More on gullibility

Here’s another reason for the docility of the post-60s generations: they’ve had more schooling, and a study of people who quit smoking shows that educated people are more easily influenced by others.

That makes sense. The point of schooling is to hook people into the system of official attitude and belief rather than leaving them to their own devices. So the more schooling there is, and the more society becomes an educational meritocracy, the more people will accept whatever the official line happens to be. To reject it is to join the ranks of the uneducated, irrational, and low class.

UPDATE: An example of the effect of formal education on beliefs and attitudes: people with more of it are much less likely to say that blacks are poorer because they have less innate learning ability. Only 2.8% of those with graduate degrees, as opposed to 20.2% of high school dropouts, say that lesser black prosperity is due to lesser black learning ability. It’s not clear just what the question was, though, and in an area like this exact wording could matter a great deal.

7 thoughts on “More on gullibility”

  1. Which is, of course, why the
    Which is, of course, why the modern, managerial State cannot tolerate home-schooling, and will do whatever they can to discourage it, and where possible, such as in Germany, even forbidding it.

  2. Education and gullibility:
    More schooling isn’t a sufficient condition for the maturation of an educated mind, and docility isn’t contingent upon the amount of time spent being educated.

    A study purporting to show that a group of educated people is more likely to be gullible (i.e. influenced by the behaviour of others) than an ignorant group would be, doesn’t make sense to me. At least it makes no sense on what I understand by an ‘educated’ person.

    • If “educated” means “someone
      If “educated” means “someone who’s been through a long process designed to inculcate official beliefs and attitudes that are often at odds with social tradition and even common sense” then it makes a great deal of sense that such a person would be more likely to be influenced by the views of others, at least when those views have official support. He wouldn’t look to what seems right to him but to what seems right to others, especially others with authority.

  3. Educated Parrots
    Someone who has been trained to parrot ‘official opinions’ by a so-called educational process that inculcates only the liberal nostrums of the hour, isn’t an ‘educated’ person.

    A habit of critical thought and independent judgment distinguishes the educated mind.

    • The situation is worse than you think
      Some thoughts:

      1. Formal education is preparation for some sort of position in society. Otherwise, why would major social institutions including the secular state treat it as such an important concern?
      2. “Education” still has an inherited honorific sense in which it means “liberal education.” Liberal education is education suitable for a free man, where a “free man” is primarily a man with a reasonably assured position in society that makes him presumptively or at least potentially responsible for a broad range of public affairs. (Other men are dependent on others, and unable to act effectively, so they don’t count as free men.) In that position a man needs—and is able effectively to exercise—critical thought and independent disinterested judgment.
      3. Free men in that sense don’t exist any more. Life has become too utilitarian and rationalized. People think of the social order as ideally a big machine that produces security, equality, and consumer and lifestyle indulgences. The point of formal education, therefore, is to fit people to be useful as components in that machine and to accept its values of equality, tolerance, efficiency, and respect for expertise (i.e., bureaucratized knowledge).
      4. It follows that liberal education doesn’t exist any more, at least not as something major educational institutions provide or are interested in providing. The slogan is kept because modern government, lacking any ultimate goal other than satisfaction of desire, must rule—must tell people to give up their own preferred satisfactions—by indirection. It’s here to help you. It doesn’t tell you what to think and do, it helps you get over your crippling prejudice and fear of change. Its goals aren’t low and constricting, they’re noble and glorious.
      5. It underestimates the present educational process to say it just inculcates the liberal nostrums of the hour and trains people to parrot “official opinions.” It aims at a far more basic transformation of habit and thought and eventually of what it is to be human. It’s far from trivial to try to abolish sex and particular historical culture as legitimate principles of social order and to train people to believe that it’s ignorant and shameful to believe otherwise. The educational system has been wonderfully successful in promoting those goals.
  4. A minority of free men
    While it’s true that modern educational institutions condition most students to slot into the big machine and to embrace the utilitarian values by which it’s lubricated, the process is not totally effective. The trend can be and is bucked by a minority of free men and women – who can be described as such because they’ve acquired a capacity for independent thought and disinterested inquiry. Since you can see this problem ‘in the round’, you must, I assume, count yourself among the minority of people whose individuality, belief in transcendent values, and critical intelligence have not been destroyed by a college education.

    Perhaps the aims of a liberal education have been always realizable only in that minority that possesses the inherent qualities of mind and character to benefit from it. Gibbon said that the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy – except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous. In other words, free men are not and never have been conspicuous by their abundance.

    • It’s hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps
      I can’t help but think though that the times are particularly bad for freedom and independence of mind.

      Without discussion, criticism and responsibility those things become crankishness. In other words, freedom and independence of mind need a social setting. That’s why there are phrases like “the republic of letters.” I don’t see where the setting is today. Weblogs? Mass higher education and bureaucratized expertise crowd them out, and the absence of any class for whom they serve a social function make them unreliable and hard to find. They become a hobby for individuals, in a time in which such things have a purely private and subjective function.


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