Monday, March 10, 2008

Age of American Unreason - KQED

KQED forum invited Susan Jacoby, Anthony Cascardi, Lynne Munson and the listeners to the radio program to participate in a discussion of Jacoby's recent book The Age of American Unreason, which has made head lines in the past weeks. Even though Jacoby relates having been attacked about the book and I have seen some hefty on line discussions, the program (and podcast) showed a lot of consent.

In a way the consent should not be so surprising. Also outside the US we are flooded with examples of surveys where Americans couldn't answer the simplest of questions. Accordingly, those examples are repeated by the panel as well as the callers to the show. It is also surmised that this kind of knowledge was passed onto a wider audience in the past. But real comparative data I have not seen yet, hence this stays in the realm of assumption.

Outside of the US, we see similar developments and why should Americans be less gifted with reason than other Westerners? The symptoms are not just ignorance, they are also the pride in ignorance, distrust of intellect and intellectuals, a tendency to irrationality and so on. Where does this come from? Apart from an element in the culture that mistrusts intellectualism, science, theory, 'cold' reasoning, there is also a development in the education. Education is more and more geared towards practical skills and less and less towards general knowledge. The whole idea that a skilled world citizen should have a minimum of knowledge in language, history, culture and so on has suffered both from utilitarianism (skills are economically more interesting) as well as relativism (how can we scale a limited core of knowledge to be vital).

The last point moves the conjecture from a mere 'once upon a time all was better' to a grating criticism, not just of the non-intellectuals, but also of the intellectual elite itself. In its relativism it has squandered the notion of canons and integrated education. This is somewhat mentioned in the program and maybe a considerable part of the book - we'd have to read it. I for one am certainly tickled.

More KQED Forum:
Christopher Hitchins.

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The podcasts that review podcasts

Last week I discovered two podcasts that do exactly what I do: review podcasts. These are Podwatch and That Podcast Show. I am not going to review them all the time, but I am looking for some way to keep you posted of their work. In the end, we complement each other.

This weekend the two of them released a new episode, with That Podcast Show commenting on Philosophy Bites - which is a podcast that I have reviewed myself a couple of times (see below). For me, this review shows the quality of That Podcast Show and I must say, they stand the test with flying figures. They are slightly less enthusiastic about Philosophy Bites, but their critique is very right: the podcast does too little to make the subject accessible to a wider audience. And it gives very simple pointers how to improve.

The other two podcast reviewed:
Tudorcast (expected here some time in March)
Girls Night In

Podwatch came out and -hey!- gave a plug to my blog. Apart from that there is the regular technology news and three podcast reviews.
The Digg Reel - isn't that actually a vodcast?
Buzz Out Loud - getting the highest acclaim. Especially for technology interested listeners this appears to be a hot item.

I think these to podcast review podcasts are very good and for all you podcast listeners out there a must-have source of information.

Philosophy Bites on Anne is a Man!:
Is war innate?

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