Critical Thinking-A Lost Art?

While writing this, I am reminded of a cousin who a few years ago called me asking for an answer to one of those narrative algebra problems, you all remember these. She wanted to know of an internet site that could give an answer or a strong hint to help her properly identify the variables of the problem and solve. I told her that having the answer was not truly the answer; it is the journey from question to answer where the true learning was and that she was cheating herself by looking for this short cut. It is also a test of character. I was a substitute teacher in a Southern California county in 1980-1981. I recall working with 4th graders and arithmetic and was told as part of the lesson plan to give them each a calculator with which to answer the questions put to them. I could not believe it, the children were not being taught to mentally conceptualize quantity which is necessary in arithmetic and higher math. I believed that calculators should only be available at higher grade levels to students who knew how to derive the answers to math questions by hand if it were necessary. The calculator was an instrument of convenience. How easy is it to forget the ability to do arithmetic by hand? I tell my spouse that sometimes I like to do the arithmetic by hand as it is a skill that I would never want to admit that I have forgotten. Besides, the mental exercise helps to postpone Alzheimer’s and dementia. Try it; can you still do long division, subtraction and multiplication by hand? We live in a world of instant gratification, microwave ovens, calculators found in cereal boxes, remote controls for everything. We have to keep an eye on the ‘gadgets’ because while they are serving us they could be controlling us, as well.


If you cannot think about something and instead have someone always provide the answer then you are capable of being deceived by anyone at anytime. There are plenty of very clever people that have college credentials in how to move the sheep to market. Those that do not mean the vast majority of us well have become the masters of distraction. You will be entertained and you will be controlled. It is incremental, to the point that was once an outrage becomes more familiar and creates less of that response than it did before.

Here is an example, unlike my cousin; I like to work with numbers. Here is a number for you, 15,000,000,000,000, yes, 15 trillion. In dollars, that is the approximate amount of the debt ceiling that Congress is currently debating about. If one dollar represented one mile, I could get more than halfway to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our solar system. This star is approximate 4.5 light years (27 trillion miles) from earth and in terms of current propulsion technology would take thousands of years to reach. So who needs ‘warp drive’? My point is to show the immensity of the number and the magnitude of our budget crisis.

The both sides of the political divide recognizes that this is something we need to address immediately, Bill Clinton confirms this when he said the biggest mistake for the Democrats is to just dismiss the Ryan Plan without presenting a viable one of their own. I have a lot more confidence in Bill Clinton’s political instincts than I do about his ability to keep his trousers up. I pay these fellows in Congress almost $175,000 per year; I have the right to expect more from them than fighting on the playground like grade school boys. Both sides are going to have to compromise and refrain from making ideological score points with their respective cheering sections. This problem must be solved but I am not going to let the conservatives gut the entire New Deal program to accomplish it, based on its ideological principles.


So how does critical thinking come in? Critical thinking involves the desire to get to the truth, though the heavens may fall. It requires that research is done from alternate perspectives of an issue. Intellectual dishonesty comes from not accepting any information from the other side of a debate just because it is the other side. I can not come to intelligent conclusions about anything unless I truly willing to look at the other side to determine if there is merit in their argument and why they take their position. Being lauded by my own cheering section is always gratifying, but in seeking the truth it is not enough. With conversations I have had with my conservative counterparts and friends, I find that we ultimately have in common a goal for a better life for our fellow citizens. People that I hold in derision are those that do the equivalent of throwing a Molotov cocktail into a crowded theatre, the goal is not discourse but to shock and induce people to panic. So you figuratively run out of the theatre to save your life, leaving all your possessions and wits along side the popcorn in your haste. You are encouraged to react, not think.

So when the rightwing refer to President Obama as a Marxist are they aware of the definition of a Marxist?

Marxism is defined as:

The political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in understanding society's allegedly inevitable development from bourgeois oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society.

I think that that is inaccurate and if it were true, according to conservatives who throw this firebomb, then every President since Franklin Roosevelt has been a Marxist or Marxist collaborator. When we use this term, it harkens back to the days of Joe McCarthy of “better dead than red”. Many of us are not interested in reverting back to the days of J.P. Morgan and the raw form of capitalism associated with the American economy during his lifetime. Capitalism in the form it existed in then was simply not sustainable and certainly would not work now as the world around has experienced a sea change. So, now we need answers, not nostalgia. So, because we, progressives, are not interested in turn of the 20th century forms of capitalism, does that make us all Marxist? All of this name calling encourages an emotional reaction, much like shouting. I am guilty of it too; I have more than once called a right-winger a fascist, out of frustration on the MSNBC message boards where coarser verbal brawling is customary. Hurtful words always have the same effect.

Neither side is going to get its way 100%, that is a given in our political environment. Compromise is mandatory, so let’s fix our problem and light this candle!

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32 comments

Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

It's not just the critical thinking skills that have been lost. The ability to think clearly is on the endagered list as well. Most people need someone to tell them what to think, and what to speak. Add to this the new mentality that has convinced the masses that the very best way to be considered an expert on any subject, is to know absolutely nothing about it. 8th grade drop outs are convinced they know more about science, geology, and the origins of mankind, than all the people who have studied these subjects their entire lives. Only in America, and perhaps, Europe during the dark ages.

I am beginning to believe that there is some magic at work here. It seems that those who don't believe in evolution are somehow, exempt from the process.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Yeah, Stump, that anti-intellectual attitude from so many where they have studied nothing but somehow know it all through osmosis is most irritating, thanks for weighing in!! Inspite of the technological leaps, people are getting dumber by the day.....


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

America is poised to become the most intelligent country in history to be destroyed by ignorance. The masses seek to increase the level of ignorance and then can't figure out why nothing works. When it gets to the point that a large percentage of this country feels Sarah "Gump" Palin is what this country desperately needs running out government, it's to time for a going out of business sale. The light at the end of the tunnel was just turned off due to buget cuts.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Stump these guys boast of their ignorance and wrap thems,elves in it like the flag. You know, the problem is more than the money 'budget crisis'. We have weather crisis before. In the world of dumbing down everybody would rather watch reality Tv or undercover boss and be oblivious to the world around us. We simply are not made of the same 'stuff' we once were. I really now question if we can survive short of anarchy.Who would have ever believe that a Sarah Palin or Donald Trump would be anything other than comic relief. People are so anamored by smoke and mirrors and BS, that qualifications do not matter, its all Facebook. We, sir, are in trouble!


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

I know, The whole herd is up and running right at the cliff. It doesn't take a lot of effort to see thru the crap, or at least consider that it might be crap. I lay most of the blame at the feet of organized religion. This is the only organization that thrives among the under-educated and non-educated. My guess is that the fact that they know for sure that scientists are wrong about the age of the planet,(i's really 6000 years old) and that evolution is a fairy tale, indicates that all scientists are in fact wrong about everything they claim.(including global warming) The flip side of this is that as soon as someone claims to be a christian, they suddenly becomes incapable of lying. Every word out of this person's mouth is to be accepted as gospel. Nothing is ever to be verified as it is a sign of spiritual weakness, or a lack of faith to question anyone who is a self appointed pathway to their eternal salvation.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Hey Stump, first of all thanks for welcoming me to your team. I think that we can make beautiful music together. I have a couple of hubs that touch on the misuse of religion which is all to common in this culture.

"Be wary of the three headed serpent" and False Religion Strikes Again. If you get a minute, check them out.

Religion as it found in most of the world is merely manipulation by a nefarious bunch of guys out to enslave the planet that need you brain dead/sedated (opium of the people?) so you don't make too much of a ruckus. I am not an atheist, but I won't be led around by the nose and insist in making this determination for myself for reasons that are palatable to me and stand the test of relentless logic.


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

Nice to have you along Credence. I really dont understand where this need to dominate and destroy every being with a different belief system? This is practiced by most people of all religions. Religions have been trying to kill each other off for centuries. Are they all so weak that they can't abide a little competition for members? Why does having a different opinion, place a person at risk of death?


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

That Stump, is how you know the snake oil salesmen. In that last rapture scenario, look how many people prepared to go to heaven based on rambling of some old man in Florida, sold their homes, quit their jobs. Yes, be a patriot and go kill you fellow man for God, Country and the Koch Brothers. To make it all work you have to make all the concepts inseperable, that is the nature of the beast, that is how the machine works. While the pope sits on a toilet made of solid gold, people without a pot to p*ss in nor a window to throw it out, pledges their last coin into the plate. Organized False religion: THIS IS the biggest deception of the world today. People play along because of tradition, it actually takes effort to think, question and challenge. It is always easier to find solace with other sheep ripe for the slaughter. There is a vacuum between the ears of so many that rival the vacuum of outer space. We have to get out there and tell people to use their heads for something other than a hat rack!


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Stump, As for why people cannot just believe what they want but insist that you believe it also. Why does the protestant in Germany go to war with the Protestant in the U.s, while both say that God is with them, and they are egged on by the politicians and miliarists that use God, telling them they do his work as Christian warriors, what a crock!


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

There has to be a subconsiuos need to dominate and persecute people in all of us. I'm not sure why I missed out on this one. Most of the southern baptists I meet on a daily basis have no idea what their bible has between the covers. They receive all of their information from the very snake oil salesman you mentioned. Control of this country couldn't have been orchestrated with out the media, the politicians, and the church working together, in my opinion. It has only taken them 35 to 45 years to take an entire nation from the head of the clas,s to the short bus. People are actually fighting for their right to remain stupid and to raise stupid kids. These are the future leaders of our soon to be third world nation. People in this country lack the ability to remember anything for any legth of time. This is partially due to the no child left behind joke. Kids were taught not learn but to memorize the answers for the next test. As soon as the test was taken, the information wouldn't be used again. The people making the decisions here in the bible belt attended school when reading wasn't a requirement for a high school diploma. SC has never taught students, they have for decades trained mill workers and farm hands.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Is there a correlation that South Carolina is one of the most crimson red states in the country. The psuedo christians have the temerity to beat you over the head with a book that they never bothered to read. How dumb is that. You know too much, you might acutally aspire to something better.Y ou might actually question the status quo, heaven forbid... As we know superior ability breeds superior ambition, you are trained to be happy in the mud and accept your station in life as Gods will, while the Capitalist has a pensive and docile workforce. Such as it was during slavery, we are all being prepared to be slaves once again to a new set of masters. It all works brilliantly. Stump, they say that there is no devil, but this little arrangement is beyond the mind of the most nefarious human being that ever lived.


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 5 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

It doesn't take that smart of a person to out smart them. They still think Sarah Palin is god's gift to the whitehose down here.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Stump, thanks for the great e-mail greeting. We are going to have famous time of it!


HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

I have been seeing the same things with my stepson. Children are not being taught how to get to an answer. Results are everything and they leave the mind starved. You are right that this extends to our society and politicians. The polarization and namecalling is horrible. It seems that no one is seriously trying to get together with the other side to solve our problems. It's all election results and political posturing to achieve them. Great Hub.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

HS, thanks for checking this article out. The key is compromise and from the rightwing hubs there is rumbling about the need for a "strong man" who will force everyone to fiscal responsiblity a la GOP, in Washington, after making all the Democrats and RINOs go home. Nothing is not going to get passed without compromise and I am going to blame the GOP who presents a budget plan that they know is doomed to failure from the start.

P.S. Yes, kids are lazy, only the dumb ones still work summer jobs and have chores when there are many other easier ways to get money. It is to be lamented as this is the seedcorn and whatever we do to improve the economy and prepare for the future is meaningless if there is no one qualified to take the driver's seat, when the time comes.


Wil C profile image

Wil C 5 years ago from United States of America

Nice job credence2. By the way, I can still do most arithmetic in my head and believe calculators should only be used for simple computation when you reach higher level mathematics. I also believe that critical thinking is being decimated by social media, lack of funding into our education systems, lack of attention of parents and an overall ignorance is bliss mentality that has seemed to blanket our nation. It is imperative that people become involved in politics. Politicians need to be held accountable if we are ever to have any progress in our country. I completely agree that the dimming of the light bulbs in our children and people is alarming. I blame this on the plethora of distractions in place to stop the people from seeing what is right in front of them. Corporations have taken our government hostage and will not rest till their profit margins are allowed to remain untouched. The citizens of our nation must let politicians know that special interest groups and lobbyists are not the politicians primary concern by voting them out of office each time they show this tendency. I'm tired of seeing the same politicians saying they are going to work to get much needed legislation through our government and then spend all their time mudslinging. If the younger generations feel as if they need not think for themselves, then it is necessary for others to at least talk to them about what is going on and provide them the information to come to a conclusion(if they can). In my article about generation y, I stated that the baby boom generation and generation x would be competing for generation y's attention(what little is there). They will be the deciding vote in the future elections(god help us). So it is especially essential to continue to discuss these matters and direct the younger people to these locations to generate their own opinions based on several readings.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Hi, Wil C, how are you, thanks for your comments.Yes, indeed, this is a mess. There is an orchestrated plan to dumb down and distract. Ever seen the TV show, Undercover Boss, there they want everyone to see that the "master" can be benevolent and generous to his unders. The right says the media is liberal, I don't think so/ You just have to look who is in charge of all of it and they are certainly on the "other side". If the kids allow themselves to be distracted with trinkets while these evil forces plan a life of slavery, and that is nothing less than slavery, for them, it will be because of apathy and inattention to very evil and predatory forces. I can only hope to reach one person at a time sounding the warning clarion. Thanks again, Cred2


Wil C profile image

Wil C 5 years ago from United States of America

I can honestly say I have never seen an episode of Undercover Boss. I have heard of it, however a show that expects employees to lick the boots of his boss is not something I would ever enjoy. The worst thing about media is they only care about ratings. They don't care if the government does its job. As a matter of fact, they like when the politicians are in constant scandal, it means ratings for them. I agree that the youth today need to be prodded to think for themselves. Keep sounding the alarm. Thanks credence2.


Justsilvie 5 years ago

I like your hub Creedence and your mantra "Compromise is mandatory". Lets hope those clowns in Washington get it soon.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Thanks for reading my article. We both hope that sanity comes to Washington, the sooner the better.


frugalfamily profile image

frugalfamily 5 years ago from Houston, TX

Critical thinking is too difficult to grade on a standardized test. It is one of those things the teachers know we should encourage but are not held accountable to or given the time to encourage development.

I always find your train of thought fascinating. It is not common to find a post starting with algebra and ending with Marxism.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Thanks for dropping by FF, as always I can count on you to give me a tumble... Critical thinkers need be educated as a foundation. Cant sort through the issues and think out of the box if you do not know what is happening. Falling down on our educational standards produces ignorant people who by definition cannot be critical thinkers. You are right that it cannot be taught in schools, but it is a by product of schooling. I am most pleased that you enjoyed the article and invite you to my parlor again soon.


frugalfamily profile image

frugalfamily 5 years ago from Houston, TX

Hey Credence, I just want to clarify my comment. For argument's sake let's say that critical thinking can't be taught. (I believe it can.) Critical thinking can be PRACTICED. That being said, the school systems I have worked in do not set those skills as a standard or a goal and it is rare that teachers make it a priority.

While I agree that standards should not be lowered, critical thinking skills and the practice of them should be a priority in our school system. I believe it is lost because of the standardized testing system which often penalizes an "out of the box" type of thinker.

PS I need some resources, the kids want to keep chickens, no joke!


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Hey, FF, what are you doing up so late? I thought that all my audience on the mainland has gone beddie-by. I hear you about critical thinking, but sakes, the kids need to learn the basics of reading writing and arithemetic and the ability to think at all, before they can seriously indulge in thinking on an abstract basis.

I could be mistaken, can critical thinking skills be taught? I am all in favor, if that is possible in concert with learning traditional fare.

As for the chickens, we are not the experts but I can certainly provide you with some of things that you will need and certain basics to avoid. The chickens have been fun. I am always after the rooster to whip the chickens into line to come up with the egg quota. But the interaction is fun to watch. I would delighted to assist in any way possible. Thanks Cred2


Sooner28 4 years ago

I like that you pointed out that Obama is not a Marxist. It tires me when conservatives call him that, or call him a Socialist. I just tell them to talk to a real Marxist or Socialist and ask them what they think about Obama.


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 4 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

Sooner, most of the people I am surrounded by have no idea what the labels they apply to people actually mean. After watching another round of GOP vaudeville shows they call debates, I came to an interesting conclusion about the fine conservatives here in SC. If Jesus himself were running for the GOP nomination, the majority of conservatives down here would refuse to vote for him. They would listen to the Super Pac attack ads and Fox News flashes that would point out that he was actually a liberal. For the life of me I can't figure out why these people claim to love and worship someone who was the exact opposite of them.


Sooner28 4 years ago

I've come to realize that the GOP says Marxist or Socialist to anything they don't like, and like you said, without really understanding what it means.

And your point about Jesus is well taken. I've considered writing a hub on this. There is a great video on youtube about that. Just search "what if Jesus ran for President" and it will come up.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Sooner, you said:

I like that you pointed out that Obama is not a Marxist. It tires me when conservatives call him that, or call him a Socialist. I just tell them to talk to a real Marxist or Socialist and ask them what they think about Obama

Thanks for helping make that point just that more clear.The man has been generally left of center and has compromised too much with the rightwingers for my liking. But it appears that he got his mojo back last September. He is on the warpath, since the idea of negotiation and compromise is lost on reactionaries.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Hi, Stump, it is nice to see you, where have you been?

Yes, indeed, Romney is a bull sh*t artist, he doesn't pass the smell test with the true believers of the right.


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 4 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

Hey Crede, finally got tired of having hubs deleted for no reason and moved to Xomba for awhile. That site has self destructed recently and I haven't been posting anything anywhere. I still check in here once a week or so just to see what's going on.

I agree with you about Obama and it was nice to see he took some advice I sent him in an email and finally grew a set. I was getting fed up with his continued efforts to work with the GOP in spite of all the evidence they were interested in nothing but removing him from office.

I have recently taken to sending direct emails to the crooks we keep electing. The last one I sent was to Eric Cantor. I posted the same message on his facebook wall and sent a tweet his way. I explained that I understood his desire to stop the bill that is working it's way thru congress that will shut down the insider trading congress is engaging in. I point blank asked him if the tips he and others are getting are the way they work around cash bribes. I figure a free golfing trip to Scotland is nice but a tip that earns these crooks hundreds of thousands of dollars and has no paper trail has to be safer for them. I don't expect to get an answer and figure the post on Facebook has already been deleted. I also sent a direct email to Senator Bernie Sanders explaining my suspicions about this new form of bribery and hope to hear something from him about it. Peace and best wishes for the new year to you and yours, Stump


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

The thoughts expressed in this hub are very impressive, intelligent and reasonable. There are, I think, two parts to the hub, though obviously they are connected.

First there is the general concern about peoples' ability to think for themselves today, to work things out and understand the train of thought which leads to an answer. You give a mathematical example in which ultimately there may be only one 'correct' answer, but the same is true of debates about scientific theories, historical perspectives, and moral controversies - indeed anything which is open to more than one point of view. Too many for whatever reason will be swayed by one opinion, and blindly ignore all others. They will selectively choose facts which support their case, ignore facts which don't, and they will support any favourable statement regardless of the motivation of the person who makes it, whilst condemning any statement which opposes their case, regardless of how reasoned or moderate the person who makes it may be. But people can only truly assess any concept if they think critically, and look behind the arguments which the two debating sides make.

The second part refers specifically to politics. You talk about the need to understand alternative points of view before drawing a conclusion, and you say that ultimately most people - left and right - have the same ultimate goal, so a lot of the venom and antagonism directed against political oponents' points of view is unjustified. You also talk about politicians 'fighting on the playground like grade school boys'. That is reminiscent of the adversarial party politics in my own country (the UK); here party politics is perhaps not quite as vicious and certainly not as extreme as in America, but nonetheless, far too much time is wasted in parliament with insults, points scoring and petty party bashing, rather than in constructive debate.

Basically, I think I can agree with everything you say here, Credence2, and if everyone - politicians and activists - acted with critical thinking instead of blind persuance of an agenda, the world would be a better place, and genuine, constructive progress would be made in all areas of life. As such, I will bookmark and share this article. Alun.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 2 years ago from Florida (Space Coast) Author

Greetings, Alun

Thanks for reading the article and providing poignant comment. But, it would be too much to ask that more people get their act together. Although we are considerably distant from one another, certain ideas and principles are universally acknowledged. Intellectual laziness will be our ultimate undoing....

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