Skepticism lets down the young, especially boys - workshop

Methods and means of supporting critical thinking in education
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Skepticism lets down the young, especially boys - workshop

Post by Kiless » Sun Jul 23, 2006 4:34 am

Because there's a few people who have expressed similar attitudes to mine and I wish to quote them, I'm reprinting the essay here that is found on the 'workshop' area. Will make it easier to track changes in the short term.

Some people don't have access to this forum via 'guest' so this also makes it more accessible.

My initial post:
Kiless wrote:Research on educational outcomes of both genders identifies various concerns with boys - factors that need to be addressed. Which impact on just what we are doing with communicating skepticism for those who really need it.

I'm referring of course not to half-hearted links to online newspapers that demonstrate how there are lies, damned lies and people who work in the media - but research from the likes of Rowe, Kindlon & Thompson, Pollock, Lillico, Hawkes and West & Fletcher.

Lowered male life expectancy, health and well being, a suicide rate much higher than girls, increased substance abuse and damaging risk taking, often a declining respect for authority, a tendency towards violence and aggression in solving problems, a higher percentage of boys than girls in discipline programs and trouble generally, and the incidence of depression are the main factors identified. That just keep coming up.

People saying that they want to promote critical thinking in schools is one thing - but exactly how are we making this palatable for the really struggling children, especially the young men who have these ongoing problems? To show them that there are ways to think through their problems, to look at the world and see that there are opportunities to seek answers beyond what is spoonfed by cults and moneymaking shills and to think through conflicts?

As a matter of fact, what are we doing on these major skeptical sites that claim to care about communicating skepticism for young people of both genders at all?

Shouldn't we be looking at what is offered in terms of education? Addressing what is taught various countries and looking hard at exactly what is supporting critical thinking in the classroom?

What about reading up on and getting behind changes that will make students of both genders be more considerate and aware of what it is to be a human being that is just as likely to be fooled and misled by a scam and (more importantly) to be ethically considerate not to become one of the scammers themselves?

Should research efforts and discussions amongst skeptical sites not be (as they mostly seem to be) just about telling people 'we're skeptics!' but actually looking at how to really engage students? I'm talking about not only these struggling young men but all young people, whose heroes and role models seem to be the Paris Hiltons and Tupacs? A 'gangster's paradise' indeed.

One only has to look at the Dover Penn ID trial to see how education of young people is and should be our biggest concern as skeptics - because it's at the grassroots that we'll find ourselves ousted as eccentrics and heretics whilst the young people are indoctrinated and isolated for daring to question the status quo that will rise again and again. The fight over the souls of the young and their blind support, whether it be tarot cards or cults, is ongoing.

And skeptics who should know better are failing to address it.

My questions are indeed challenging the apparent narrow-minded focus on forum boards, podcasts and websites, conferences and seminars - that are by adults and clearly FOR ADULTS - those who are already entrenched in supporting 'teh skeptical cause' for a wide variety of reasons.

You can hardly find anything do with 'educating the young' and few that demonstrate long or short term strategies - all of which appear ignored by the big names who run the sites. Even Randi, the one who is on the liner notes in practically all the skeptic textbooks, gave his last gesture of support for critical thinking in education back in 1999. Nothing in the year 2000 and nothing reported since. has a few suggested books to buy. That's all.

And what of the current sexist attitude (that I've already challenged by raising up the desperate educational needs of boys through several references) that women are supposedly 'the needy ones' - when we don't even see any evidence on major skeptical sites of anyone genuinely targeting the needs of young women? There's supposedly funding for a few women (no age or details about numbers given even six months later), less than a handful, to go to The Amazing Meeting... but what statistics support a distinct need for adult women to be skeptical when there's a drop in general across both genders in Science fields?

I also wonder what do these scholarship-receiving people produce after they get funding to go to skeptical conferences?

There's no published papers written stemming from those who benefited - not even a 'thanks and this is who we are since the IRS requires you to tell the names to be 501(c)(3) non-profit organization compliant'. Were they just happy to get a free seat in Vegas, nod along with the choir and 'that's all folks'?

These conferences seem more often to be social events rather actual than inspiration to do any more than what others have done before them. Just more noise on the already established forums, podcasts and blogs for them to express their 'commitment to skepticism'...

... Which brings me to my next point: why are so many from skeptical sites that do have access to voicing 'teh cause' do nothing but talk about the social advantages of hanging out with the Mythbusters or continue the rigmarole of playing up to the same ADULTS in the skeptical communities - again, those already deeming themselves to be skeptical thinkers?

A sexy knitting circle of twenty-to-thirtysomethings and a few vague tips on raising a questioning child (by not telling them to shut up when they ask 'why the sky blue?' when the football is on, it seems) shows no progress beyond what a few screenings of The Supernanny could achieve in an afternoon.

And it sure doesn't stop disenfranchised young men stopping to think about turning towards the science classroom rather than trying carjacking. Or really showing a teen girl how skepticism is more than sneering behind the safety of a computer screen at bewildered fundamentalists whose church you crashed or the value of trading a bitchy clique in the schoolgrounds for a potentially worse clique on a forum board.

No wonder we have few to no young women on any of the boards or informed input on the few examples of projects aimed at young people. No one beyond a handful of teachers seem to care about really reaching out to them.

The silence we get from those who are our 'skeptical icons', regarding how to authentically educate those crying for help from the cot, is deafening. Accountability upon what we have actually HAVE achieved by the few wild claims that 'we're an educational group for skeptics' ... is seriously lacking.

This isn't a skeptical revolution, it's a skeptical quagmire for young people of both genders. It's like ouroboros - a neverending story that just eats its own tale.

Many boys just see their time at school as a preparation for future employment. The occupations of the immediate future that seem to be providing increasing job opportunities are in the service sector (which has traditionally always employed more females than males) and the small business sector (in which women are proving more successful than men and are being encouraged through various incentives since the 1970s). Many of the occupations that boys have traditionally favoured in the past have disappeared or are disappearing. Trade colleges are less respected; leaving high school early is frowned upon.

I'd rather see young men who think before they hit out or pull the trigger for a start, no matter what career they end up in.

The classroom becomes more like a prison when we don't take the time to realise and deal with these factors, to cater for all kids equally and get support from those who SHOULD want skeptical thinkers to grow from a grassroots source rather than just appeal to a minority group of adults.

And it's up to us to role model and act towards building decent human beings rather than ignoring them or showing the few that do interact with us that 'arrogance, self-absorbed posing and sneering at the credulous - makes the skeptic'.

Taken from ... ost1786486 by poster 'Roadtoad' on the JREF forum, edited for some parts:

This whole "dispute" is one of the reasons you won't see an actual "Skeptical Movement." I realize there are several publications, websites, what-have-you, out there. But for the most part, it remains on the fringe of public awareness. We're sort of stuck on the edge, looking out, while the major news networks and Larry King continue to pander to the "psychics," and degenerate cowards like Carla Baron continue to fleece suffering family members who are looking for their loved ones. In the meantime, we have this brain-dead twit at Buckingham Palace who, if he's ever crowned, and even if he isn't, will be providing continuing encouragement to people selling Perrier as a panacea, while the Horoscopes in newspapers will continue to be one of the best read sections in the entertainment pages.


I have been saying this practically from the start: If you want to advance the goals of skepticism, you have to proceed civilly. Doing so undercuts the woos in ways you can't even begin to understand, unless you have been one yourself.

In the meantime, we have people watching from the sidelines, reading all of the catfights, and they have to wonder if it's worthwhile to get into all of this. I decided that it was, but someone else may decide otherwise. I don't know: Maybe Mike Reed was right: there are some people who just groove on being nasty, particularly on the net, because it's hard to slug someone when they're a continent away.

I don't have time for this. See, because I lacked critical thinking skills earlier on, I'm paying for it now. I would rather my sons not have to endure what I have. So, there's a push on for me to try and learn what I can so I can pass it on and save my kids some hassles. I would really like for them to be able to spend some time here and learn.

I would rather they not have to deal with people who sling insults at every turn, simply because they think they can. Because most folks, when that happens, don't hang around. They don't even bother with "Ignore," they realize it's not worth it, and pack up and haul it out.

And, in the end, the woos win another round.

Hey, if that's what you want, knock yourself out. You'll be seen as an Iconoclast, an Individual. Everyone else will go where they'll be treated with some respect, and if that's by hanging out with the woos, so be it.

All I'm saying is that I think there's a better way

[I think David Bowie said the same thing about 'I've got a better way' in New Killer Star.... ;) ]
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Re: Skepticism lets down the young, especially boys - worksh

Post by Kiless » Sun Jul 23, 2006 2:50 pm

Jim Dominic wrote:I suggest replacing "skepticism" with "critical thinking" or even "reason-based decisionmaking".
Yes, I think interchanging them is proving problematic. One of my M.Ed's that I hope to finish before I hit 40 (nearly completed the first! Roll on 2007!) is on Critical Thinking in education. So, yes, thank you.
I suggest moving these references to footnotes, because here they interrupt the flow of your thesis statement.
Yes, that's the sticky part. Thanks.
Consider definining "struggling children", e.g. who are they, and how are they struggling? What are they struggling with or against?
I think a lot of what I've already mentioned indicates that, I'll be happy to elaborate more. It's on several fronts:
Expectations of schools in terms of graduating, where standards are dropping because students are not meeting literacy and numeracy outcomes.
The suicide rate of young men, health and well being, risk-taking and drug use, declining respect for authority, a tendency towards violence and aggression in solving problems, a higher percentage of boys than girls in discipline programs and trouble generally, and the incidence of depression... I'm cutting and pasting, but I think that's what I see as being something that critical thinking in schools can help with.
In addition, the rather aggressive religious fundamentalism in schools and the popular support of superstitions and pseudosciences - and what this may mean in terms of enabling young people who are willing to question and handle reactions to being a questioner of what may be the status quo, not only in their school but their town and maybe even their country.
Replace "getting behind" with "supporting and encouraging". Replace "that will make" with "that may help". In general, the statement does not address critical thinking, but it does address ethics and human consideration. Critical thinking is separate from both--scams are examples of applied critical thinking and scammers are adept at critical thinking. Ethics and consideration are examples of applied morality.
Addressing the limitations of online forums is fine, but this still seems to be a thesis statement. You might consider separating the individual questions from your commentary as a list.

Remove the word "And" from "And skeptics who should..." It weakens your assertion.
SKEPTIC Magazine contains a "Junior Skeptic" section in each issue, and it is mentioned in the most recent issue that they are working on a series of "Baloney Detection Kit" books for children.
Excellent! :D Will the books be available internationally? I also wonder if there's ever been much of a focus on producing programs for teachers or altering such books to be useful in a classroom - or if Skeptic is interested in running something like either the WA Skeptics Awards for Young Critical Writers or the New Zealand skeptics speech competition (link -
You should provide footnotes and references to support your assertions here.
Can do, will do. In fact, last Friday I ended up clipping a useful article about the despair my country is in over the lack of interest nationally for Maths and Science in schools (high school and university). Shouldn't be difficult to find more support.
In general...this section comes off as a rant, and not an analysis, or even a challenge. I suggest rephrasing it as a challenge, if that is what you intend, or an analysis of events and subsequent results of those events. Also, I suggest rephrasing declarations such as "doesn't stop disenfranchised young men stopping to think about turning towards the science classroom..." as "Does it encourage disenfranchised young men to go to science class instead of stealing cars?"
I know what you mean - I think a challenge would certainly be more confronting and certainly more proactive.
You may need to follow this with a statement of what you think skepticism should be, and provide suggestions about what you think needs to be done, separate from the rest of the article, and how you think skepticism and/or critical thinking can help certain social problems. Again, avoid starting sentences with "And".
Heh, I just love 'and'... it's a nasty habit and probably due to just spilling it all out in one hit after reading of another local arrest and wondering why they didn't stop and ask 'why are we doing this?' Probably a lot of it will come from gleaning a few more views like Roadtoad's.

Thanks again, sometimes it really feels like I'm shouting at a wall.
Copyright © 2004 - 2006 by Kiless, all rights reserved. Permission to quote open posts is granted for users on this forum only. All other use is prohibited except by express written permission of the author. Permission to quote PMs is absolutely denied.