We all make mistakes, and always will — we get angry at someone or feel joy at something, but find out we misjudged; we draw invalid conclusions about the world, about people, about politics or economics — but we’d do it much less if we had a good training in reasoning and logic in school. No, not a formal training, but an implicit training: reason and logic should structure the way we are taught, as an adult context structures Montessori education. I suffer from it; you suffer from it.
Bad reasoning comes up too often in life. We have to make decisions about health, wellness, morality, and more, so this is a serious issue. It comes up in other issues, too: some issues less controversial, but still having big consequences, at least for the person involved.
Recently, someone I know said, in regard to a video showing a girl do the ice bucket challenge on a horse, “And this children, is why we wear shoes and helmets and never learn to pour cold water over our head whilst on a horse.” (In the video, a girl sits bareback atop a horse; she dumps a pale of ice water on her head; the horse spooks; the girl looses her balance and falls onto the ground on her back or side.)
The girl in the video was barefoot, yes, but that had nothing to do with her falling off: the person I know has not been taught how to reason properly, nor how to identify cause and effect. We all make mistakes — reason is not omniscience — but being barefoot clearly had nothing to do with falling off the horse. But what about after she fell? It does not look to me like wearing shoes would have provided any protection in the fall: she did not land on her feet. In fact, boots or shoes could have made it easier for her to torque her ankle or other joint. (Try twisting your ankle left or right when barefoot, then try it with riding boots on or with high heels on. A bare foot is more stable; you are more likely to twist your ankle when wearing shoes.)
We might as well say:
1. “And this, children, is why we should not wear clothes and never pour cold water over our heads whilst on a horse.”
2. “And this, children, is why we wear feathers in our hair and never pour cold water over our heads whilst on a horse.”
3. “And this, children, is why we should never have someone video a horse and never pour cold water over our heads whilst on a horse.”
4. “And this, children, is why we wear invisible, fluffy, rainbow shirts and pants, and never pour cold water over our heads whilst on a horse.”
None of those things caused the girl to fall off the horse. Drawing such a conclusion from the video is engaging in a non-sequitor.
Causal factors were:
1. the girl had no saddle on her horse;
2. the girl did not consider the nature of the horse (how it would react), but considered only (probably; I did not interview her!) the feeling that her idea would be neat;
3. the girl did not train herself to stay on the horse in a situation like that (she’s not a good enough rider);
4. the girl wore a top that caused a “garment malfunction,” requiring her to focus her attention on fixing her top and to use her hands to fix the top instead of holding the reigns;
5. the girl did not experiment with the horse to see what it would do, nor did she condition the horse to the water before doing the ice bucket challenge while she was sitting on the horse.
The primary factor causing the girl to fall off was her not thinking through the situation, was her not using logic and reason to consider context and causal relationships. The person I know did not see that because she — like most of the rest of us — has not had a good enough education, so, she, too, did not use logic and reason to consider context and causal relationships. Our modern culture and educational system does a poor job of teaching (and caring about) science: the organized, systematic conceptual study of cause-effect relationships. The person I know is a nice, decent person. But she’s had to suffer, like the rest of us, from a poor education forced upon us. It’s something we are subject to, not something we chose. We are still decent and competent (all of us to varying degrees), we are just not as well off as we should be.
We need to demand better education for our children, for our friends, for ourselves. Modern education, because of its philosophy — not because of its teachers (most of whom are nice people who care about others) — is engaging in educational malpractice. It is making us less well off rather than more well off. It is keeping us from achieving our best, rather than helping us get there. We need to kick out Plato, Ptolemy, Dewey, and Kant, and follow Aristotle, Galileo, Montessori, and Rand. Science and math today are taught as ideas that come out of nowhere and as stuff we do only in a classroom and in a book. We need science and math taught to train us in grasping and using cause-effect relationships in the real world, where we breathe, eat, sleep, pursue values, live and die.