Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Republicans seem to be publicly promoting ignorance.

I quote extensively from a recent column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times:
Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”...... 
Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change. 
Want other examples of the ignorance caucus at work? Start with health care, an area in which Mr. Cantor tried not to sound anti-intellectual; he lavished praise on medical research just before attacking federal support for social science. (By the way, how much money are we talking about? Well, the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciencesamounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.) 
But Mr. Cantor’s support for medical research is curiously limited. He’s all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed “comparative effectiveness research,” which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.......... 
Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise. 
And there are many other examples, like the way House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.......... 
(B)ack in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue. 
It is really hard to believe that critical thinking and knowledge are becoming the subject of political controversy -- that one party is actively promoting ignorance and not teaching our kids to think critically.

The subject of this blog is "knowledge for development". It seems quite obvious that more knowledge is part of the path to better development policies, and that more and better knowledge is likely to help develop institutions more supportive of development. This is true however if people will undertake critical thinking about policies and institutions, and not rely simply on doing what has been done in the past.

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