I have a friend, Dave from Winnipeg, with whom I used to teach. An avid reader and acute student of politics and economics, he has frequently facetiously said to me, “Lorne, sometimes I wish that I had been born stupid, so I could live my life in blissful ignorance.” My response, other than to laugh, has been to think that the kind of ignorance or complacence Dave sometimes craves would probably sit well with a number of movers and shakers in our society. After all, what could be better than a compliant, unquestioning workforce and electorate? As Charlton Heston said in the original “Planet of the Apes” after spotting the mute humans, “If this is the best they’ve got, we’ll be ruling this planet in a week!” That is why I have always felt that educators have a special responsibility to produce citizens, not only with the marketable le skills demanded by society, but also with the critical thinking skills demanded by a healthy democracy.
In a recent post I mentioned two of the key resources I used to study language and logic use and misuse: George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit and the Royal Bank Newsletter, “Knowing How to Think” http://www.rbc.com/responsibility/letter/pdf/may_jun1992.pdf
Both are essential reading to begin the process of understanding how both language and logic can be misused for unworthy purposes. And both, despite being written in the last century, are more relevant than ever, given the lies, misinformation and propaganda that have become common substitutes for truth in our society. In my next post I would like to talk about when I first realized the need for such instruction.