Picture courtesy of http://critical-thinkers.com/
As an English instructor at a local college, one of the challenges I face is encouraging my students to critically speak their minds, through writing and support their thoughts with the logic of why they feel the way they feel. One of the many reasons why this is a difficult task is because students spend most of their time on trying to be politically correct and not hurt anyone’s feelings. Over the past decade, there has been a significant decline in a student’s ability to critically think and to challenge what they read, see, or hear. Simply put, people are afraid to practice their freedom of speech. As a result, some educators ‘train’ students to write and think in general terms, playing it safe, in order not to offend anyone. Thus, when I receive a paper on a controversial topic, for the first time from a student in my class, I always see a lot of general statements like “everybody knows this is a controversial issue”, or “there are many sides to this debate”, etc. Besides the fact that most of these students are passed through secondary school with mediocre to no critical feedback from their teachers, students are not encouraged enough to freely speak about their convictions or opinions for fear of social ridicule. Another reason why it is difficult to engage students in critical thinking is the on assault freedom of speech, as well as every other constitutional freedom Americans have. The past few generations have seen their pop heroes and athletic heroes crucified in the media for speaking their minds and convictions. For example, when Dixie Chicks protested the Iraq War by posing for the cover of Rolling Stone with anti-war slogans written on their bodies, they were labeled un-American and un-patriotic, when in fact their protest was one of most the American things to do. The list can go on, from Kanye West’s criticism of Bush’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina victims, to Ted Nugent’s anti-Obama rants. The fact of the matter is that Americans are being conditioned to shut up their brains and their mouths, as they please their senses with comforts of the flesh. (It is no accident that Americans have a reputation of being a nation of gluttons).
The way I begin to open up my students’ minds to critical thinking is by using what the media and politicians use to stir crowds; I engage their emotions. Simple objective statistics about controversial topics goes a long way to personalize issues that are national in scope. For instance, I usually begin the term talking about the death penalty. Students have their set opinions however, once they realize that each death row inmate costs California approximately $90,000 a year to house and the fact that these inmates receive better medical care than working citizens, opinions quickly change. It does not matter what their point of view is as long as they pick a side. But more importantly, students begin to think.
Overall, there are a lot of Americans that believe that the current administration has single-handily taken away the rights of all Americans and has suspended the constitution. The fact is that there has been an effort, virtually by every president, to destroy American freedoms and eradicate the constitution since the beginning of the last century. It is no accident that America is saturated with trash television, untalented ‘personalities’, no morals except the love of money and poor diets. While Americans have their cake, they have been duped into voting away their own freedoms. The hope now is that Americans not give away their minds.