How To Distinguish Education From Propaganda

October 15, 2009

Love this:

One of the most important differences between education and propaganda is how they deal with great controversies.

In education, students are taught about the controversies. In propaganda, they are shielded from them.

In education, students are taught both sides of the important debates. In propaganda, they are taught only one.

In education, students are taught both the strengths and the weaknesses of the officially favored theory. In propaganda, they are taught only its strengths.

In short, education is the training of minds, while propaganda is the training of prejudices. In a democratic republic, the public schools should not propagandize, but educate.

Enough said.

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8 Responses to “How To Distinguish Education From Propaganda”

  1. padraic2112 Says:

    Unlike the previous thread (btw, yes, I still need to get back to it), this one I’m afraid I have a serious issue with.

    The quotation in question, and the issue being discussed in the linked original source, is referring (I believe) to the teaching of Intelligent Design in the science curriculum.

    Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It has no falsification standard. It cannot be examined through any of the methodologies in use in the practice of science. It cannot be tested by experimental methods. It cannot be studied by epidemiology. It cannot be statistically examined.

    There is no “controversy” here.

    Intelligent design does not belong in a science classroom any more than algebraic proofs belong in English literature.

    Properly, evolutionary theory only discusses the divergent properties of evolution. Evolutionary theory states nothing about the “source” of life, that is, how life came to be. There are theories, of course, put forth about where life originated from, but as currently stated there is no consensus, because all of the existing hypothesis are currently not sufficiently testable.

    While Budziszewski’s underlying argument is of course sound, it depends upon the fact that a controversy exists. This is not the case, when it comes to evolutionary theory, in the field of science.


  2. My posting of the comment actually had nothing to do with intelligent design. I’m far more concerned with other (more pernicious) kinds of propaganda, both in public schools and in the media. I just want people to think about what beliefs they may have unknowingly assumed because a controversy has been hidden from them. The most common forms of this that I have found concern morality and law, but there are other forms as well. And I’ll note you don’t take issue with the actual quote I posted, which is to distinguish between propaganda and education. That was the point.


  3. …all that being said, though, I’ll have to ask you “what is science?”

    I’m not a scientist, so I’m not asking that to be glib. I’m a lawyer. I took one science course in undergrad and I didn’t care for it. I care about law, philosophy, and morality. And public schools fall squarely into those interests.

    If “Evolutionary theory states nothing about the ‘source’ of life, that is, how life came to be”, you might care to enlighten high school teachers around the country of that fact. I’m not really concerned with the version of evolution that you describe, even though I think the theory certainly has problems that are *not* taught in schools, ID or no ID. But the “source” of life is certainly a subject of practical evolutionary teaching. What was Darwin’s seminal work called again? Oh, I think I remember… The ORIGIN of the Species. But you said “There are theories, of course, put forth about where life originated from, but as currently stated there is no consensus, because all of the existing hypothesis are currently not sufficiently testable.” You don’t think any of these theories of origins are currently taught in schools? Really?

    You immediately follow that quote by saying that no controversy exists. Well, on the one hand, we have a group that insists that ID is not science so it shouldn’t be taught. We have another group that says that if you’re going to teach about origins and a godless “big bang,” you’ve got to at least consider the evidence that life isn’t the result of a random explosion. Both groups abhor the other and seek to protect their children and society from the scourge that is the other side. Sounds like a controversy to me.

    The question is whether we should even imply to students that science leads to the absence of a guiding designer (in other words, randomness) without mentioning the evidence that leads one to conclude that it was designed. At least one famous atheist, Antony Flew–who popularized the falsifiability arguments against theism–became a theist on the basis of this evidence. Call that evidence science, philosophy, history, whatever. If the Nazis taught eugenics in public schools and parents wanted the schools to *also* teach that eugenics is unethical, of course the school administrators could claim, “but ethics has no place in the science classroom!” Pay no attention to that evil man with the little mustache behind the curtain.

  4. Pat Cahalan Says:

    On the first comment, fair enough 🙂

    On the second, some replies:

    > I’ll have to ask you “what is science?”

    There’s lots of different ways to answer this question, dependent upon which particular school of philosophy of science you happen to affiliate yourself. And then of course there’s the obvious case where a great many scientists regard themselves as “fieldists” first (e.g., “I’m a biologist”) and don’t concern themselves with the actual philosophical nature of their work. Which is a very limiting approach, but this isn’t uncommon in any field.

    Most will accept at least the following principle:

    “Science is the process by which one studies empirical phenomena in an attempt to either expose other phenomena to observation, or make descriptive or predictive falsifiable statements regarding those phenomena.”

    > The ORIGIN of the Species.

    Sure, but change that emphasis to “The origin of SPECIES” 🙂 Darwin himself ended life as a self-described agnostic, but he was a theist at the time of writing “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”.

    > You don’t think any of these theories of
    > origins are currently taught in schools?
    > Really?

    Certainly. And they ought to be taught in schools, albeit with the proper connotation. That is, it should definitely be presented to the student that while natural selection and evolutionary theory have a wide body of evidence to support the theory, the actual question of the origin of life currently has no well-accepted scientific theory. They truly represent at best educated guesses.

    I grant you that it’s certainly the case that someone might be teaching this badly, and implying that there is a level of credibility for one of the origin of life theories that is not present. But teaching science badly is a separate problem 🙂

    > We have another group that says that
    > if you’re going to teach about origins
    > and a godless “big bang,” you’ve got
    > to at least consider the evidence that
    > life isn’t the result of a random
    > explosion.

    But the problem is that there is no falsifiable evidence that this is the case. There’s a difference between “evidence” as in “I have a logically self-consistent theory that could be regarded as plausible” and “I have a logically self-consistent theory that could be regarded as plausible and has, as its consequence, testable observations that can provide a falsification.”

    The first is an approach that one can take in philosophy or theology or even mathematics. I can build an axiomatic system in mathematics that can’t be tested (non-Euclidean vs. Euclidean geometry being the classical example… there’s no way to “test” whether or not parallel lines meet at infinity) and is still logically consistent. Science does not concern itself with such conjectures; in order for something to be investigated scientifically, there must be some phenomena that can be observed.

    If I posit that “Existence has a Creator”, that can only be regarded as an axiomatic statement. There’s no way for me to prove, empirically, that the Creator exists, or *does not* exist. Because by definition any being capable of creating the universe must live outside the laws of the universe and thus cannot be exposed to observation using any of the tools that depend upon the laws of the universe. It doesn’t mean that there is one, and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. It just means that the question itself cannot be explored using the framework of science, as science depends upon the physical laws of the universe, and God doesn’t play by those rules.

    Now, again, it’s certainly true that there exists a class of “militant atheists” who believe that nothing that cannot be shown to empirically exist *can* exist, and they might be science teachers, and they might also be pushing their philosophy in the science classroom.

    I agree with you that this is bad, for the same reason ID in the classroom would be bad. Because the philosophical question itself cannot be addressed using the tools of science.


  5. “I have a logically self-consistent theory that could be regarded as plausible and has, as its consequence, testable observations that can provide a falsification.”

    Purely out of curiosity, what are the observations that could falsify the theory that humanity evolved from more primitive beings (and ultimately, from a single-celled organism) by means of natural selection (which I take to include “random mutation”, is that right?)?

    There’s no way for me to prove, empirically, that the Creator exists, or *does not* exist. Because by definition any being capable of creating the universe must live outside the laws of the universe and thus cannot be exposed to observation using any of the tools that depend upon the laws of the universe. It doesn’t mean that there is one, and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. It just means that the question itself cannot be explored using the framework of science, as science depends upon the physical laws of the universe, and God doesn’t play by those rules.

    I’m inclined to disagree with this, at least partially. While there often is a lack of empirical evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God or gods, some humans may have been given such evidence. God can be “exposed to observation” if He chooses to so expose Himself in a physical presence to a particular person, and eyesight and light are “tools of the universe.” Likewise, He may speak to someone out loud, where other humans are there to confirm that they heard the voice, too. Hearing, soundwaves, etc. are tools of the universe, are they not? God may very well choose to play by empirical rules at certain points, and while such experiences may or may not be repeatable, there are reports that they are sometimes testable. For example, one Hebrew prophet asked God to confirm a command by causing dew to appear on the ground but not on the fleece one morning, and then on the fleece but not on the ground the next morning. That seems to be a test through observable phenomena, and from the prophet’s perspective, I believe it was falsifiable. It may not be falsifiable to you and me, but neither are volcanic experiments–I have to take the scientist’s word for it. Likewise, I can take the prophet’s word for it, and trust his empirical observations and reports thereof.

    (I’m not saying that such reports should necessarily be relayed in a science class; just saying that there’s no rule prohibiting empirical evidence of a Creator.)


  6. I have some further thoughts in another post, and would like to invite your response. https://thenaturallawyer.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/evolution-vs-intelligent-design-in-public-schools/

  7. jonty Says:

    This right article.The first is an approach that one can take in philosophy or theology or even mathematics. I can build an axiomatic system in mathematics that can’t be tested (non-Euclidean vs. Euclidean geometry being the classical example… there’s no way to “test” whether or not parallel lines meet at infinity) and is still logically consistent. Science does not concern itself with such conjectures; in order for something to be investigated scientifically, there must be some phenomena that can be observed

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  8. […] Propagandist education, whether supplied through public or private schools, which teaches us there’s a right or wrong way to think, live and work, thereby limiting our imaginations and thence society’s range of available options.  Public education was created not simply to educate the masses, but to supply industries with workers of various levels of competence.  Education also serves the State by instilling a sense of patriotism in young people (not to mention skewing history in a favorable light for our own nation). […]


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