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
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
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.
Thomas D. Segel
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