“Too Dumb for Democracy?” (CBC broadcast October 2016 – why Trump!)

My Qs, given all of the below,

more strategically:

WHY allow education

— more specifically university education, and doubly so GRADUATE education —

to give up on the rationality — public & strictly political — of students, and instead

create “consciously and purposefully” (recalling Dewey)

spaces/abilities for academic-political engagement?


graduate elections-immediately:

HOW are we mediating voters’ ACTUALLY finding out about

candidates’ abilities and platforms, so that

the United Experience of All who’d make a bid for PUBLIC SERVICE is put to work,

not sidetracked by “reptilian brain” as described per neuroscientific research?!


Remember that CBC broadcast, aired October 2014, around the time of the Rob Ford election for mayor of Toronto (Ontario, Canada), which was re-aired in 2016 around the Trump election titled “Too Dumb for Democracy”?

A fellow PhD student of Political Science is featured as working on “a provocative new thesis from the University of British Columbia [. He] suggests our brains may not be cut out for the political system we’ve created.” — i.e., one (and here, i’d stress, ASSUMED to be) based on autonomous rational choice.

credits CBC Radio

Says CBC Radio:

We may, in fact, be too dumb for democracy.

David Moscrop, a Ph.D political science candidate at UBC, points out that modern democracy was built on the idea that citizens are rational and autonomous.

But he says voters across the political spectrum are more likely to vote with instinct than reason.

“We’re motivated by our so-called ‘lizard brains,’” says Moscrop.

He says the voting public isn’t encouraged to wade through political platforms to make informed decisions.

“It’s about messaging and name familiarity. And it reflects our own vulnerability to being manipulated — which is why attack ads work and sound bites work.”

and UofT philosopher Joseph Heath objects to flaws in the Canadian Parliamentary system, and how elections campaigns are conducted.

credit: CBC Radio

In his book Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives, Heath argues for a re-think of the expectations we have of individual citizens as well as the democratic structures we operate in.

Heath says that the political system should be conceived with our cognitive limitations in mind. He puts an emphasis on design. Two-year-olds can figure out how to operate an iPad, for example, because it is designed in a way that plays on human instinct.

“I would love to see a discussion about social institutions that could be built to better suit the way we operate,” he says.

credit: CBC Radio

And psychologist Tanya Chartrand [Duke University] says, “You would think that for high-involvement situations, like deciding on who to vote for, we should be creating spreadsheets of pros and cons and deliberately considering the pros and cons of candidates’ platforms”

But the truth is, most of us don’t.

The explanation is that we operate with our “lizard brains” that “developed between 500 million and 150 million years ago and are primarily responsible for instinct, emotion and recording memories, as well as visceral feelings that influence or even direct our decisions.” Compared to the neocortex — “the area of our brain responsible for reason, language, imagination, abstract thought and consciousness” — which  “Scientists say” has only been around for 2 or 3 million years.


It is impossible to quantify, but scientists say roughly 95 per cent of our brain activity is subconscious or unconscious.

“It is flawed to think that we’re fully in control,” says Tanya Chartrand…


So again,

Is education powerless to educate the rational brain?

Or is it a question of looking for, finding, and implementing the RIGHT WAY to influence how we deploy our rationality and irrationality the RIGHT WAY ?

(“right” in my book being relationally informed and motivated)


Why our brains aren’t built for democracy 2014

Ideas from the Trenches – Too Dumb for Democracy (Wednesday November 09, 2016)