Thomas Sowell

 Instead of trying to propagandize children to hug trees and recycle garbage, our schools would be put to better use teaching them how to analyze and test what is said by people who advocate tree-hugging, recycling, and innumerable other causes across the political spectrum.

 The point is not to teach them correct conclusions but to teach them to be able to use their own minds to analyze the issues that will come up in the years ahead, which may have nothing to do with recycling or any of the other issues of our time.

 Rational disagreement can be not only useful but stimulating. Many years ago, when my friend and colleague Walter Williams and I worked on the same research project, he and I kept up a running debate on the reasons why blacks excelled in some sports and were virtually non-existent in others.

 Walter was convinced that the reasons were physical while I thought the reasons were social and economic. Walter would show me articles on physiology from scholarly journals, using them as explanations of why blacks had so many top basketball players and few, if any, swimming champions.

 We never settled that issue but it provided lively debates and we may both have learned something.

 I even met my wife as a result of a disagreement. She read something of mine that she disagreed with and told a mutual friend. He in turn suggested that we get together for lunch and hash out our differences.

 Although we have now been married more than 20 years, we have still not completely settled our differences over that issue. But when we met our attention turned to other things. There are a lot of reasons to be able to have rational discussions about things on which people disagree.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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