“One thing has become clear in recent years: Ideologues don’t care about evidence.” (Diane Ravitch, March 8, 2017).
Diane’s observation raises an important question: How does one become an ideologue who does not care about evidence? Obviously, denying reality is an illness that weakens rather than strengthens us. My reading of psychological research is that denying reality is typical for people who have been deprived of adequate learning opportunities in their youth, and who have been humiliated and threatened by their schools through bad grades and test scores. When people have been prevented from learning how to tell right from wrong, true from fake, they can judge others only by trivial attributes like their tribal membership, skin color and apparent strength. They feel threatened by situations in which they must deliberate and choose. It causes them headaches. They envy and dislike people who are able to deliberate like deliberating teachers, journalists and politicians.
Since the time when schools have been turned into test-based competition arenas, the number of such school victims has been steadily growing. Now their number is so large that they can seize power and destroy democracy. If we want to preserve democracy, we have to rethink education fundamentally. Humans are born to learn. If we do not dictate what kids have to learn, we do not need to “motivate” them to learn. A curriculum should not be a straightjacket for students and teachers, but a blueprint for providing them with a wide range of learning opportunities. We must get rid of competitive grading and testing. If we want to educate free citizens who can think for themselves and do not depend on autocratic leaders and their self-serving “truth,” subordination and fear should have no place in our schools. Above all we have to give kids opportunities to acquire skills of thinking and discussion.