Tuesday, December 07, 2010

ideas and change

I have been reading a lot lately over at Judith Curry's site where she has a number a excellent threads ongoing and a range of viewpoints that largely seem to want to respect Judith's attempt to move beyond partisan rhetoric on climate issues.

I also read earlier today this piece on Victor Davis Hanson's lament for the paucity of moral imperative within the contemporary ruling class. (Also discussed here).

The connecting construct is the central role that ideology plays in how people view their world and how ideology then conditions their response and reactions to change.

I responded to the discussion of education versus indoctrination at Judith's with this comment:

What many do not consider about education and ideas is the role that ideology plays.  Not wanting to play with semantics, a basic definition of ideology (see Wikipedia) would suggest that:
  • ideology is a coherent system of ideas, relying upon a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis, but are subjective choices that serve as the seed around which further thought grows. According to this perspective, ideologies are neither right nor wrong, but only a relativistic intellectual strategy for categorizing the world. The pluses and minuses of ideology range from the vigor and fervor of true believers to ideological infallibility. Excessive need for certitude lurks at fundamentalist levels in politics and religions.
From my perspective, I have long maintained that ideology functions as a filter for our ideas and thinking: it filters what we absorb, how we receive information and ideas, constructs and concepts, the data we accept, that which we reject.  At the same time, ideology is a filter through which our own communication takes place.

Thus, logically, we can consider the extent to which people are aware of their own ideology and the role it plays relative to their education and intellectual development.  I would posit that the more more we are conscious of our own ideology the more open-minded we are -- but that too is a projection of my own ideological perspective, because I value open-mindedness I associate increased consciousness and awareness as virtues and conflate them with a positive ideological trait, open-mindedness.

Certainly, if I want to organize a radical activist group, my ideas about open-mindedness may not be so positive and I would value certitude much more highly.

We should not presume that all educators view education the way we as individual educators do: it is not correct to presume all scientists seek the "truth" or that "objectivity" is a value in education above all others.  These are value constructs that reflect the ideology of those proposing them.

Many intellectuals support the proposition that all knowledge is contingent.  What we think is absolute and certain is only as absolute and certain as the knowledge we have.  Every so often an Einstein pops up and changes that presumptive knowledge.  At this juncture we are straying into both philosophy and meta-physics, and I am about as far down those respective limbs as I am comfortable...

So, what does this have to do with climate, education and indoctrination? Everything.  People may agree on the ideas: education is good, indoctrination as bad, but then in practice, in pronouncements, in communicative practice commit an act that is for them "educational" which for others from a different ideological perspective is to them "indoctrination".
Add in the capacity for political entities to be explicitly Orwellian in their use and misuse of language and we get the situation we have today.

Perhaps the best we can achieve is open dialogue with tolerance and an absence of arrogance, personalization and political agendas.  Sometimes we get two of the three: rarely all three!

To which I would add here that many educators are themselves blind to their own ideological presumptions and that academia has a long history of disputes that reflect an inability for the protagonists to find a commons with sufficiency enough to resolve their presumptions, use of language and/or ideas.

In many ways, the art of successful politics is the ability to appeal to as wide a spectrum of opinion and ideas as possible with the same set of words, constructs and concepts.  The utility of the term sustainability in politics is due to the resonance of the term with so many varied publics.

The issue facing climate activists today is that their mantra of AGW no longer has extensive resonance and hurriedly seeking to replace terminology is an insufficient solution for many who now view as indoctrination the ideas and facts they previously mistook as education.
  • A sullen, gloomy realization that maybe, just maybe, they got it all wrong is beginning to dawn upon the less unintelligent delegates. So the exit strategy is being quietly, hastily constructed.
What is left is the climate version of Groundhog Day.