Friday, July 29, 2011

Is critical thinking shrinking?

“Critical thinking: the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” ~

I posted a status update in Facebook last night about critical thinking but it became a thread about bigotry and Christianity and Europe.

All I wrote was: “Critical Thinking: the other national deficit.”

Fifteen of my Facebook friends “liked” it, and it apparently warranted 57 comments. My friend Christina from Germany mentioned something about coming to Virginia as a 17-year-old exchange student and settling in a conservative Christian community where critical thinking was frowned upon. This spurred defensive posts from a religious friend; others chimed in to object to generalizations, clarify my intent in posting the update, bash Catholicism and Nazi Germany, put in a plug for positive thinking, take a swipe at politicians and the U.S. debt crisis and define ‘critical thinking.’

I can’t remember the last time anything I typed generated more than 50 responses.

I googled “critical thinking in the U.S." and found a reference to a study that followed thousands of undergrads through four years of college and determined that a significant percentage of them didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills supposedly at the core of a college education. The study found that students graduated “without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event.”

This is what I meant when I posted my status update. I just had a hunch that if more people were able to think critically, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the many others who benefit from the ignorance of the masses and try to maintain the status quo and continue the dumbing down of America wouldn’t thrive and succeed at shaping public perception and public policy to such an extent. If more people questioned authority and took a second look at what they heard on television and the radio instead of assuming wild claims and self-serving opinions must be fact, our country would be better off. If more people didn’t just acquiesce and lay down and roll over whenever someone tried to intimidate and silence them, things would be different.

I didn’t intend for my post to spur an anti-Christianity rant. (I’m sure that wasn’t Christina’s intention either; some Christians are sooooo sensitive.) I didn’t expect European history and agnosticism to be brought up or for people to become so agitated. It bodes well, though, that people are talking, online and hopefully in real life as well, and asserting themselves and challenging each other.

As my Facebook friend Cassandra posted, “Too many eat just what is fed to them. We need to shop for our news and information just like we do our produce.”

1 comment:

  1. I'm not too crazy about having to shop for news which, while it will always have a slant, still out to be consistently reported. Of course, it is always interesting to see what gets reported. In the US is is highly managed and focuses a lot on trivial pursuits