Humility and critical thinking

From Austin Storm
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Many years ago I gave a talk at the London Metropolitan Archives in which I outlined my reasons for rejecting the then fashionable theory of social constructionism in relation to human sexuality. In the coffee break that followed, I was approached by a lesbian activist, who claimed to have chosen her orientation as a means to oppose the patriarchy. She demanded to know why I would not accept that sexuality had no biological basis, even though I had spent the best part of an hour answering this very question. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I’ve already explained why I don’t agree with you.” “But why won’t you agree?” she shouted in response. “Why?”

Primary school teachers are familiar with such frustrated pleas. The anger of children is so often connected with incomprehension, a sense of injustice, or both. When it persists into adulthood it represents a failure of socialisation. We frequently hear talk of our degraded political discourse—and there is some truth to that—but really we are dealing with mass infantilism. Its impact is evident wherever one cares to look: online, in the media, even in parliament. Argumentation is reduced to a matter of tribal loyalty; whether one is right or wrong becomes secondary to the satisfaction of one’s ego through the submission of an opponent. This is not, as some imagine, simply a consequence of the ubiquity of social media, but rather a general failure over a number of years to instil critical thinking at every level of our educational institutions.

To be a freethinker has little to do with mastery of rhetoric and everything to do with introspection. [...]

- Andrew Doyle, The Mark of an Educated Mind