Published In C&K Magazine: Vol. #2 – Issue #3 – Date: 2007
Monday was laundry day. At the start of every new week, you did your washing and ironing. That’s the way it was. On a bright and sunny day, if your clothes were not hanging by clothespins outside, a neighbor would call over and see if you were ill. After all, it’s Monday and that is what you did. Good, bad or indifferent we loved our habits. It was a simpler time and those days are gone.
My early childhood, spent growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1960’s was not “Leave it to Beaver” the iconic T.V. show but on the other hand it certainly wasn’t “Pimp My Ride.” The world has changed; the most significant reason is the advent of the internet. Times are radically different but are we? Or, do most of us, as Henry David Thoreau once said “lead lives of quiet desperation?” Is it our conditioned fate to drone on with personal rituals and our own “virtual” laundry days without ever questioning why?
Any fan of late night television will recognize the “Tonight Show” and a segment entitled “Jay-Walking” with Jay Leno. It is an uneasy humor that viewers experience as contestants attempt to answer simple questions. Pavlov’s Dog had a better chance with a ringing bell. Maybe we aren’t smarter than a fifth grader. Advocates of critical thinking have frequently stated that “education should teach how to think and not what to think.” It is time to expand that argument to include instruction to think.
Every single day, public relations firms and special interest groups pound us through the media. Content that was once considered editorial is now frequently advertorial. Reported news is opinion. You cannot avoid it. Therefore, you must either passively accept what is fed as fact or understand that “yellow journalism” exists and question its validity. You make the decision.
Critical thinking is the ability to steer clear of quick judgment and question what is presented as factual. It is not a step by step process that can be memorized but rather a skill that is honed with time and use. This discipline is functional in every aspect of life to solve problems and make quality decisions. American academic great, William Graham Sumner, thought that “men educated in it cannot be stampeded by stump orators.”
In the post 9-11 world, hidden agendas are a reality and invisible bureaucrats weld more power than ever before. Within this environment, the application of critical thinking is analogous to good citizenship. Perhaps it is the most worthy goal that any of us can employ.