“Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance” – The New York Times

“as an instrument of deception on issues like global warming.” I don’t think this topic gets the attention that it should. The successful campaigns of deception by self-interested corporations has had a devastating effect on the health and well-being of many people here in the U.S. and across the globe. It may be difficult to educate the general population on this subject in the “Age of Ignorance,” but we should at least try. Ignorance is particularly dangerous in this “Age of Deception.”

I also think that us educators need to seriously think about how we prepare our students to sort through all the nonsense they are bombarded with in the age of the internet. We also need to teach our students how, and why, science works, not just the basic findings of science.  This is one of the reasons why the testing craze that promotes rote memorization over thinking is so destructive.  If there ever was a time that critical thinking skills were absolutely critical to our well-being, it is now!

Excerpt from the article: “We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti-regulation and anti-government.”

Source: Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance – The New York Times

AP U.S. History Update: “Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History” — NYMag

The battle against the AP U.S. History framework continues. Oklahoma and Georgia conservatives are trying to get their way by defunding the program.  They claim the test “emphasizes ‘what is bad about America’ and doesn’t teach ‘American exceptionalism.'”

In other words, they don’t want students to learn history, they want to indoctrinate students in a patriotic vision of U.S. history that ignores all past wrongs. Our future depends on having citizens who can make informed decisions. They cannot do this if they are taught a one-sided, triumphal version of history. We are currently paying the price for the ignorance of a sizable portion of our citizenry. If we want to keep our democracy and create a better future, we need a historically literate population. Let’s hope the efforts in Oklahoma and Georgia fail!

Source: Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History — NYMag

History News Network | What’s the Voters’ Problem? That’s a Lot Harder to Determine than You Might Suspect.

This is an interesting article suggesting that we can get out of the ideological polarization that is destroying our country. Research shows that if given enough information people will form their positions inline with the evidence. Therefore, the solution is to solve the ignorance problem. As Shenkman shows this is a difficult task. But even more of an obstacle beyond just ignorance is that what they do know is false. Fox News and other media sources have been filling people with nonsense for years, so that now they aren’t even open to considering evidence that is contrary to what they already believe.

So, how do we solve this ignorance problem? Shenkman offers the Scandinavian model, but has doubts that it can work here. He lists some attempts to create a civic-minded culture, but these have all failed. Now what? He offers no other possible solutions and leaves readers hanging as if he had given up on achieving any meaningful change.

Shenkman’s ambivalence is understandable, but giving up all hope is not an option. We are facing incredible challenges, such as climate change, and we need an educated, rational population that will elect real leaders whose actions and beliefs are grounded in reason and evidence not ideology.

Source: History News Network | What’s the Voters’ Problem? That’s a Lot Harder to Determine than You Might Suspect.

“Sticking to Our Guns” by Charles Simic | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Simic sums up the sad state of our current situation nicely: “The coverage of our elections has a fairy tale feel to it. Our national press pretends that they are dealing with men and women of principle, offering carefully thought-out solutions to our nation’s problems, rather than groveling servants of billionaires who finance their campaigns; and that the voters these candidates try to persuade in the primaries are well-informed and well-meaning Americans and not people who by and large get their information from Fox TV and hate radio.”

Source: Sticking to Our Guns by Charles Simic | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

“Ben Carson States, Wrongly, That Founding Fathers ‘Had No Elected Office Experience’” – Washington Wire – WSJ

How can anyone take this guy seriously?! I don’t understand how he passed med school (or any school for that matter). He also believes that the pyramids were built to store grain. Wow! I guess evidence doesn’t matter when your followers live in the same fact free world as you!!

Source: Ben Carson States, Wrongly, That Founding Fathers ‘Had No Elected Office Experience’ – Washington Wire – WSJ

“Lawmakers fear Islamic ‘indoctrination’ in TN classes”

“A recent uproar over a Tennessee middle school history course that touches on Islam has federal and state lawmakers calling for changes.”

This is really sad! These politicians either don’t understand the difference between teaching the history of a particular religion and indoctrination,  or they’re exploiting this issue for political gain. Either way this type of bigotry and divisive politics is unacceptable!

They’re even railing against the “bias” in favor of Islam!! Seriously!

Source: Lawmakers fear Islamic ‘indoctrination’ in TN classes

“Coping with the Sense of Drift and Disorder in World Affairs, Part 1” | History News Network

Yesterday was the first day of classes at ASU and I spent most of that day trying to explain to my students why studying history is important. Most of them are freshmen and are taking the course as a requirement, so I’m not sure how successful I was. But I’ll keep trying.

I know what you’re thinking. What does this have to do with “Drift and Disorder in World Affairs”?

In grappling with the issue of the U.S.’s lack of a coherent foreign policy William R. Polk points to an important factor that very few people acknowledge: us. Most citizens, and even many of the leaders, in this country are ignorant of the basic history and issues that impact their lives and the lives of others.
“Is this ignorance important? The French conservative philosopher, Josef de Maistre answered that it is because ‘every nation gets the government it deserves,’ If citizens are uneducated or passive, they can be controlled, as the Roman emperors controlled their peoples with bread and circuses, or as other dictatorships have with ‘patriotic’ demonstrations or manufactured threats. Indeed, a people can make themselves willing dupes as the Germans did when they voted Hitler into power in a free election. Ignorance and apathy are the pathogenes of representative government. Under their influence, constitutions are weakened or set aside, legislatures become rubber stamps, courts pervert the law and the media becomes a tool. So, even in a democracy, when we duck our civic duties in favor of entertainment and do not inform ourselves, the political process is endangered.” So true!

Polk identifies other important factors that contribute to the drift and disorder of the world, but I find this one particularly compelling. We cannot change what kind of leaders we get if we don’t first change ourselves. We all need to take our responsibilities as citizens of the U.S. and the world more seriously.

Please read Polk’s thought-provoking piece: History News Network | Coping with the Sense of Drift and Disorder in World Affairs, Part 1.


“I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery.” – Vox

I shouldn’t be surprised, but this is shocking! Here’s one example of a comment on the plight of African-American slaves that Margaret Biser heard giving tours:  “Yeah, well, Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, so I guess what goes around comes around!” I think Biser correctly identified the source of the ignorance, indifference, and animosity toward the slaves: “The minimization of the unjustness and horror of slavery does more than simply keep the bad feelings of guilt, jealousy, or anger away: It liberates the denier from social responsibility to slaves’ descendants.”

Read all the other crazy questions and comments Biser heard:

I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery. – Vox.

 The Old Plantation (Slaves Dancing on a South Carolina Plantation), ca. 1785-1795. | Attributed to John Rose

The Old Plantation (Slaves Dancing on a South Carolina Plantation), ca. 1785-1795. | Attributed to John Rose