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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Critical Thinking, Racism and the Government

I'm going to get all college student-esque on y'all. Recently, in one of my classes we covered the concept of critical thinking. In seven pages, they gave the total scope of critical thinking that some of my fellow students may ever receive. This scares the hell out of me. Worse yet, I'm sure people just like them, those who only know about seven pages worth about critical thinking, have made it into the government. I have no other explanation.

Learning the four steps of critical thinking is fairly easy. Here they are:

  1. Get an understanding of the problem.
  2. Gather information and interpret it.
  3. Develop a solution plan and carry it out.
  4. Evaluate the plan's effectiveness.
Does this remind you of anything? How about this? Here's the "fallacy" catch-phrases:

  • Jumping to conclusions
  • False causes
  • Appeals to authority (using experts in an unrelated field)
  • Circular reasoning
  • ad hominem attacks
  • Straw man arguments
  • Slippery slopes
  • Appeals to pity
  • Questionable statistics

As I'm sure you'll notice, politics is full of this stuff. I'm confident y'all have your own examples, so I'm not going to burden you with too many of my own. However, I'm going to use one personal example I've recently experienced to exemplify critical thinking gone wrong.

Racism: It's a complex problem, which the government fails to address appropriately time and again. This is one of those issues which really fuels my anti-liberal fire. Not because I'm a racist, or because I don't think racism needs to be addressed, but because addressing racism with racism is so illogical, yet is the mainstay of the liberal movement.

Critical thinking step 1: Racism is the prejudice of one human being against another based on the false presumption that race is a significant factor in one's worth as a human being. The government exacerbates this problem by using racial factors to identify, classify and judge the worth of the citizens of the United States.

Critical thinking step 2: The government of the United States of America gathers racially related information all the time. Almost every time when you fill out a government form you are expected to identify your race (if you refuse you are determined to be white). For example, to enroll my children in the public school system, I am asked to identify my children's race. However, my children, like myself, are bi-racial. Yet, I am only allowed to choose a single race to categorize us. The government starts the entire process by showing its prejudice; those of us who choose to identify ourselves by more than one race due to our genetic lineage are irrelevant to their "gathering of information." However, the issue becomes even more complex (and wrong) when you see the "catch."

My family is poor and my children have special needs. Both of these pieces of information are considered to be a matter of concern that the government is legally obligated to turn into a statistic. Neither my children nor myself are "all white," yet we do not fit the obvious definition of Native Americans either (we do, however, fit the legal definition). We're stuck in a limbo where the government intentionally refuses to categorize us appropriately. If I deny my "white" lineage, then I add to the impression that "this" (being poor and having special needs) happens to "white" people less often. If I deny my Native American lineage, then I not only feel as if I'm turning my back on some very impressive ancestors, but I'm also skewing the statistics for those whose Native American heritage is much more apparent and used against them. So, either way, I'm screwed.

Thus, the government of the United States of American intentionally disenfranchises me on the basis of my racial heritage, in order to gather information as to the effects of racism on the quality of life of its citizenry.


Critical thinking step 3: The governments current plan of action, designed by the liberals of this great nation, is called Affirmative Action. Remember my definition of racism?

Racism is the prejudice of one human being against another based on the false presumption that race is a significant factor in one's worth as a human being.


Affirmative Action does exactly that:
Affirmative action began as a corrective measure for governmental and social injustices against demographic groups that have been subjected to prejudice. Such groups are characterized most commonly by race, gender, or ethnicity. Affirmative action seeks to increase the representation of these demographic groups in fields of study and work in which they have traditionally been underrepresented.

This "corrective measure" emphasizes race when evaluating a person. It determines their worth through their racial heritage. Because a racial minority is underrepresented in a particular field, those who are a part of that racial minority who do succeed in that field are more valuable than those who are not. And this is what I find outrageous. Not just because "whites" are then treated as being of less worth based on their race, but because it also presumes those "racial minorities" cannot succeed without special compensation...thus perpetuating the notion that they are somehow inferior. I mean, really! Leave it to the government of the United States of America to find a way to make everybody racially inferior! WTF!

We come to the final step of critical thinking. This is the part where I should be able to describe how the government evaluates the effectiveness of their plan.

*crickets chirping*


Sorry, they must have skipped that part. Perhaps, reading seven pages was too much for them after all. *sigh*

Critical thinking is an important skill. When used appropriately, it can help solve major problems by breaking these problems into manageable steps. People all across the blogosphere use critical thinking everyday as they make posts in an attempt to address the many discrepancies we experience as citizens of this nation. Yet, critical thinking can also be very dangerous when used inappropriately, as described with the governments plan to address racism in this nation. A little "critical thinking" is dangerous, because it is used to justify illogic that would otherwise be inexcusable. It's also used to combat sound ideas, concepts and opinions by attacking them with "fallacy" catch-phrases, as you can see over on Reverse_Vampyr's blog (in the comments).

The government, of course, is not alone in using poor critical thinking skills. Partisan hackery is full of it. However, the government is responsible for its citizenry; and its citizenry (that'd be us) are responsible for our government. So, I'm asking y'all to look beyond the steps and the catch-phrases and look at the arguments themselves.

Is it logical to try to combat racism with racism? Is it logical to stop illegal immigrants by offering them amnesty? Is it logical to offer large tax-breaks to the rich to help the middle-class? Is it logical to fight terrorism abroad while leaving our borders wide-open so that terrorists can cross over into our country? Is it logical to base anyone's worth on the color of their skin or the origin of their ancestors? Can you really say "critical thinking" was involved in any of this stuff?

Believe it or not, I'm not trying to pick on liberals here. I know some up-standing liberals whom I often agree with on many things. However, this is why I cannot identify myself as a liberal despite those agreements. The illogic of those running the liberal movements are far too profound for me to follow their methods, whether or not I agree with some of their causes. However, this is also why I don't quite fit as a conservative either, as the conservative causes are often led by people who have their own illogical premises.

For once, I'd like a contemporary leader to just drop the rhetoric and think out loud. Tell us what they want, and how they reached their decision as to how they were going to try to accomplish that. For once, I'd like to see actual critical thinking in our contemporary leaders, whether they knew that's what they were doing or not. Is that really too much to ask?

Textbook referenced: The Practical Student: Career-oriented Success by Wahlstrom, Williams and Dansby pgs. 210 - 216

15 Comments:

At 5/28/2006 12:59 AM, Blogger reverse_vampyr said...

It's not too much to ask. But it's beyond the capability of most politicians to be honest. Or to use critical thinking in reaching their positions on the issues. Which is why we remain skeptical of both parties.

 
At 5/28/2006 2:41 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Exactly. I wasn't exactly expecting a Dem or a Rep to step up and provide us with their unfiltered thoughts. It'd just be scary to know what they are really thinking!

 
At 5/28/2006 3:41 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

If one of our elected officials ever told us the truth how would they ever get elected again? Hope you all have a Safe and Happy Memorial Day.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

 
At 5/28/2006 11:44 AM, Anonymous And Another Thing said...

Stephanie: Exhibiting such intelligence obviously disqualifies you from government service. Governments and corporations thrive on the LACK of critical thinking. And since our government is now owned by corporations, your question is not answerable by those who deeply affect our lives.

For me, the bottom line is that the U.S. is becoming a deeply balkanized time bomb, enhanced with a growing disparity between the very rich and the very poor. The rules of existence (which are established by government) have become more attuned to Brazil or Mexico.

As David said, God save the republic. And say a little prayer for those who fell.

 
At 5/28/2006 2:37 PM, Blogger reverse_vampyr said...

And another thing,

Do you really believe that our government is ONLY JUST NOW owned by corporations? You can't seriously believe that big money hasn't tampered with the process before the George W. Bush administration. The pockets of the Dems are just as deep (and lined with graft) as the Repubs, they just do a better job of acting pious and pointing attention at their rivals.

 
At 5/28/2006 6:54 PM, Anonymous And Another Thing said...

reverse:
Not sure what you drew upon for your conclusion, but I believe that BOTH parties are whores to money, and have been all of my life. However, the 90's on has seen an acceleration of this process. When it comes to corporate sumpremacy, the Dems are not different than the Repubs.

 
At 5/28/2006 7:56 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

Stephanie, very well written A++ from me.

:-)

It shouldn't be to much to ask, yet from my own personal experience those who want to give people straight answers are not even supported by the local party powers that be. Which means rather than honest candidates we get those who are more likely to be loyal to a party rather than to the people they supposedly want to represent. I guess the key is to find those few who break thru and continue to support them with the hope that more will feel encouraged to run.

 
At 5/29/2006 4:45 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

David,

I wouldn't have a problem with that. Really, I wouldn't!
;-)

And Another Thing,

"Exhibiting such intelligence obviously disqualifies you from government service."

I would say it disqualifies me from government office, however I'd like to think I'm serving my government (at least the one that's by/for/of the people) right now. Besides, despite the contemporary example of Bush, I'd think my inability to speak well publicly would kind of nix that anyway.

Part of my post was the considerable objection I felt to uncritical thinking being passed off as critical thinking, and the way the textbook didn't address that. As much as I believe this stuff should be taught, it's a greater disservice to say..."Okay, now you can think critically" after seven pages than to not have mentioned the concept at all, imo. Though, in response to that, my husband mentioned an advertisement for a game called Othello and if I had any frame of reference...

"A Minute to Learn... A Lifetime to Master"

Lisa,

Thank you very much! It stewed, what can I say.

As for local elections, I realize that plays a big part in all of this. Far too many people are interested in face recognition above and beyond the actual substance of a person's politics that the "good guys" who are otherwise unknown have a hard time making it anywhere. Yet, those "good guys" are also more likely to be unknown, thus putting them at a disadvantage from the start.

Part of the answer, for me at least, is rejecting the "politics as the family business" mentality. There's far too much of that going on in the United States, which just leads us closer and closer to aristocracy the more we do it.

 
At 5/29/2006 4:49 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

And Another Thing said:

"And since our government is now owned by corporations..."

Reverse_Vampyr said:

"Do you really believe that our government is ONLY JUST NOW owned by corporations?"


I think that's where the misunderstanding is coming from. I hope that helps.

 
At 5/30/2006 12:36 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

HA!

Steph: I loved it. Didn't agree with every single word, but I loved the passion. Mostly agreed with ya though, my friend.

Here's what cracked me up the best though:

"Believe it or not, I'm not trying to pick on liberals here. I know some up-standing liberals whom I often agree with on many things. However, this is why I cannot identify myself as a liberal despite those agreements. The illogic of those running the liberal movements are far too profound for me to follow their methods, whether or not I agree with some of their causes. However, this is also why I don't quite fit as a conservative either, as the conservative causes are often led by people who have their own illogical premises."

Steph... lol. The Political Compass test, although maybe not a PERFECT guage, doesn't lie. You are what we call an "Authoritarian Liberal". That doesn't mean you are a Democrat. It means you are a Liberal though, but your issue isn't with "liberalism", it's with Democraps.

Same problem here, too. I'm a liberal libertarian, and ALSO not a Democrap. Your posts and your comments at the GTL back up (to me) the fact that you are a slightly liberal person with authoritarian leanings. Therefore, you are exhibiting the same hyppocracy to bash on the liberals when you ARE one that the far-left and the Dems (not always synonomous with "Liberals") are exhibiting when they propose the furthering of such causes of Affirmative Action.

Be PROUD of the fact that you lean "liberal" economically. Be ASHAMED of the communists who've hijacked our once proud identity as "Liberals", and take "liberalism" back from the communists with me ;-)

And that is where I am coming from, my friend. Keep on bloggin' on...

 
At 5/30/2006 2:22 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

GTL,

Economically, I'm a liberal, when you mean "take care of the people" is a priority. Economically, I'm a conservative, when you mean "don't spend money you don't have" is a priority. Economically, I want politicians to put this nation and her people first.

I've never seen a politician, irregardless of affiliation, who saw that position as anything but an oxymoron. But, it doesn't have to be. This nation is a wealthy nation, and if our governments (including states and local governments) prioritized their spending appropriately, they could pay for education, health care and basic necessities for those who cannot afford it on their own and still have honestly balanced budgets. It's possible, but it would require the kind of genuinely critical thinking that our government is obviously not so good at.

You see, I look at "The New Deal" in historical context and it was a damned good thing! In historical context. However, it's served its purpose. The federal government was never supposed to be the biggest employer in this nation. And, that's what it is now. To recover from the Great Depression, yes. As the status quo, no.

Yet, on the other side of it, Reagan, for all his faults, kicked the collective asses of the Soviet Union with economics. It hurt, yes. But, again, it served its purpose. The Soviet Union crashed to pieces, because they're economy couldn't handle the burden of military build-up that ours could. They crumbled, we survived. Good. But, again, it's served its purpose. Let all those military toys we should NEVER use go. And even more importantly, stop building more.

If we reined in on all these "extras" that really do not benefit the citizens of the United States of America, we wouldn't have to say, "We can't afford to make health insurance available to all citizens of this nation." Or any of the other human issues that get nixed, because Congress is too busy spending our money on their pet projects and big boy toys.

This economic outlook, however, doesn't fit squarely into either the liberal or the conservative camp. No party holds this position, at least none I've ever heard of before. In that sense, I'm beyond categorization.

Besides, typically when most people say "I'm a liberal," it's not economic policy they're talking about. When you say "liberal" to the average non-political-blogosphere-goin' American, he's not thinking about Medicaid and school funding; he's thinking homosexuality and abortion. Those are the people I'm trying to reach, because we need those guys if we're going to kick these corrupt s.o.b.s (both Dems and Reps) in their collective crotches and get them out of our government.

And we need to kick these corrupt s.o.b.s in their collective crotches and get them out of our government if there's going to be an America worth living in for our kids and/or grandkids.

And for that I'll set aside issues like pornography and drug control. And, with much more difficulty, abortion and the sanctity of marriage. But socially, I'm a conservative, and I'm proud of that, too (the views, not the label). Call it "Authoritarian" if you will, but most Americans aren't going to have a clue what you mean. And to me that's more important than taking pride in a categorization that's been hi-jacked by uncritically thinking loons, irregardless of which loons you're talking about (since I readily admit the conservatives have their share as well).

If I could, I'd forego the whole categorizational thing all together. Here's my views, read them, and care. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

 
At 5/30/2006 2:52 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Heh...

Steph...

CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!

Spoken like a true [authoritarian] liberal.

I agree with EVERY single one of your Liberal points of view, for what that is worth. And it is worth a LOT to me. Like it or not, you are a VERY "Liberal" woman. There is absolutely NO conflict between Christian values and "Liberalism", just so you know ;-)

When we converse with one another, we should bear in mind the fact that we could help take classical "Liberalism" back from the leftists and argue about civil liberties vs Government intrusion later. When it comes to true, Liberal values, you and I are pretty much on the same page. And I am proud to stand beside you in that regard.

Love ya, boo-boo ;-)

Juss' PLAYIN' ;-)

 
At 5/30/2006 3:50 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

GTL,

LMAO...Can't win for losing, can I?

I'm very proud to stand along side you in our efforts to save this nation and remind our all-too-powerful politicians that they have a duty, which they have taken upon themselves by seeking political office, to serve this nation.

And, in a great "have your cake and eat it too" way, we still discuss and debate the finer, (currently) minor parts of the nature of this nation, such as civil liberties...and do so without getting under each other's skin.

Call it liberalism if you will, but remember I was born long after "classic liberalism" had lost all contemporary meaning. Too me, President Clinton is a "classic" liberal...and Kerry just gets worse from there. Also remember that you have in the past refered to Feingold as a "classic" liberal (or the closest thing to it in politics--something like that) and as one of his constituents, I know he's not a "servant" of the people he's supposed to represent.

Just a question, because I honestly do not know. Would a "classic" liberal choose the lumber jack or the owl?

 
At 5/30/2006 10:15 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Steph, that is a very good question and I can't answer it. All I can tell you is with me, it depends upon the local situation. Sometimes, in some places, the environment should take first consideration over capitalism, in other places, where forestation is plentiful, clear-cutting has been proven to even benefit "the owl" if done so intelligently, and under the watchful eye of environmentalists.

But you're asking a guy who grew up in Alaska, where forestation and "the owl" were plentiful, too.

 
At 5/30/2006 9:28 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Well, I'd go so far as to say that you don't need to be clear cutting a forest to keep the lumber jacks working, but that isn't often the way it works in the real world either. Personally, I would generally choose the lumber jack over the owl; not because I don't care about the owl (there are usually other solutions for the owl), but because I'm very much a PEOPLE first sort of person.

Of course, what's good for the lumber jack isn't always good for the corporation...and there again, I'm a people first sort of person.

 

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