The Lost Art of Detached Analysis

I had to squeeze this in between my two-parter. I read the NYT on-line including their essayists including Herbert, Rich, Brooks, Dowd, Friedman, etc. I’m waiting for them to call me and ask me to join them in the fun. Most of the writers are liberals who support Obama-Biden.  A common thread lately has been Palin’s lack of qualifications for the number two job in the land. Take Friedman’s today for instance.

To me, the comments attached to each essay are especially interesting. Attached to each comment is a link where you can “recommend” the comment to others.

Here are two typical comments that I’ll embellish a touch.  “Well said, bravo, finally someone has challenged Palin’s claim that she’s an energy expert. You are a first-rate journalist and fine human being.”  Now, 90% of NYT readers are left-leaning so a comment like that might have 600 recommendations. The next comment might read, “I can’t quite figure out why the NYT pays you to write such drivel. Palin already knows more about energy than you’ll every know. You’re a detriment to humanity.” A comment like that might get 30 recommendations.  

So if I agree with your argument, you’re a great writer.  If I don’t, you suck.

Here’s a comment I recently attached to an essay written for a professional on-line journal:

I’m a liberal democrat that’s looking forward to voting for Obama, but I’m wondering why the editors at TCR accepted this essay for publication. Zimmerman assumes way too much about his readership. Maybe everyone that reads TCR thinks similarly, and this was accepted because it’s timely, but for an essay to have real merit, it has to provide supporting evidence. I have to wonder if Zimmerman truly knows any Palin supporters. Their support is definitely emotional, but not entirely. Zimmerman doesn’t take on any of their arguments, for example, that Palin has more executive experience than Obama. Refute that or the right can simply argue it’s a case of left-leaning emotion versus right. More specifically, Zimmerman implies Obama is smarter, but Palin supporters would distinguish between book smarts, people smarts, and political leadership smarts. Zimmerman seemingly wants his readers to accept that there’s an inevitable correlation between intellect and political leadership. That may be true, but nothing in the essay will convince anyone of that. I’m sure Zimmerman would have said Gore and Kerry were far more meritorious than the man who beat them (at least Kerry if we blame the SC for the 00′ outcome).

A critique like that might earn me two or three recommendations. More evidence I guess that I’m hopelessly out of step.

Detached analysis isn’t really an art, it’s a skill that is learned. If we take NYT readers as a sample, educators have a lot of work to do. For all the vague talk of critical thinking skills, I wonder whether we have enough teachers capable of modeling and teaching substantive analytical skills.

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