Individual Presentation or Panel Title

Disgust and the Limits of Reason: education and Gut Feelings in the Post-truth Era

Abstract

In times of rising nationalism and partisan tensions, the natural response of conscientious educators is to want more people to have more information, assuming that more knowledge will counter the ignorance that must be at the root of hate and fear. Yet we can easily see that information does not create acceptance, and a number of neurological studies might shine a light on this irrational intransigence. In these studies, researchers discovered an overwhelming correlation between subjects’ high disgust response and their political and social conservativism. Examining this subconscious knowledge of the danger of what is “wrong” and “unclean” gives educators valuable perspective on the desperately personal gut-level knowing driving students who feel existentially threatened by “unnatural” people, ideas, values, and practices. The post-truth era has widened this gap between intellectual knowing and gut-level knowing into a canyon: when all knowledge is equally true and equally suspect, resistant students have less reason than ever to accept contradictions to their innate worldview, and more reason than ever to trust their own worldview, which feels reliable and natural since it doesn’t come from suspect outside sources. This is a very real pedagogical problem for education, with its traditional commitment to the irresistibility of reason and the impartiality of information, and educators must respond with different tactics to create a place of safety and inquiry, so that students naturally prone to policing boundaries can be helped to expand their own sense of what is natural and normal for humanity.

Presentation Description

In times of rising nationalism and partisan tensions, the natural response of conscientious educators is to want more people to have more information, assuming that more knowledge will counter the ignorance that must be at the root of hate and fear. Yet we can easily see that information does not create acceptance, and a number of neurological studies might shine a light on this irrational intransigence. In these studies, researchers discovered an overwhelming correlation between subjects’ high disgust response and their political and social conservativism. Examining this subconscious knowledge of the danger of what is “wrong” and “unclean” gives educators valuable perspective on the desperately personal gut-level knowing driving students who feel existentially threatened by “unnatural” people, ideas, values, and practices. The post-truth era has widened this gap between intellectual knowing and gut-level knowing into a canyon: when all knowledge is equally true and equally suspect, resistant students have less reason than ever to accept contradictions to their innate worldview, and more reason than ever to trust their own worldview, which feels reliable and natural since it doesn’t come from suspect outside sources. This is a very real pedagogical problem for education, with its traditional commitment to the irresistibility of reason and the impartiality of information, and educators must respond with different tactics to create a place of safety and inquiry, so that students naturally prone to policing boundaries can be helped to expand their own sense of what is natural and normal for humanity.

Location

Stream A: Curriculum Dialogues

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Presentation (Open Access)

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Jun 11th, 3:45 PM Jun 11th, 5:00 PM

Disgust and the Limits of Reason: education and Gut Feelings in the Post-truth Era

Stream A: Curriculum Dialogues

In times of rising nationalism and partisan tensions, the natural response of conscientious educators is to want more people to have more information, assuming that more knowledge will counter the ignorance that must be at the root of hate and fear. Yet we can easily see that information does not create acceptance, and a number of neurological studies might shine a light on this irrational intransigence. In these studies, researchers discovered an overwhelming correlation between subjects’ high disgust response and their political and social conservativism. Examining this subconscious knowledge of the danger of what is “wrong” and “unclean” gives educators valuable perspective on the desperately personal gut-level knowing driving students who feel existentially threatened by “unnatural” people, ideas, values, and practices. The post-truth era has widened this gap between intellectual knowing and gut-level knowing into a canyon: when all knowledge is equally true and equally suspect, resistant students have less reason than ever to accept contradictions to their innate worldview, and more reason than ever to trust their own worldview, which feels reliable and natural since it doesn’t come from suspect outside sources. This is a very real pedagogical problem for education, with its traditional commitment to the irresistibility of reason and the impartiality of information, and educators must respond with different tactics to create a place of safety and inquiry, so that students naturally prone to policing boundaries can be helped to expand their own sense of what is natural and normal for humanity.