WASHINGTON. According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking, the following is an abbreviated definition of critical thinking:
“[C]ritical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.”
Essentially, this mode of thinking helps students by showing them how to look at a given circumstance, and then decide whether to pursue or discard the information learned, what stance to choose toward it and how to develop an argument for or against.
Additionally, critical thinking teaches the mind to second-guess the form and function of everything it sees. That includes the classroom and everything taught within it. But a critical question remains. How much has critical thinking been left behind as a key to teaching and learning?
Critical thinking: Founding Fathers knew how to do this, today’s generations cannot
America’s Founding Fathers were men of high intelligence, many of whom understood the law, whether they were lawyers or not. Many could read both Greek and Latin. These men were indeed critical thinkers. But in contrast, what kind of thinkers do we have today? Moreover, why?
Jesse Watters offered a recent segment on the Fox News Channel in which he stopped several young people on the street. He asked each a question, such as: “Who was the first president of the United States?” Often, the answers ranged from Andrew Jackson to Thomas Edison. Out of a half dozen individuals asked, one would occasionally come close, answering something along the following line: “Washington somebody…is that right?” They’d heard this somewhere. But didn’t really have a clue.
Unfortunately, however, these interviewees turned out to be the true intellectuals in Watters’ segment. A more representative reply was, effectively, “D’Oh?”
Young non-critical thinkers a danger to the Republic
For the most part, Watters’ interviewees clearly proved to be a representative cross section of America’s rising generation. They were young, non-critical thinkers. In contemporary jargon they might be classified as “I.Q. challenged.” What is worse is that many of the most significant failures encountered during Watters’ street testing segment were college students. That even includes some who have already graduated.
That leads to a genuinely critical question. Who really knows what the standard criteria for earning a college diploma actually are in 2018? Given our largely government-run education system, with much of that detritus rubbing off onto once robust private high schools and colleges, is anyone learning anything of use? Even homeschooling has become infected, to a certain extent, with the “stupid virus,” leading to a rising army of students and graduates that are learning impaired.
In other words, whateve the subject area, the concept of critical thinking has been left behind by American educators, certainly purposely, with such efforts clearly initiated many decades ago or more.
What young people were taught – in 1912
In 1912, an eighth grader wishing to graduate (no high schools—just prep schools) and go out into the world was given an exam. Typically, such exams would typically include questions like the following.
- Define the following forms of government: Democracy, Monarchy, Republic
- Why should we study Physiology?
- Diagram: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”
- How does the liver compare in size with other organs of the human body?
This is far from a complete sampling. But probably the most important item of note is the absence of multiple-choice questions: the bane of the critical thinker. Ainissa Ramirez vividly describes the origins and subsequent horrors of multiple-choice tests in her May 20, 2013 Edutopia article entitled “The Dark History of Multiple-Choice Tests.” The predictible culprit in this ongoing debacle — which is a poor substitute for critical thinking — is the government.
The educational bureaucracy: Part of The Swamp?
The bitter fruit of this distressing arrangement by government and public education bureaucrats and its consequences is the unfortunate reality that the number of teachers who have taught and students who have learned the concept of critical thinking is dwindling rapidly. Given the number of standardized tests today, replete with scores of multiple-choice questions, the number Americans capable of critical thinking is fast approaching the zero line.
As just one example, take a moment to reflect on the number of Hollywood actors who routinely replace reasoning with subjective answers when challenged by any problem. Looked upon with awe by many Americans, these “stars” are actually people who don’t need to think critically in order to make millions. Instead, they and their brains live in a world where they pretend to be someone else.
Or, in the political arena, consider that the beacon of non-critical thinking today is a longstanding, predictably re-elected membe of the U.S. House of Representatives: Maxine Waters? Or, perhaps, Senator Dianne Feinstein in the upper chamber.
Making matters worse, many in Congress not only have college degrees. They frequently boast law degrees as well, althought where and how they earned them is likely another story. These individuals are supposedly walking in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers, who, law degrees or not, routinely internalized the works of great minds from Plato to their own times.
Not too many critical thinkers are left in Congress
By contrast, probably no more than half of those in Congress today could tell you that The Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution are completely different documents. Information such as this was learned by most of them at the “multiple-choice” level. There is no depth of understanding, no knowledge of the reasoning behind each answer or issue.
One wonders if more than 10 percent of those in Congress today could pass the aforementioned eighth-grade test. Alexandria Casio-Cortez is certainly one likely incoming example of this phenomenon as she heads for a likely Congressional win this November. Her position, metaphorically speaking, is near the caboose on a long train of lackluster thinkers. A long train that is headed for a train wreck.
As a most unfortunate result of vanishing critical thinking, it should come as no surprise that groups like the Marxist Antifa “anti-fascists” are now running loose in the land and can freely find members while bashing the heads of those they don’t like with impunity.
Too many idiots are running around today. They have never had a critical thought beyond figuring out what box to check on a multiple-choice standardized test. Perhaps they’ve discovered they can more happily pursue something like the following multiple choice actions.
- All of the above
With voters like these, Election 2018 could get scary. “D’Oh!”
Vitally important midterm elections loom this November. That leads to a chilling question. How many voters will enter the voting booth possessing the intellectual achievements of Homer Simpson. Staring at the paper or on-screen ballot, we can see them, even now, thinking ” asking “D’Oh! Which box do I check?”
This is critical thinking?
— Headline image: Image via Pixabay.com. Public domain. CC 0.0 license.