By Mike Cronin
We are often presented with the terms “logic,” “reason,” “critical thinking,” and “common sense.” They are often touted as valuable skills or traits in our society. But are they really so appreciated?
You are likely to find enough differing definitions of those terms to keep you busy reading for a while, but there is a common thread.
I think Ayn Rand described logic quite eloquently as the art of “non-contradictory identification,” and common sense as the “unselfconscious” use of logic. Critical thinking and reasoning have broader connotations, but generally include, or go hand-in-hand with, logic and common sense.
There are formal courses on logic and critical thinking, but it’s hit-or-miss whether you encounter them outside of philosophy electives at a college or university or at law school. By way of one example: my own formal education has included familiarization with debate (taught as a segment of sixth-grade English), and I went to a high school that prided itself on producing critical thinkers. I’ve earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Yet, to my recollection, not one of those sources presented a formal course of instruction on logic or critical thinking. Why?
I suspect that many of you can report a similar gap in your own formal education. Could it be that our educational institutions, and the governments and/or religions that run them, don’t want to produce an abundance of critical thinkers because graduates so equipped might then apply their reasoning skills against some of the irrational curricula or insane policies emitted by learning institutions or their political and financial overlords?
Consider: In its current guise, the Department of Education, with an annual budget in the tens of billions, was signed into existence by President Carter in 1979. It’s stated mission is to “…promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”
Has it accomplished that mission? It certainly “promotes” student achievement. Cranking out a single inspirational poster can “check the box” on that mediocre and vague aspiration. It has also made progress on the “equal access” portion – you would be hard-pressed to find someone in this country who has no access to some form of publicly-funded K-12 education. But it has failed utterly at preparing students for global competitiveness! US scores in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills are now near the bottom for industrialized countries. Perhaps the mission statement of the Department of Education has little alignment to its true purpose.
Don’t think I’m being paranoid here. No less a luminary than Woodrow Wilson, then President of Princeton University (and later to become President of the United States) revealed the elite’s view of the purpose of public education when, in 1909, he said: “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” Note again that he said those words before he was elected President of the United States, so this idea did not overly detract from his elect-ability.
Nowadays, the elite’s plan seems to be to indoctrinate everyone with as much liberal education as they can absorb! Of course, the meaning of liberal has -ahem- been drifting left somewhat since Wilson illuminated the raison d’etre of public schools.
Might not the alumni of schools and universities that failed to teach courses on critical thinking or reasoning skills logically conclude they have been cheated?