The Age of Revolution and Science (1600 – 1850) Social Conditions in the Age of Revolution and Science The World - 1777 American Colonies - 1776 Changing Power Structures As the western world moved towards establishing the language of human and civil rights into law, sophistic thinkers manipulated the new system to guarantee that the laws as administered continued to serve their interests and privileges. Land Scandals In 17th century America, land was available as it had never been in Europe. Poor farmers whose families had labored under the feudal system for generations could now afford their own plots. However, as Meyers has documented, large land companies worked (often through bribery and corruption) to obtain large tracts of land, paying virtually nothing. They then sold small pieces at exorbitant prices, which often drove the farmers into debt and forced them to give their land back to the sellers. Factory Conditions Another example can be seen in the rising power of the factory. Workers were often forced to labor 14 to 16 hours a day for a few dollars a week. They were unable to form labor unions or go on strike for any reason because it was illegal to do so. When workers did attempt to unionize or protest, the U.S. government often responded with military force. Persecution and Intolerance The Inquisition, which began in the 12th century, lasted well into the 19th, and continued to stifle freedom of thought. The Atlantic slave trade (roughly 1502-1820) became a powerful economic force and millions lived and died in conditions which cannot be captured by words. Thus a theory was required to justify the systematic targeting of specific groups for enslavement. It was at this time that racism emerged. Scores of indigenous groups were exterminated or assimilated, their cultures forever altered or destroyed. Some of these genocidal movements were systematic, some were accidental, and some were a mix of both. Significance to Critical Thinking Work conditions, and the hours required, severely hampered the ability of many to develop their minds. Incentives existed for those who worked hard and obeyed orders, and not to those who questioned established practices. It was very difficult to obtain land, despite the vast “unused” areas, and therefore difficult to escape factory and city work. Sophistic critical thinking began to take off as the market benefited those whose skills of thought enabled them to control and manipulate others. Fortunes were made through bribery, corruption, and blatant human rights violations. While many Europeans lived in far less than ideal conditions, their non-European counterparts had virtually no chance to develop their minds as they were, quite literally, fighting for their lives. A Brief Look at Education – 17th Century “The colonies did not provide teachers with any technical preparation for their work, were satisfied to conduct schools as best they could, employing anyone to teach who could be secured for the relatively small wage which the community was able to provide.” The first schools were established in America by Protestants who sought to teach the congregation how to read the bible. From the school law in Connecticut, 1950: “It being the chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from a knowledge of the scriptures.” Children were thus taught how to read and write in order to avoid coercion by the devil. – Lincoln Library of Essential Information, pp 1623 In 1671 Governor Sir William Berkeley of Virginia remarked “I thank god there are no free schools, and I hope we shall not have them these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world.” – A Student’s History of Education, pp 192 Harper’s Index of Education Percentage of married couples in a hundred year study of Perquiman’s County, NC (1676 – 1776) who were able to sign their own names: 54 Number of school days attended, in a lifetime, by the average American living in 1800: 82 Number of days in 1840: 208 Combined total of the graduating classes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Williams, Pennsylvania, and the University of South Carolina in 1815: 267 Percentage of those graduates who went into the clergy: 70 First year in which a federal office of education was established (for information gathering purposes only: 1867 Portion of the 750 American colleges in 1830 controlled by religious denominations: 2/3 Possible Significance to Critical Thinking The development of the intellect cannot thrive in an environment dominated by superstition, myth, or religious dogma. Strong sense critical thinking is a lifelong process which necessitates regular practice. This is not likely when most cannot read and are only exposed to learning in a disciplined environment for a few dozen days a year. Local unemployed, with no training and probably little education themselves, are not the best candidates for fostering critical thought in the minds of children. Some Insight into Curriculum and Teaching Methods In 1838, Horace Mann wrote in his report to the Massachusetts Board of Education: ““More than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to, and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination.” “Public education in America has, throughout its entire history, emphasized training for work almost to the exclusion of training for leisure.…the youth received rigorous training in memorizing processes. There was little motivation other than reproof, punishment, and the awe of failure.” - William Reavis. “Cultivation of Leisure Activities”. The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 37, No. 9, (May, 1937), pp. 678 Possible Significance to Critical Thinking Memorization and regurgitation are not effective means for developing critical capacities. Thinking is driven by questions. Critical thinking, among others, seeks to analyze and evaluate systems for their key ideas and basic logic. Unless the mind is given opportunities for self reflection and effective tools for self analysis, significant flaws in thinking are likely to remain undiscovered and unprocessed. Job training, while possibly effective at creating more efficient and productive workers, is not education. A school system based on punishment and fear is not conducive to encouraging young minds to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. These are vital traits to critical thinking. Influential Thinkers in the Age of Revolution and Science Descartes (1596 – 1650) Key Idea: Descartes is most famous for the idea “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) which is a shortened version of “Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum” (I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am). This was the beginning of his attempt to reduce the world into things known and things not known. By beginning with himself, and proving that he existed, he could then expand to include other natural phenomena. Key Idea: Descartes developed a theory of the relationship between the mind and the body which is to modern minds exceedingly obvious, yet to his contemporaries it was groundbreaking. Whereas most argued that either the body controlled the mind or the mind controlled the body, Descartes concluded that both could influence each other. The mind could control the body but the body could also influence the mind. Descartes (contd.) Key Idea: Descartes was also an accomplished mathematician who developed several mathematical branches including calculus and the Cartesian Plane (the xy chart on which lines are graphed). Key Idea: Descartes believed that humans were the only creatures with minds and that animal noises did not signify that they were in pain. He thus performed many vivisections (dissection of live animals) and influenced many others to do the same. Significance of Descartes to Critical Thinking Descartes was extremely committed to the power of human reasoning to solve problems, to developing reasoning skills, to thinking systematically and in a disciplined manner, to thinking about a wide range of subjects, and to lifelong learning. However, we also see a certain arrogance and inability or unwillingness to question key assumptions. His belief in the superiority of humans, for example, led to incredible suffering and pain. Galileo (1564 – 1642) o Key Idea: Galileo, building on the work of Copernicus and using his own improved version of the telescope, developed scientific evidence which proved that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around (this is known as the heliocentric, sun centered, as opposed to geocentric, earth centered, view). The Catholic Inquisition forced him to recant this idea and did not allow him to leave his house for the remaining years of his life. Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) o Key Idea: Isaac Newton, like Galileo, contributed much to the scientific revolution. Two of his most important discoveries were the law of gravity and the three laws of motion. By defining and calculating gravity, he made many calculations possible, including those which eventually erased all doubt over the heliocentric view of the universe. His three laws of motion laid the groundwork for modern engineering. Significance of Galileo and Newton to Critical Thinking Both of these thinkers demonstrated a disciplined and systematic approach to thinking, a belief in the power of reason, a commitment to question received belief and orthodoxy (though, in the case of Galileo, not necessarily to the point of death), as well as a willingness to think about a wide range of subjects. Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809) Key Idea: Thomas Paine was first and foremost a champion of civil liberties. His first major publication Common Sense, was a groundbreaking work wherein he critiqued many commonly held beliefs regarding the nature of government and its role in human affairs. It is considered the first work which argued for separation from Britain. It was so widely read that, by proportion, it is the best selling book in American history. A contemporary wrote of his influence on the American Revolution that: “without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.” Rights of Man and Agrarian Justice These two works represent Paine’s thinking through the idea of civil rights, government, social stratification, economics, and a host of other interconnected ideas revolving around the question “how can humans live in large scale societies while maintaining equality for all?” “The world is my country, and to do good my religion.” “Where liberty is not, there is my country.” INSERT OTHER PAINE QUOTE HERE “While men could be persuaded they had no rights, or that rights appertained only to a certain class of men, or that government was a thing existing in right of itself, it was not difficult to govern them authoritatively. The ignorance in which they were held, and the superstition in which they were instructed, furnished them the means of doing it. But when the ignorance is gone, and the superstition with it; when they perceive the imposition which has been acted upon them; when they reflect that the cultivator and the manufacturer are the primary means of all the wealth that exists in the world, beyond what nature spontaneously produces; when they begin to feel their consequence by their usefulness, and their right as members of society, it is no longer then possible to govern them as before. The fraud once detected cannot be reenacted. To attempt is to provoke derision, or invite destruction.” Paine and Religion Key Idea: Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, which was a comprehensive critique of established orthodoxies, was possibly the first open attack on religion for more than a millennium. While himself a deist who fervently defended his belief in god, he carefully traced the destruction to human life and reason which organized religion had caused. Significance of Paine to Critical Thinking Paine himself represents one of a small number of paradigms of fair-minded criticality. Like Socrates, he lived what he taught and his thinking was deeply grounded and painstakingly developed. In his best thinking, Paine exemplifies all of the threads of critical thought used in this history. His most significant flaw was that he naively believed that the revolutions which he fostered would ipso facto create an ideal society. He underestimated the power of human ignorance and egocentricity, the ability of sophistic critical thinkers to manipulate others, and the need for critical thinking. What can we learn from the Age of Revolution and Science? That even apparently justified actions often have economic incentive, and not ethical considerations, as their underlying motive. That popular revolutions must be followed by education and the establishment of a critical citizenry, otherwise the ideology goals will go unfulfilled. That as new structures of power replace old ones, sophistic thinkers rise to the top and ensure that their interests are protected.