web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Holocaust Denial and Critical Thinking Skills

Not every intellectual freedom that we have an inherent right to is a priority for education.
Rows of bodies fill the yard of the Boelcke Barracks located in the south-east of the town of Nordhausen. The barracks was a subcamp of the Mittelbau-Dora Nazi concentration camp.

Rows of bodies fill the yard of the Boelcke Barracks located in the south-east of the town of Nordhausen. The barracks was a subcamp of the Mittelbau-Dora Nazi concentration camp.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Charles C.W. Cooke opened up a can of worms at NRO when he opined, on 7 May, that asking 8th graders to prove to themselves whether the Holocaust had actually happened was a perfectly good exercise in academic honesty.  He certainly has no doubts about the reality of the Holocaust, he stressed.  But he also thinks we shouldn’t fear the outcome of an empirical investigation into the question, which can be compared with debates over value questions like whether “war is always wrong,” or whether “sharia law would be good for the West.”

Jonah Goldberg responded promptly, making the main points that occurred immediately to me.  First, 8th graders are not college students; it’s the rare 8th grader who is up to the rigors of an Oxford Union debate.  Second, debating a factual point that’s subject to empirical disproof is a different game from debating what our moral values should prescribe for us (or, indeed, what those values should be).

Cooke acknowledged both points.  He still thinks we shouldn’t reflexively object to a research-and-reasoning exercise on the reality of the Holocaust.  He compares it in his response to a similar exercise treating the reality of the Declaration of Independence.  In his view, it would be an opportunity to stress the value of empiricism and the use of critical thinking skills.

And while he doesn’t state it explicitly, an implied advantage of doing this with a topic like the Holocaust is that a student’s success would be measurable.  Since we know there was a Holocaust, and we know a great deal about it, a student’s performance will be indicated by whether he concludes that the Holocaust most certainly happened.

Right?  Well, that’s where the elevation of abstract reasoning over all else breaks down for me.  What about the student who doesn’t conclude that the Holocaust happened, but can make a compelling argument – in the abstract – that doubt, at least, should be cast on it; and can even “show his work,” very possibly running logical rings around the instructor?

The question about this scenario is not whether we should “fear” it.  The question is what good it has done to put time and effort into it.  (There’s also a question whether putting effort into it is actively harmful.  More on that in a minute.)

Not every intellectual freedom that we have an inherent right to is a priority for education.  A 13-year-old could congratulate himself, for example, on demonstrating that there’s no objective proof of his existence; and from the standpoint of intellectual freedom, we’d all say, “Knock yourself out, buddy.”  But whether we want him to devote his educational time to that effort, and what we expect him to get out of it, depend on our scale of values.  Education is intrinsically a process in which we make value-based choices about what to emphasize and what to do.  No such thing exists as abstract, non-value-weighted education.

There’s thus a big value difference between giving children the tools of thinking, and selecting things for them to approach with skepticism.  The latter can never be a neutral action, in any context.

In recent decades, in fact, much of academia has made something of a fetish of it for very specific purposes, like casting doubt on whether America’s Founders were Christians or not.  The upshot of this has been that “skepticism” itself has been turned on its head, and middle- and high-school students are encouraged to think they’ve been endowed with a refreshing skepticism on one topic or another, when in fact they’ve simply been indoctrinated with an arguable falsity.

About the Author: J.E. Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served around the world, afloat and ashore, from 1983 to 2004.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Holocaust Denial and Critical Thinking Skills”

  1. someone should deny them their citizenship

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Blogs Stories
Malachi Rosenfeld HY"D

Israel & world Jewry are under attack and in grave danger but UN’s focus is denouncing Israel

Doug Goldstein

What is human chess? How easy is it to predict the actions of others?

Rethink UN bias against Israel

It’s time to stand up against the bias & no longer accept the constant UN prejudice against Israel.

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, one of four injured in a terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah, has died (HYD)

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, injured in a terror attack in Samaria, has died (HYD)

Allah is NOT merciful: Stabbing, beheading, shooting innocents is barbaric & cowardly acts of terror

How could the Jerusalem Post think the attack could have been other than a terrorist act?

Going to Mt of Olives cemetery was like visiting Jurassic Park in a jeep with dinosaurs rampaging

Hanan Porat z”l, teary-eyed said ” We returned to the Gush(Etzion)we shall return to the Gush(Katif)

“Mispachology”: Theory you share a common link with someone you’ve never met or been in contact with

It seems that Pres. Rivlin has joined all other so-called Right politicians and now is trending Left

Dear Muslims, Happy Ramadan. It’s clear from the news that your people are having a “bang-up” month

The President was right, every Jew should have a gun. He just asked the wrong person about it.

Everybody knows that during Ramadan Arab Muslim terror attacks increase.

UN says Hamas tried to warn us of rocket attacks? I was here. Not once did those…I want to scream

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} The inevitable finally happened. Rabbi Avi Weiss has dispensed with his prior refusal to call his female ordainees ‘rabbis’.  I challenged him to stop dancing around that title with made up titles  (like Raba and Maharat) and he finally rose to the challenge. His motivation in not […]

How can you transform thinking to action? What are the mountains you need to climb to reach goals?

More Articles from J. E. Dyer
Iran Shahed, with stern decked out in Yemeni flags. Iranian flag flies from traditional position on center fantail.

Activists from US, France, Germany & from Iran’s media are aboard because the ship’s a cause célèbre

Pope Francis in Jerusalem on May 26. 2014.

“…the Pope did the exact opposite of what the media reported: he urged Abbas to change his ways.”

The world’s more vulnerable to predation, eruption, and chaos than it has been in at least 600 years

Iran stands unopposed by the “international community” and is racing to assert regional dominance.

The S-300 poses a major problem; Israel will have to get creative as to if, when & where it strikes

In the last weeks of the talks the US excluded every other delegation from negotiations with Iran.

Israel has never invoked the agreement, but Israel sources say that its importance lies in its very existence.

The Senate formed a bipartisan panel investigating money from the Obama adm. to an anti-Bibi group

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/guest-blog/holocaust-denial-and-critical-thinking-skills/2014/05/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: