Critical thinking, not ideology, solves problems
Why is it so many people say, “I don’t take the paper” like they are proud of remaining ignorant in a world begging for people with rational thoughts based on what is going on in the world around them?
I submit today’s society is drifting toward absolute lack of interpersonal empathy by hiding behind computers and the ubiquitous cellphones. I further submit 99.9 percent of what transpires on these machines is drivel. It is no wonder in the United State today the lack of critical thinking has produced so many ideologues. For the benefit of those who don’t even know what an ideologue is, they are partisan advocates of a particular ideology such as espoused by a political party, a religion or a cult. Somebody does their thinking for them and they accept that as long as it “sounds good,” not necessarily rational. Being an ideologue is somewhat like being a hog resting in a mud puddle.
You think I’m wrong? Look at our government today. In the last two years name one solid accomplishment for the good of society and the country that originated in Congress. Hell, they can’t even balance a budget. Why? Because the ideologues also are those who scream the loudest if the words “tax increase” ever crosses their television screens. All their energy is spent trying to find “dirt” on someone from the opposing party, also composed of ideologues. Most members of Congress spend the largest share of their time sucking up to the purveyors of corporate campaign money so they can be re-elected. I know one thing for certain: If anyone out there disagrees with me, I’ll know that at least that person bought a newspaper.
The problem is how to get the general public to reject the ideological approach in favor of an educated, rational approach. Not easy!
I once taught a high school class in current events. Said class populated with “prisoner” students. I called them prisoners because the course was required and they would rather have been dead than attend. It was hard to focus their attention on something occurring outside their tight little lives. I firmly believe much of their attitude was picked up at home. Right there may be an answer toward changing their attitudes. A niche in the ideological armor.
What I am suggesting is going to take a whole new approach in college courses on teachers’ relations with parents. We have to generate assignments for parents to work with their children that include what is going on in the outside world. Take arithmetic. Have parents drill their children on assignments that show how the problems relate to real life. We use to call them “word problems,” but I hope that can be applied more creatively than when I came up through the ranks. Social science should be brought up to date by showing how this subject touches their lives and vice-versa. The net result should be the fostering of awareness of the rest of the world and how, even for children, it is touching their lives.
Of course, there is a parallel danger the parents are ideologues themselves and they turn young minds against openness and unbiased investigation. That’s where the teachers come in. They become balance wheels in the clockwork of knowledge, and our country becomes better for it.
A typical “family” assignment could be: “What can we do to decrease our dependence on exports of corn and soybeans?” An answer may come back: “Investigate the polymers of each to reduce our dependence on petroleum for plastics.” The next step is simple: Keep an eye on that kid!
Stanley Smith is a former Cedar Falls City Council member.