August 14th, 2008

wart

Wanna grow up to be a debunker

My ongoing criticism of Bill O'Reilly's Culture Warrior has gotten me to wondering why I enjoy analyzing and debunking things I disagree with. After all, a lot of people already realize he's full of bull, and those who don't are unlikely to be swayed by my posts (or even read them, for that matter). But really, it's an Internet tradition. I mean, I've seen and enjoyed sites that debunk Chick Tracts, Kent Hovind, pseudo-science, various TV shows, and plenty of other things. Sometimes these refutations become fodder for their own meta-refutations, like when some article on lies in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 spawned a response. Perhaps part of it is that school (especially college) is big on making us evaluate sources, and that kind of thing never really leaves your system. Also, it can be fun. I think the appeal of a lot of the dissections isn't that they really say anything new, but that they're funny. I don't know if I'm funny. I try to be, but sometimes the people who try the hardest at humor are the worst at it.

Another reason, related to the whole intellectual pursuit thing, is that seeing other people's viewpoints on various issues, no matter how absurd, can get people to thinking how THEY feel about those issues. Responding to O'Reilly and others with ideas I don't care for has led me to consider and expound upon my own thoughts about morality, religion, socialism, war, schooling, and lots of other controversial topics.

Anyway, I've read Chapter Thirteen of Culture Warrior, and it's mostly about how Bill doesn't want to pay higher taxes to support old people, farms, cleaner cities, business regulation, or art (especially if it involves poop on religious icons). His money goes to support the prisons and workhouses! He also addresses the No Child Left Behind Act (the private school equivalent of which is, of course, "No Child's Behind Left Unsmacked"), and how "progressives oppose standardized tests." Gee, could it be about they don't always provide an accurate measure of how much students have learned? I'm pretty good at standardized tests, but there are plenty of bright, well-educated people who aren't. O'Reilly goes on to say, "Most children are lazy and undisciplined--that is a given--and must be taught to perform in a disciplined manner and develop a thinking process and marketable skills." Well, I agree with the latter part, but as for the former, SAYING something is a given doesn't MAKE it so. I can't say I've had experience with "most children," or even with not that many children, but I'm not so sure he's right about them all being lazy. But then, he seems to think everyone who isn't a millionaire is lazy, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised with his assessment. Not to mention that we appear to be looking at another false dichotomy here. Either schools should be evaluated through standardized testing, or else they're just going to "nurture" (O'Reilly's word and quotation marks) kids and not teach them any real skills. Apparently there are no other options.
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