With French students and labor unions running into the streets of Paris in an ill-fated attempt to ignore reality, a dose of reality therapy from Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell is in order. Sowell is one of the most thoughtful and constructive intellectuals on today’s scene — a veteran of intellectual combat for more than thirty years.
In “Are Facts Obsolete?,” Sowell argues that a refusal to face and teach reality marks much of the contemporary academy. His conclusion:
Those who are in the business of teaching the young, whether in the public schools or on college campuses, too often see this not as a responsibility to pass on what is known but as an opportunity to indoctrinate students with their own beliefs. Many “educators” and the gurus who indoctrinated them actively disparage “mere facts,” which they say you can get from an almanac or encyclopedia.
The net result is a student population that does not even know enough to know what needs to be looked up, much less how to analyze facts, so as to test opposing beliefs — as distinguished from how to gather information to support a preconceived notion that happens to be fashionable in the schools and colleges.
Yet people are considered to be “educated” after they have spent so many years in ivy-covered buildings, absorbing the preconceptions that prevail there. Facts that go against preconceived notions are likely to be ignored, even by many scholars.