Mediametka (Finland)

Every analysis of voting patterns for the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum, and for the December 2019 General Election, which was also about Brexit, reveals two major factors that seem to have determined people’s votes. The first is age, with the relatively young being significantly more likely to be pro-European than my generation. The second is level of education, with the better or longer educated more likely to be Europhile than the poorly educated. Oddly enough, Old Etonians seem to come within this latter category. That’s because it’s the quality of education that counts, not just the length. (I once wrote to the Head of History at Eton to ask him for a view of the modern history syllabus taught there, but received no reply.)

I’ve always in fact believed this, in contradistinction to the common ‘élitist’ view that the poorly educated voted for Brexit because they were stupid. In fact all the so-called ‘stupid’ ones required was to be taught properly. And in my view – as I’ve expressed once or twice in this blog – that requires a degree of education in logic, or clear, rational and above all critical  thinking, which would enable them to see beyond and behind the propaganda they are fed in their media. History could provide this, if taught properly – that is, critically, not simply factually, or – God forbid – patriotically; but I’m sure there are other disciplines that could do it almost as well.

Here in Sweden I’m told that schoolchildren are taught källkritik, which is to go back to the sources of statements made before accepting them. That’s a start. In Finland they’ve gone one further. This article shows how children there are taught to spot ‘fake news’ when it’s presented to them: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/28/fact-from-fiction-finlands-new-lessons-in-combating-fake-news. Isn’t that wonderful? And couldn’t our UK schools, in a country where our print, broadcast and social media are some of the least reliable in the ‘free’ world, take a leaf out of the Finns’ book here?

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4 Responses to Mediametka (Finland)

  1. What do so many of the poorly educated Leave advocates have in common with their counterparts who are elderly or close to it? They all share an antipathy towards foreigners. John Cleese, the very well educated but now elderly Brexiteer, has for years bemoaned the presence of too many foreigners in London. He hardly recognises the place now, he says. If we treat Cleese as an ideal-typical well-educated advocate of Brexit, we can see that his critical education amounted to nothing when it came to the ‘problem’ of multi-cultural and multi-racial Britain. In his younger days, he had a critical intelligence which came to the fore in his satire, notwithstanding the Manuel-denigrating Fawlty Towers; yet when the referendum arrived he lined up with Farage and Johnson.

    Going further field, seeking other ideal-types, we might look at one of the greatest critical figures in twentieth century philosophy, Martin Heidegger. Did his elite and prolonged education, and his extraordinary intelligence save him from the embrace of the most virulent form of anti-Semitism? And he was hardly alone among the graduates of the great German universities.

    Unfortunately, fear of the foreign subsists in the realm of the irrational, which is largely immune to the probings of disinterested critical scrutiny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Depressing, and true of the ‘highly educated’. (Though I’m not sure of the quality of Cleese’s – Public school? – education. Like Boris’s, perhaps? Or is this the ‘age’ factor coming in?) And of course there are exceptions. It’s the poorly educated, however, that I feel could benefit from classes in logical thinking; or many of them – enough to tip the balance.

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      • It is true that Labour did far better than the Conservatives among the highly educated; however, this academically credentialled segment of the population still contributed a large number of votes to the Tories in absolute terms.
        YouGov concluded that “the highest level of education someone has achieved remains an important dividing line in how people vote. Labour did much better than the Conservatives amongst those who have a degree or higher, by 43% to 29%. The Liberal Democrats also performed very well amongst this group with 17% of the vote share.”
        Unfortunately, it is likely that students who go on to drop out of schooling before attending university are those who would struggle to master the skills taught by “classes in logical thinking”. However, educational programmes which promote the benefits of multiculturalism and teach the need to reject racism might have a better chance of success.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert says:

    Well, prof, I’m not so sure. I’ve argued about this with my friends and it strikes me that it’s largely fear of causing offence that stops them calling the people who voted for Johnson idiots. Instead they like to blame the media, or Corbyn’s lacklustre performance, or lack of education – but not mentioning the people who actually did this. At the risk of sounding like a Tory, I think everyone should take responsibility for their votes. Actions have consequences, and although you can have any opinion you like in the privacy of your own head I’m not sure you have the right to have an ignorant opinion or an opinion based on a nationalistic whim when it affects the whole country.

    Of course, these are dangerous moral waters, and my friends’s response was always that I was sounding like a dictator. The implication is that I’d allow people to vote provided they voted the right way. My response is that the current system has generated plenty of people that are wannabe dictators and might still become actual ones: Trump, Johnson, Putin, Netanyahu… all elected by Lenin’s “useful idiots”. Also – I suspect Dominic Cummins would agree with me!

    So, I’m in two minds about the whole thing. I half suspect that the world isn’t ready for democracy, and needs to be more educated as well as more grown up. Again, when I say that it’s me that sounds like the dictator!

    Liked by 1 person

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