Has Politics Replaced the Question Why?
(March 2, 2011)
|The first critical thinking everyone engages in comes about when we are small children. We hear adults make statements or give us instructions on a wide range of subjects that most of us know nothing about. Our usual reaction is to look at the adult and seek their response with the question...Why?|
During those formative years, “why” seems to become the primary word in our vocabulary. We want answers to the “why” of everything within sight or sound. For most parents the initial response to such a question is patiently answered, but as time progresses and the questions are repeatedly voiced, your “why” is answered curtly with statements such as “Because I said so!” Or perhaps “Will you please stop asking why every time I tell you to do something?”
Because the word seems to bring on a negative reaction from parents, relatives and other adults within our life circle, there comes a day when”Why” is no longer our response to almost every utterance? It is also the time when our critical thinking comes to a halt.
Critical thinking, in its broadest sense has been described as "purposeful reflective judgment concerning what to believe or what to do." The only way to reach that point of reflective judgment is to respond to everything with the question “why”. Unfortunately in schools and colleges across the United States the politics of unionization has so polarized teachers that any diverse point of view is banned. The politicalization of our classrooms has resulted in excluding from critical debate any and all topics or points of view that might move students to question the content of their textbooks or the lectures of teachers, instructors or professors. Thus, in effect, the word “why” has been banned from the classroom along with any divergent point of view.
If America is ever to return to being a nation of thinking people, we must abandon the “political talking points” mentality that is so prevalent today in all media and in many of our classrooms. All too often the only answers one can receive when asking for a solution to a problem or situation is some line that was created in a political party headquarters or by the latest talking head with a personal agenda.
The very heart of critical thinking is not the answering of questions, but the questioning of answers. Also, the road to critical thought does not stem from what the lead article in a newspaper advocates or the top of the television news. The positioning of information or its repeated prominence does not equate to its importance. To determine the importance of any item or statement one must examine the source and seek out multiple sources...and in every case apply the “why” to what has been written or spoken.
The will always be people of singular purpose and oneness of mind. There will always be those who can only parrot what they read in the latest blogs. There will always be those who are so politically entrenched in their thinking that the truth of an issue will never be accepted. Still, if more of us can return to that “Why” question of our childhood, some degree of critical thinking may return to America.
By Thomas D. Segel
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