Saturday, December 15, 2007

Knowing thyself & pinning down fact or fiction when it comes to the UK school curriculum

So, I've been trapped in Eyota, MN, for a week now. Let's just say I'm here for research purposes (I may get into this later or I may not. Mmm, mystery). To pass the time, the hubby and I have found refuge in the local Barnes & Nobel. I kind of like being forced to spend hours there since I so rarely get to read for pleasure (a good enough reason to skip grad school) and it has one of those built-in Starbucks--read and caffeinate, oo la la! Hubby is not as excited since he is a writer and does this kind of stuff all of the time for work, but he's a trooper nonetheless.
On one of my most recent B&N caffeine binges, I came across this book: Do You Think What You Think You Think? by Julian Baggini. He's a thoughtful Brit who put together a philosophical workbook to tame the Descartes within. It's pretty fun--if you're into self-inflicted mental torture in the way that I am (sudoku, anyone?). There are a bunch of exercises, including logic proofs, to work your "mind-muscle" as the locals here so fondly refer to what they believe is hiding somewhere under their snow hats and lack-luster hair. Oh yes, these games will not only sharpen your syllogistic skills but they will also show you how consistent your thinking actually is with the help of the "Philosophical Health Check." I found, sadly, that I have as many "tensions" (philosophical contradictions) as the majority of folks taking this test online. So I should finally give my mom a reality check--I'm not that special. Ok, I'll do the self-therapy later--in private. (You're welcome, in advance.) Hubby, by the way, is extremely consistent in his thinking and is quite proud of this finding. Good for frickin' you.
All that aside, something really creepy happened this morning. One of the questions in the Philosophical Health Check was (and I am paraphrasing so as not to be hunted down and flogged by the author): The Holocaust is a historical reality that took place pretty much as the history books state. Agree or Disagree? So this question, along with 29 others, is a test to see if you consistently view facts as objective truths or subjective expressions of culture/societal norms that aren't stable and change with time--or something like that. Regardless of how you feel on the matter, hubby gets an email this morning about how the UK is removing the Holocaust from their history books so as not to offend Muslims. It was in the form of a chain letter, but creepy because we both took this little survey last night. So what's the up with the UK? Is this true or not? And what's with the timing, don'tcha knohhw?!
After a little researching, it seems that this is likely a hoax. Apparently, only one school in the northern section of the UK has done this (scary enough, if you ask me)and that it's been the only school to change the curriculum in such a way. It doesn't help that some newspapers, with questionable fact checking, are circulating a vague version of this story that has only fueled the rumor. This demonstrates one of the most important lessons of my graduate school career: Don't trust anything you read. Just because it's published doesn't mean it's right. Thankfully.

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