from teaching analytic thinking.

Historically, analytic thinking went hand-in-hand with teaching science, math and engineering. But I worry that with the advent of computers and calculators, kids are getting a lot less exposure to learning analysis in these topics than in the past. Instead they are learning "you've gotta make a stand" advocacy.

Likewise, the traditional liberal arts disciplines were more about being sensitive to instinctive feelings than analysis. This kind of training was good for dealing with people. But it wasn't analysis.

With the Internet and computers our humans-to-information relations are changing. One insight from a newly reactivated hobby of mine, reading Golden Age science fiction stories, is how completely information assembling clerical jobs have vanished. But... I still feel that as long as people are decision makers, and as long as people are living in the civilized environment. We need to devote a lot of effort to teaching analytic thinking.

That's the big shortcoming of the current system, and the contemporary teachers unions don't seem to be helping on this issue one little bit. We don't pick our teachers for their ability to teach analysis, and we as a community are suffering for that oversight.

--The End--