We have all heard it before. Students at colleges and universities around the country are demanding that anyone who has a differing opinion than their own should be tarred, feathered, banned and removed from their sight. Student groups claim that inviting anyone with a differing opinion onto their campus threatens their very safety or well-being. Sound ridiculous? Leaders at these educational institutions are listening to these demands resulting in the creation of a generation that is single-minded, self-absorbed, and intolerant of others all while the same generation demands a voice, respect and tolerance from others.
What happened to “teaching our kids how to think and not what to think?” This old adage is truly at the core of critical thinking and should be practiced at all learning institutions around the country. When a university or college stops exposing our children to differing opinions or ways of life, then we are doomed to live a life that no longer offers diversity, but demands that we all live, act and believe the same.
“In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection form words and ideas they don’t like and seeking punishment of those who give even accidental offense. This is disastrous for education and likely to worsen mental health on campus.”
“Today , what we call the Socratic method, is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding. But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands the intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong….the new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.”
Can you imagine where the world would be if we all adhered to this thinking? Those who believed the world was actually round would have been ridiculed and Columbus would never have sailed the ocean blue. Other ideas that were ridiculed include the computer, the automobile, genetics, plate tectonics and the continental drift. If, throughout history, we all bought into this educational example of shutting down those who believe differently, the world would be a different place.
Where does this “idea discrimination” originate? Dr. Richard Paul, Director of Research and Professional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking said,
“Many of our answers are no more than a repetition of what we as children heard from adults. We pass on the misconceptions of our parents and those of their parents. We say what we heard, not what we know. We rarely join the quest with our children. We rarely admit our ignorance, even to ourselves.”
Could this bashing of anyone who thinks differently and the polarization of ideas be contributing to the increased incidences of shootings around the country? Could this atmosphere of political correctness be giving offenders a justifiable reason to believe that those with differing opinions should be dealt with violently? If our children were taught to be open to others experience and opinions, could we, as a society, become more tolerant of others and in the end solve our own politically induced problems?
Universities and Colleges across the country should be rejecting the new status quo of bias and polarization and instead base their educational instruction on critical thinking.
A well cultivated critical thinker:
- raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native ego-centrism and socio-centrism.
As a society we must reject this pattern that has been developing and spreading like a cancer throughout our educational system. If the United States wants to remain competitive in the global market, if our young generation wants to be successful within the workplace, we need get back to common sense, logic and critical thinking and it should begin at home and within our educational institutions.