No Reason

Driving home through yesterday’s midday deluge, I decided to tune in MPBN’s Maine Calling program. The topic was “The consequence of paying our teachers poverty-level wages,” at least that’s what their Facebook page indicates. I joined at some point, about 20 minutes into the program.

One of the guests on the show was Tayla Edlund, who was chosen as Maine’s Teacher-of-the-Year for 2015. She teaches third grade in Cape Elizabeth.

The show’s host, veteran journalist Keith Shortall, posed a question that basically captured an idea that well-to-do places like Cape Elizabeth—the top-ranking Maine community by income—are likely to have greater parental involvement. Anyone that knows anything about socio-economic data and education wouldn’t have had any problems with Shortall’s premise. Here is but one study on the subject.

Socio-economics affects educational attainment.

Socio-economics affects educational attainment.

But alas, someone listening apparently has never encountered this idea before, and she called in to denigrate Shortall, accuse him of saying something he hadn’t—that other communities don’t have involved parents—and basically hijacked the program for about 5 minutes. Shortall actually backtracked slightly, which was a mistake in my opinion, because the woman caller was obviously irrational and incapable of following an idea that might not mesh with her own predetermined views of data, science, and educational performance. He also wasn’t making light of Edlund’s recognition as a skilled teacher, deserving of her recognition, which is another point this caller was insistent in making.

Immanuel Kant developed a system of ethics in the 19th century that attempted to derive moral law from reason. The binary of that is that immorality—according Kant and his system—involves inconsistency and is irrational. Kantian ethics has two essential elements: the first one is that using reason to ground our morality offers a strong counterpoint to egoists (which is what I’d classify the unhinged caller referenced above). Egoism is centered on the notion that we are only to act in our own self-interest. That could also be classified as narcissism. Kant and most philosophers of his day rejected egoism, seeing that it was irrational.

Two, using reason as the primary component of Kant’s idea of morality, centers his system. Rationality, a definitive trait of human nature, should inform our morality.

I’m sorry to be asking you to actually do a little work this morning and try to wrap your brain around reason, rationality, and morality. It’s not something 21st century Americans, awash in our techno-fog of narcissism, are used to.

Back to our irrational caller friend. She was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to hear what Shortall was saying because she only heard what she wanted to hear, and it didn’t jive with her ignorance.

Yesterday afternoon, over coffee with a friend, we were discussing this caller and the inability of people to not only listen to reason, but that they argue vehemently against it every single time someone presents information that introduces cognitive dissonance.

I enjoyed this face-to-face time (as opposed to the barrage of irrationality that’s shoved in my face every time I dare to log onto one of my social media accounts) and was grateful for my friend’s offer to “stop by for coffee.” As someone who spends more time alone that I’m comfortable with in my free agent role, having a personal conversation, not an exchange of emails or texts, was refreshing.

As we were discussing the dilemma of being thoughtful in an age of unreason, we discussed blogging, writing in general, and she complimented me on the thoughtfulness of what I write (at least, most days). I was grateful to hear this, as human beings do enjoy being praised, and it’s so much more pleasant than simply being ignored, as is often the case in what I take time to develop and ultimately write. Perhaps being thoughtful and taking the time to blog about some of these things is an outdated notion in 2016.

My morning swim this morning afforded me some additional time to muse and ponder yesterday’s conversation over coffee, as well as Kant’s very clear delineation of one of our most pressing issues. If people can’t reason, then they’re in essence, irrational. Irrationality, when it becomes a national scourge, doesn’t bode well for our collective futures.


5 thoughts on “No Reason

  1. I have yet to hear a call-in show that wasn’t a medium for both the moderator’s ego, and the rampant egos of the callers. Flaming leaps of rhetoric, smoking holes of logical failure, boogeymen everywhere and everyone else is always to blame. Just not worth dialing into, especially in the smug, sanctimonious realms of “public” radio.

  2. Almost everything in modern life conspires against “stopping by for coffee.” It’s unfortunate, because there’s really nothing comforting and stimulating about staring at a screen or listening to the “smoking holes of logical failure” considered discourse. But it’s a good tide to swim against for the few courageous souls. We just need some practice once in a while to remember how to swim.

  3. @ Mark Thanks.

    @LP Well, the program yesterday wasn’t marred by the host, Keith Shortall. The caller, however, seemed to be a bat of some variety, the kind that never listens, but just launches with a torrent of verbal diarrhea.

    @JAB Modern life conspires again everything that’s better and best. Here’s to swimming against the tide.

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