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The Education System and the Fight Against Anti-Intellectualism: Discussing the role of educators in combating anti-intellectual attitudes and promoting critical thinking.

In the contemporary landscape of societal discourse and development, the education system stands as a critical bastion against the rising tide of anti-intellectualism. This phenomenon, characterised by a general disdain for intellectual pursuits and scepticism towards expertise, undermines the very foundations of informed debate and decision-making. Addressing this issue requires a nuanced approach, rooted in the combined wisdom of many of my favourite writers and philosophers and, crucially, educators.

The role of education in combating anti-intellectual attitudes and promoting critical thinking is vital. It's a key requirement for trainers and assessors at RTOs, as we must train people how to think, not what to think, to effectively determine competence in a range of scenarios. An effective education system does not merely impart knowledge; it cultivates the ability to question, analyse, and synthesise information. This is particularly pertinent in an era where propaganda proliferates and the line between fact and opinion is increasingly blurred.

Judicial philosophers such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin have emphasised the importance of fairness and justice within societal institutions. Extending these principles to education suggests a system that is fair and encourages diverse viewpoints, thereby fostering an environment where critical thinking is not just taught but valued. In the Northern Territory of Australia, for instance, efforts to incorporate indigenous knowledge and perspectives into the curriculum can be seen as a move towards this more inclusive and critical educational ethos.

Economists have long championed the virtues of individual choice and autonomy. Translating these ideals into the educational sphere, one might advocate for a system that offers students the flexibility to pursue their interests and encourages them to take ownership of their learning. This approach not only respects the individual's autonomy but also promotes engagement and critical thinking, as students are more likely to question and analyse topics they are genuinely interested in.

The psychological insights of Carl Jung delve into the depths of the human psyche, highlighting the importance of understanding oneself and the narratives that shape our world. An education system that encourages self-reflection and the critical examination of societal narratives can help students recognise and resist simplistic, dogmatic viewpoints. In the Northern Territory, where cultural narratives are diverse and sometimes conflicting, such an education is invaluable in promoting understanding and critical engagement with different perspectives. Although with far less prolific writing, the modern student might be more inclined to listen to Jordan Petersson on Youtube.

In my own observations through the writings of security experts like Gavin de Becker and Tim Larkin, though focused on physical safety, they also offer insights into the importance of awareness and preparedness. Translating these principles into the educational context, one might emphasise the importance of teaching students to be intellectually 'aware' and 'prepared'—to' recognise biases, logical fallacies, and manipulative rhetoric.

However, as an educator, implementing such an educational paradigm is not without challenges. Anti-intellectualism often arises from a distrust of elites and institutions, including the educational system itself. Overcoming this distrust requires demonstrating the tangible benefits of education for improving one's life and society at large. In Australia, where the divide between urban and rural, mainstream and indigenous, can sometimes lead to scepticism about the relevance and value of formal education, showing real-world applications of education in improving community wellbeing is crucial. Personally, the fact that I train personnel for a statutory required qualification allows me to directly observe the benefits of those I train entering the workplace, and I am always available to counsel them on their personal, real-world experiences. I constantly adjust and improve my training based on commercial and industry needs through the direct feedback of the free market.

Promoting critical thinking and combating anti-intellectualism requires more than just curriculum changes; it requires a cultural shift. Teachers and trainer/assessors, as the frontline of education, must be trained not just as conveyors of knowledge but as facilitators of inquiry and debate. They need to be supported in this role with ongoing professional development and an education culture that values and rewards critical thinking.

Real-world examples abound. In the Northern Territory, initiatives like the 'Learning on Country' program, which integrates indigenous knowledge and land management practices into the school curriculum, demonstrate how education can respect and promote diverse ways of understanding the world. Similarly, schools that have embraced inquiry-based learning models, where students learn through questioning and investigating real-world problems, provide a blueprint for how education fosters a more critical and engaged citizenry.

The fight against anti-intellectualism is, at its core, a fight for the soul of society. It's a fight to ensure that the populace is equipped not just with facts but with the intellectual tools to discern truth from falsehood, wisdom from folly. The education system, informed by the insights of philosophers, and writers from a range of different industries is central to this fight. By promoting an education that is fair, engaging, reflective, and real-world-oriented, we nurture a generation of critical thinkers ready to face the complexities of the modern world. And in doing so, we not only combat anti-intellectualism but pave the way for a more thoughtful, informed, and civil society.

From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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