Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method: An Essay on Social Attitudes

Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method: An Essay on Social Attitudes

Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method: An Essay on Social Attitudes

Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method: An Essay on Social Attitudes

Excerpt

Fifteen years ago I initiated a college course in what I conceived to be the broader and basic, but concrete and specific, social problems. My students were Juniors and Seniors, supposedly in possession of a modicum of that liberal culture which the first class American college prides itself on bestowing. Nevertheless, it was quickly evident that something was wrong. The students were not ready for profitable discussion of problems involving conflict of human interest and sentiments. They lacked the essential open-mindedness and objectivity. They were, in spite of what the undergraduate curriculum had been doing for them, perhaps in part because of it, markedly characterized by the preconceptions, the prejudices, and the uncritical sentiments of the social stratum from which in most part college students come--that somewhat indefinite but exceedingly important part of the population known as the middle class.

They had little or no conception of scientific method or of an objective approach to social problems. Their tendency was toward dogmatic assertion and judgment on the basis of the socially inherited sentiments of their class. Their criteria of criticism and valuation were their own likes and dislikes. In short they were, as was to be expected, deeply marked by what is referred to in this book as popular-mindedness.

In some slight measure to modify this psychological situation, I thereafter began the course with a few lectures on scientific method and attitude, democracy and class point of view, individualism and social cooperation, and conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism. The modification of attitude apparently resultant upon these cursory lectures was so marked that as time went on it seemed profitable to expand the preliminary discussion of social viewpoints and attitudes, until finally it covered a full term.

What had at first been undertaken to meet an immediate pedagogical situation came to enlist a closer attention on my . . .

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