Matteo: Advice for woke leftists, especially educators

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, political activist, essayist, logician and social critic who was best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. In other words, he was a critical thinker who was not shy about giving an educated, logical opinion about numerous issues. He was also a controversial figure who was dismissed from several universities, and was also an avowed atheist. You do not have to agree with all of his positions, but there are aspects of what he said or wrote that are extremely applicable to American culture, especially woke leftists.  

In 1959, in an interview, he said that he had two pieces of advice for future generations and he classified one of them as intellectual, and the other as moral. His intellectual advice is as follows, “When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts.

In other words, he was condemning those whose personal biases blind them from reality and who ignore evidence because it refutes something they believe. We have seen this time and time again with CRT advocates, those who insist on indoctrinating small children about gender issues and so many other aspects of what those labeled as “woke” espouse. They operate from emotionalism, which is great when you are caught up in the “feelings” of a joyous event, but hardly practical when dealing with any form of rational thought.  

Russell’s moral message was “… I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more closely and closely interconnected we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

Both of these ideas can be summed up by one of his more famous quotes, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” Sadly, this message is completely missed by those who manipulate facts for their own purpose and it is accompanied by a level of moral bankruptcy that fuels errors of omission if it weakens their agenda. The only love they enjoy is the love of hearing their own voices. The refusal to listen to others, censor speech, shut down speakers and cancel individuals (living and dead) in the guise of what present-day fascists label as “social justice” promotes fear, hatred and polarization. So-called “Social Justice Warriors” would have you believe that they are just trying to make the world a kinder, gentler place, but their definition of tolerance is limited to only what affirms their beliefs and dismisses anything that challenges opposing views. 

When they speak about the new buzz words,(which ironically can be turned into the mnemonic device of DIE) diversity, inclusion and equity (all noble intentions as originally defined), they redefine what these words mean (similarly to what has been done with the term, “gender”) to create entirely new and polarizing meanings.

Diversity and inclusion are related terms, but the woke definition in practice is basically to include only certain groups while excluding others. “We’ll include blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals in our dialogues, but if you are white, straight, male or some other group not on their approved list, it’s ok for you to be excluded” is the real message from the woke. When they discuss equity, they don’t mean equality, they mean it in the Marxist sense where wealth is redistributed to provide for equity of outcomes instead of the democratic idea that each person should be provided with opportunities.  

A large part of the woke ideology comes from education, which is where, for decades, leftist professors decided that students shouldn’t learn to think critically, but parrot radical, untrue ideas and this took hold of many individuals who went into teaching in schools around the nation.

Russell also provided sound advice for teachers.

Russell: “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows…”

1: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2: Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3: Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4: When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5: Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6: Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7: Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8: Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9: Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10: Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

You don’t have to like or admire Russell, but these 10 ideas for teachers definitely have merit in today’s world. As a teacher, when you stand before impressionable students, whether they are six or twenty-six, it is your job to encourage them to think, and to provide them with the best factual evidence, or teach them how to discern fact from fantasy. Good teachers encourage them to hear all sides of an argument before deciding their opinion about it, and most importantly the best educators leave their own biased opinions outside their classrooms. Just because a teacher believes that his or her opinion is right, moral, or vital for students to know, doesn’t make it true, and one only needs to refer to Russell’s first commandment about that.  

We live in a world of divergent opinions, and must learn to agree to disagree. We must move away from comfortable fallacies that make us feel secure but prevent us from developing an accurate take on reality. Educators must resist the temptation to impose their opinions and views on students and teach students that knowledge is obtained through a logical analysis of facts that have been validated through valid and reliable evidence. Challenging students to think through a series of suppositions is fine, but it’s vital that for an exercise like this to work, both sides of the argument must be presented in a fair and unbiased manner. The moment that we cease to approach things objectively, learning ends and brainwashing begins.


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