Letters to the Editor

Critical Thinking, Brain Chemistry, the American Educational System and the Size and Scope of Institutions — Readers Join the Discourse

Image Credit: Gabriël Metsu, Dutch (1629–1667), “Man Writing a Letter” / Wikimedia Commons

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Emotional Experiences Are Universal

llana Redstone’s article, “The Politics of Critical Thinking,” recently led me to ponder practical solutions for our society to be more cohesive, instead of fractured, as it currently is.

One of the biggest and most popular lines cited by white BLM supporters is, “I understand that I will never understand.” This sentiment is revered and seen as virtuous by many of the people fighting in the streets today. [But] celebrating the idea that one racial group is incapable of understanding another racial group is utterly perverse, as it supports the idea that groups of people are fundamentally different from one another, and that because of this, striving for empathy is futile. With sentiments like these being baked into the fabric of our modern-day culture, it appears as if we are moving backwards instead of forwards when it comes to fighting our natural tendencies towards tribalism.

I believe the answer to fighting tribalism (and today’s madness of identity politics in general) is to understand that, at base, we all share the same brain materials that cause us to act in the ways we do. The three basic neuromodulators that are shown to account for the variety of human emotional experience are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These three chemicals are found in every person’s brain, and while there are differences in how they are modulated, we all share the same basic units and combinations that comprise our human experience. Even though people’s environments are different, our qualitative responses to them are the same.

In other words, people do not need to have the same experiences in order to relate to each other, because the emotions felt during a particular experience are emotions everyone has felt while moving through the world. The Far Left likes to perpetuate the trope of people having a “racial experience” (i.e., the Black or White experience) that only those who belong to that particular group can “understand.” This belief has confused the notion of “environmental experience” with “human experience.” No one will ever truly know what it is like to live like another individual on this earth, but we all have the ability to understand others’ human experiences, because we know that we all share the same materials that create our complex human condition. This knowledge should be uniting.

—Dominique, Malvern, Pa.

Regressive Education and the Merits of Grading “Blind”

A few years ago, I wrote about a system I used in grading subjective work (essays). The system I created/used is “single blind” (I don’t know whose paper I’m grading). I blogged about it here.

When using blind grading, my very diverse (50% Hispanic, 20% African American and 30% Caucasian/Asian) students had similar subgroup bell curves. I was a tough grader and a bit of a “grammar nazi”—yet I attribute that equality to the students’ knowledge that there was no “out” available.

The students of all backgrounds rose to the occasion and loved both me and the class. I made them prove to themselves their actual worth.

By contrast, we have now had 30 years of dumbing down our curriculum to the point where advanced placement courses are at a level similar to, or just a wee bit above, what regular education was 30 years ago.

—Clifford, Las Vegas, Nev.

Small Is Beautiful—And Could Be Less Polarizing

No, we don’t have to live this way—and we shouldn’t. I fully agree with your observations, as far as they go. However, I believe the root of the problem is the size and influence of social, religious, government and business concerns throughout every part of our lives. “Small is beautiful,” we were advised years back, and in smallness there can be freedom because if we are not accepted in one place, we can move to another. We don’t have to fight; we don’t have to claw each other’s eyes out. Big, intrusive political institutions have created our mess, and our problems won’t go away until the governmental overburden is lifted.

—Mike, Oak Grove, Minn.

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