Sydney Kendall Says

Thinking in public about anything that matters.

Tag: liberty

More thoughts on Critical Thinking

THinking_3_light_2_withBackground_signedCritical thinking is a mental process of identifying what you actually know and what is assumption, what is real evidence and what is mere assertion or faked.  (It also deals with what is a valid or an invalid or fallacious argument, but I’ll just deal with the issue of evidence here.)

When someone makes a claim, but doesn’t tell you their evidence for that claim, it’s good to point out to that person that he hasn’t presented sufficient evidence to convince you of his claim.  “Sufficient evidence” includes telling you where he got that evidence – the source – of the information, so that you, too, can go to the source and evaluate whether it is a “primary” and reliable source.

For example, there has been a screen capture, purportedly of a Facbook page, being used in discussions about the character of Trayvon Martin, the young man who was shot and killed in a physical fight with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman in a gated community in Florida.  This capture is being used as evidence to show that Trayvon was a user of a drug mixture called “lean” which can make some people paranoid and aggressive.

The capture shows Trayvon’s photo with the name “Trayvon Slimm Martin” having a discussion with another young man about the ingredients of lean, clearly with the aim of getting the ingredients together and using it.

Many people seem to believe that that capture is evidence you can count on.  But with Photoshop, I’m pretty sure that I could create such “evidence” myself, if I could find a conversation about lean on someone else’s Facebook page, make a screen capture of it, go to Martin’s Facebook page and screen capture a conversation between him and a friend, then copy and paste Trayvon’s and a friend’s photos and names over those of the people who were *really* having the naughty conversation.

Now, one could seek out “Trayvon Slimm Martin” on Facebook, which I’ve tried to do, and check to see that the discussion is on a real Facebook page.  (I’ve tried.  If the page once existed under “Trayvon Slimm Martin”, I can’t find it now.)

But even if I found such a page, I’d have to somehow verify that it belonged to *the* Trayvon Martin in question, that someone else faking that name (or who actually shares that name) didn’t just lift a photo of the famous Trayvon because he thought it would be “cool”.  That is not a farfetched possibility.  Those kinds of fakes are easy and some people love to do that kind of thing.

Critical thinking requires a person to be aware of when alleged evidence hasn’t yet been *proven* to be evidence, and to make yourself aware of what it would take to actually prove it to be evidence.  Until you can see for yourself that it is true, you should not accept it as such.  One needs to keep oneself aware of the actual status of an alleged piece of evidence in your context of knowledge.

Someone else may know it to be true, but they have to help you to know that it’s true, from the evidential source and through sound reasoning, or they should not expect you to accept their claims.

One of my points in my earlier post is that this is not an easy task, and even the most conscientious people make errors, sometimes accepting alleged evidence too soon.

I say “Conscientious people, unite!”  We should all happily help each other in a friendly way to be strict in our critical thinking.  And, because critical thinking is so important to such things as justice, we should do what we can to help those with really bad thinking habits to develop better ones by patiently pointing out errors and showing, by example, how critical thinking works.

I say “patiently” because if you treat a person with impatience it’s like saying “Don’t you know this already?  How could you make such a mistake?  Why aren’t you getting this without my help? You must be a stupid fool.”   So instead of focusing attention on the issue at hand and creating an atmosphere conducive to an objective examination of facts, you’re setting up the other person to feel defensive.  Now he feels like he has to defend his character and intelligence and feels all emotionally stirred up.  I hate seeing that happen when something constructive could actually be happening instead.

Whether it’s an error made by a habitually conscientious mind, or an error made by someone with horrible thinking habits, if you make the effort to address the error without attacking the person making it, you’re offering a small contribution toward making the world a more just and reasonable place.

Report This Post

Happy Independence Day, 2013!

Learning Liberty - (c) Barbara A H Marinakis

When the American colonies finally agreed to separate from England in order to establish a country where liberty was the law of the land, it was a turning point for liberty in the world.  The American Founders declared their reasons for the separation in the Declaration of Independence.

July 4th, 1776 was the day that the Declaration was officially adopted by Congress.

From The Charters of Freedom – Declaration of Independence: A History:  “Jefferson’s account reflects three stages in the life of the Declaration: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.

“On July 1, 1776, Congress reconvened. The following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Immediately afterward, the Congress began to consider the Declaration. Adams and Franklin had made only a few changes before the committee submitted the document. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late morning of July 4. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.”

This should be a precious document to anyone who knows the crucial value of living by his or her own honest intelligence, free from those who would impose their own beliefs and will through coercion.   Liberty enables the honest and the intelligent to go their own way (as well as the dishonest and stupid to go theirs, as long as they don’t use force or fraud to gain their ends), and to thus live with self-respect and to pursue happiness  according to their own judgment and conscience.  The result is an outpouring of intellectual, scientific, and material discovery and invention, a contentious but productive marketplace of ideas and goods.

When all agree on the principles of liberty, the widest variety of views can live in physical peace with each other (although the field of argument can become verbally heated and even ugly), and live by their own judgment and conscience.  It is when someone’s conscience includes the view that he must enforce his own particular ideology or religion on his ideological opponents that the protective wall of liberty is broken and a society of free people needs to rally against that breach. Continue reading

Report This Post

Know Before You Go

Here’s a little video from FIRE for college-bound freshmen about what to expect regarding college speech codes versus their actual rights of free speech, and who to contact if they run afoul of the codes.

Report This Post

Book: The Shadow University

I like to read by topic.

After reading Unlearning Liberty about the strangling of freedom of speech on American University campuses (and the undermining of due process, as well), I’ve now started another book on the topic, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on American Campuses.

While Unlearning Liberty  was published in 2012, The Shadow University was published in 1998.  Both books were written by members of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and organization whose mission is “to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities”.  If these books are telling it like it is, not much has changed in 14 years.

Here are excerpts of the description of the book on Amazon: “…Universities still set themselves apart from American society, but now they do so by enforcing their own politically correct worldview through censorship, double standards and a judicial system without due process…”

“…The Shadow University is a stinging indictment of the covert system of justice on college campuses, exposing the widespread reliance of n kangaroo courts and arbitrary punishment to coerce students and faculty into conformity.  Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate, staunch civil libertarians and active defenders of free inquiry on campus, lay bare the totalitarian mindset that undergirds speech codes, conduct codes, and “campus life” bureaucracies, through which a cadre of deans and counselors indoctrinate students and faculty in an ideology that favors group rights over individual rights, sacrificing free speech and academic freedom to spare the sensitivities of currently favored groups.”

“From Maine to California, at public and private universities alike, liberty and fairness are the first casualties as teachers and students find themselves in the dock, presumed guilty until proven innocent and often forbidden to cross-examine their accusers.  Kors and Silverglate introduce us to many of those who have firsthand experience of The Shadow University…”

“…The Shadow University unmasks a chilling reality for parent who entrust their sons and daughters to the authority of such institutions, for thinking people who recognize that vigorous debate is the only sure path to truth, and for all Americans who realize that when even one citizen is deprived of liberty, we are all diminished.”

[Links to bios added by me.]

As I read, I’ll report.

Report This Post

Student Governments Against Free Speech

I’m still reading Greg Lukianoff’s book “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” .  Truly hair-raising.  (Lukianoff isan attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, aka FIRE.)

I’ve just finished the section called “Student Government Gone Wild”, about the shocking – but not surprising – tyrannical nature of many student governments at colleges across the USA.  I say that it’s not surprising because, after having read the previous 10 chapters of this book, I can’t imagine that a significant portion of the student body would not have learned how to be tyrants against non-PC points of view.

Here are a couple of excerpts from this chapter:

EXCERPT: “Something that should probably keep you up at night is the fact that student governments, which are often seen as training grounds for future politicians and lawmakers, harbor attitudes towards basic free speech and due process rights that are more akin to petty dictatorships than to the American Founding Fathers…”

EXCERPT: “At the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, students organized to get rid of copies of a conservative newspaper that mocked student government officials.  A UMass police officer stood by as angry students tore copies of the newspaper out of the hands of another student.  Rather than distance itself from this effort at censorship, the student government later passed a resolution in support of shutting down the newspaper if it did not apologize for mocking them.  The university eventually rejected the resolution to punish the paper, but only after FIRE stepped in.”

COMMENT: Since student government and student journalism are both rehearsals for real-world government and real-world journalism, the student government should be held to the strictest standards of respect  for freedom of speech and press.

We do not and should not legally punish regular newspapers for editorials mocking government officials.  University administrations should have the sense not to allow student governments to infringe on the right of the student press to mock the student government *or* to mock the university administration, for that matter.

That it took an organization like FIRE  to get the university to do the right thing should be troubling to everyone who understands the importance of freedom of the press.  This is not an isolated incident – the book is rich with examples of tyrannical breaches of freedom of speech and failures to uphold the individual rights of students in other areas as well.   FIRE is overwhelmed with cases that need defending.

I believe that college campuses are among the most important – if not the most important – places to take a stand for individual rights.  This is where young people should be learning about the principles and procedures that keep corruption and dictatorship at bay.  That’s why I’m bugging people to read Lukianoff’s book and – if they agree that it’s an important book – to blog it and Facebook it and tell their face-to-face friends about it.

I’ve been talking to people about the topic of the book, and it looks to me that a lot of people have no idea what’s been going on at colleges in regard to this most important aspect of our liberty.

 

 

 

Report This Post

BOOK: Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate

I am currently reading “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” by Greg Lukianoff.

I have read numerous books and articles about the quelling of politically “incorrect” , i.e., conservative and libertarian, views at universities for many years now and the reports seem to be getting worse over time. But this book has a difference – while the other books and articles I’ve read on this topic were written by people on the “right”, this one is written by a fellow on the “left”, with plenty of lefty credentials, who is just as concerned about the destruction of intellectual debate and rational rigor as the writers on the right have been (for two or three decades now). He recognizes that universities are *supposed* to foster such debate in an atmosphere that does not punish challenges to the “PC” views, but rather encourages such challenges. He recognizes that freedom of speech is in dire danger and that both high school and university students have been and are being trained to accept a certain point of view without critical examination, and without an appreciation for the necessity of free discourse among thinkers of all points of view.

I am only on the second chapter and I already consider this book to be must reading for everyone. I mean EVERYONE – no matter what country you’re in, no matter what political alliegiance or religious views. High school kids, college kids, parents, grandparents, childless people and orphans – EVERYONE.

Even if people only read as far as I’ve read so far, it would be worthwhile. Even if the rest of the book turns out to be crap.

Here are a few excerpts (I had to type these out because you can’t copy and paste from a Kindle. So any type-os or spelling errors are mine.):

EXCERPT: “You can’t fully understand what lessons colleges are teaching students about living in a free society without knowing what students have learned before they even step foot on campus. The news isn’t good. By the time they graduate from high school, American students already harbor negative attitudes about free speech….”

EXCERPT: “…Lessons taught by example are most powerful, and high school administrators have offered students some of the worst examples of censorship…”

EXCERPT: “Take, for example, this quote from a high school principal explaining his decision to confiscate an edition of the student newspaper because of an editorial supporting marijuana legalization: ‘I feel like censorship is very important.’ He elaborated, ‘Court cases support school censorship of articles. And we feel like that’s necessary for us to censor editorials in the best interest of our program and community.’ I believe this statement reflects the opinion of many other high school administrators: not only may a high school censor opinions, but it *should* do so for reasons ranging from harmony, to patriotism, to convenience.”

EXCERPT: “With high school administrative censors claiming the high ground, it should be no surprise that the Knight study also found that high school students were far more likely than adults to think that citizens should not be allowed to express unpopular opinions and that government should have a role in approving newspaper stories. After all, if protecting everyone from hurt and difficulty of free speech is a laudable goal, shouldn’t the government be empowered to do that?”

“Meanwhile, there is precious little education in the philosophical principles that undergird our basic liberties, which might otherwise counteract these bad examples. Civics has not been stressed in high schools in recent years, and ignorance of the basics of American governance is widespread.”

EXCERPT: “So what’s the big deal? What’s really at stake? Everything.”

 

Report This Post

Tea Party Time

OH_NO_signedHave you happened to catch members of the media and some politicians making out that the “Tea Party” protesters are racist or are an “angry mob”?

If you’re firmly convinced that government botches up more than it heals when it steps outside its proper role as protector against fraud and against the initiation of physical force, you know very well that those Tea Parties have nothing to do with Obama being black or with any other racial concern.  You know that the principles of individual liberty and of reducing government to that specific role is what the fuss is all about.  It’s a color-blind issue.  It just so happens that the president that is in charge of creating a raging deficit, pushing for giant bail-out funds and a “stimulus” package and attempting to entrench government even deeper into our medical system happens to be black.

So what?

What I care about is the status of my freedom in relation to those in power, whatever color they may be.

I’ve been convinced of my political principles for about 50 years, more or less, and as I questioned those principles and tested them over the years against my experience and my growing body of information, I have only become more firmly convinced than when I started.

Here’s a link to Rob Tracinski’s article entitled:

It’s the Liberty, Stupid

I couldn’t have put it better, myself.

At the link for the photos of Tea Party placards, I like Rob’s sign that says “Brother, you ain’t my keeper!”

I also especially like the ones that say: “Read the bills or get off  ‘The Hill’.”

Report This Post

© 2019 Sydney Kendall Says

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Report This Blog