We Need To Take A Critical Look At Critical Thinking

Mag picWithin the United States (and other countries) the reasoning that “the President says”, or “the government says”, or “the evening news said”, or some other authority figure or organization says, too often serves as the only qualifying condition needed to accept a statement as truthful.  If only that were the case.

The fact is our government and every other government and all of the agencies within those governments along with every other corporation and organization on the face of the Earth are, at best, a collection of human beings.  Human beings who are subject to the same potential to make mistakes, and to be swayed by personal interests as anyone else.  Legislators, and others in positions of governmental power have a higher potential to be swayed by personal interest, if for no other reason, because of the frequency with which they are approached by powerful and wealthy interests looking for their cooperation.  The reality is that not one person in government or in any other worldly enterprise or institution, is absolutely infallible.  No one.

Within the U.S. and elsewhere we very much need an upswing in the quantity and quality of critical thinking.  We need to get relentless in our efforts to know the grassroots truth about any and everything our government, or anyone else, wants us to believe, to simply accept because they say so.  We need to demand to know all the criteria, the evidence, the contributing factors that go into the proposition we are being asked to accept and we should be even more stringent when it is something we are being asked to act upon.  The phrase “national security” is being used too often to withhold critical evidence from public scrutiny.  Every time we allow our government, or anyone else, to create a storefront behind which we are told we cannot look for “our own good”, we are allowing a darkness to exist within which all manner of heinous activities can and do take place.

When we teach our children or each other about the great deeds of great men and women we need to also present their misdeeds.  We need to do that to allow ourselves to retain their humanity in our image of them.  And to help us keep intellectual equilibrium in our assessments of our world.  We need to acknowledge the balance in the lives of others in order to keep a proper perspective on our own lives.  My mother used to occasionally quote a saying;  “There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”  I have since learned this quotation is credited to Edward Wallis Hoch in the Marion (Kansas) Record.  And it seems his version may be a variation of an earlier version by James Truslow Adams.  And who knows, maybe there are earlier ones?

It is ironic this quotation appeared in a newspaper.  Not talking about anyone else is hardly going to happen. For our growth, our education we need to look at and talk about what others have done and are doing.  It’s just that we need to retain perspective and objectivity in our assessments of the people and deeds we focus on.  It seems we can too often become enamored of the public relations version of somebody or some group (government, agency, church, or ?) and that we can forget they have had, and still have, their pitfalls and problems also.

What qualifies a statement as true or false should not be merely be who said it or to what group whoever said it may belong.  To base our assessments on that criteria is more akin to cult phenomenon than intellectual reasoning.  We need to see and have the opportunity to examine the evidence, not a version of it, but the actual, primary evidence in it’s totality.  Then we can make an informed decision.

 Speak out!  However, it is essential to realize it’s a dialogue.  Share, listen, learn, adjust, refine.


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