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Liberal education is the solution to America’s problem with irrational thinking


The outlook for rational discourse is grim in part because liberal education offers the best chance for rescue, but it itself is under attack, amid other pressures.

In a recent opinion piece, educator Richard Cherwitz asks whether rational discourse can be restored in an era of demagoguery, going so far as to suggest the future of American democracy is at risk.

Here is an improbable idea: The study of the great books of literature and philosophy, the modern sciences and languages offers the surest antidote to the irrational thinking that Cherwitz sees as dominating discourse. Liberal education teaches students how to think, rather than what to think, freeing them from indoctrination, fanaticism and foolishness.

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Liberal education does not equate liberal ideology, the partisan preference for leftist ideas, as some critics contend. Ironically, liberal education might pay greater heed to conservative ideology, as it follows a traditional approach to learning, followed for centuries until recently.

However, our best chance for recovering is blocked in part because efforts to ban books are chilling education. Demagogues are instilling the fear of thought by arousing the emotions, passions and prejudices of the people.

Vocational-style education dominates universities in an era of economic uncertainty, such as business, the health professions and information technology. Though its elements are core to liberal education, STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is a focus of educational policy, undermining the study of the humanities, social sciences and languages.

And the distractions of social media, digital connectivity and consumer electronics are further eroding critical thinking skills.

I share Cherwitz’s dread: The end of democracy in an era of specious discourse is indeed a real threat.

Craig Barner, Lincoln Square

More tourists? Great, but Chicago is still too violent

The Sun-Times editorial board sure left a lot out when it derided people referring to Chicago as a “hellhole.”

I’m thrilled that tourism is on the rise, 60% up from 2022 and nearly at the numbers from 2019, prior to the pandemic. So what? That doesn’t change the fact that Chicago is a violent city. Remember the old axiom, “It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”? That’s Chicago’s tourists. Just like they still visit cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

Imagine where the tourism numbers would be if the streets were safer. Memorial Day weekend: 12 killed, 51 shot. This past weekend: 10 killed, 37 shot. That’s still a tourism problem, and until we as a city admit it’s a major problem, a “hellhole” so to speak, nothing will get better.

You can have all the social programs you want. Job programs too. Even stricter law enforcement, prosecution and incarceration. But until you find a way to change people’s morals and values, until we all learn to respect each other and follow the rules, Chicago will still have to fight off the “hell hole” moniker. And an increase in tourism will not change that.

Robert Stasch, O’Hare

Violent youth won’t accept work

Mayor Brandon Johnson is dangerously misguided in his preaching of a purpose for violent youth. It’s not jobs or recreation that elude the youth in question. It’s self love, proper parenting and consequences that elude them. These individuals wouldn’t know work or accept it if it was surgically implanted in their bodies.

Mark Wilkins, Bronzeville


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