Friday, December 9, 2016

Drawing a Line In the Sand: Critical Thinking Vs. Post Truth Age-Part II

A point that needs to be re-emphasized is that accepting the "Post-Truth Age" as our new reality is dangerous on many levels and the key to whether this continues to take hold is education. It should also be pointed out that accepting this as our new reality will sow the seeds of disruption at many levels of our individual lives making us all vulnerable to manipulation by others who seek to impose their agenda on everybody.

 Again, by definition the Post-Truth Age refers to: "...relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief in the 21st century."  As was pointed out in the last post, the tenets of this "post-truth" mindset are in fact an attack on the idea of fostering effective critical thinking skills in the citizenry of our societies. This cynical mindset basically tells people that they really don't have to think because others will tell you what is true and what to think. The question that comes to mind is:

"Who are the enablers of this post-truth mindset and what are the underlying motives?

The truth about the answer to this might surprise you. We are the enablers because we have allowed rational thought to be eclipsed by emotional reasoning to the point that we are saying that we really don't have to have verifiable evidence to accept something as true as long as it stirs our emotions and we are told that it is quite acceptable to make serious decisions and take serious actions that affects many people based upon how we feel. The more violent the expression the more righteous is our cause.

Really?? Is this the message that we are passing on to school children; that temper tantrums are now socially acceptable? At first glance, you might say that this is an exaggeration and responsible adults in our society do not condone this. However, using the current events that we are all witness to, from the aftermath of the U.S. election to the trouble in the Ukraine where repeatedly, Russian governmental officials said that they had nothing to do with the conflict that erupted, I could easily rest my case.

I have already pointed out the errors in judgment education systems made when young people were taught that emotional reasoning dealing with social issues was more important than looking at the evidence on both sides of the issue; where the teaching of critical thinking skills looked good on paper but never made it into an essential mindset for dealing with all levels of curriculum.

What we didn't foresee was that the generations that were not effectively taught how to apply effective critical thinking skills are now people in office who wield a great deal of power over people's lives and they have become the enablers of a post-truth age.

The Tyranny of Opinion

It has been a well understood freedom in many societies that everyone is entitled to their opinion on any issue that affects human life. It has also been understood in many societies that the next person's opinion on an issue carries the same weight as the opinion of others. This form of equity has existed because we recognize that opinions by themselves are not required to be substantiated for them to be expressed. In contrast, in most societies of educated populations opinions that can be supported with verifiable, up to date and credible evidence are judged to carry more weight than those that are not supported. Based upon the evidence, a person may agree or disagree with the stated informed opinion. This has been the basis of civilized debate for centuries and it has been based upon societies placing a high value on critical thinking skills.


In the 21st century, we are experiencing a shift away from civilized and well reasoned debate and it comes about because of a generation that is either unable to defend their positions because they lack the necessary critical thinking skills sets or they have been indoctrinated into believing that emotions are far more important in deciding issues than the cognitive capacity they were born with. Therefore, when faced with reasoned and supported arguments against a position they hold, two strategies emerge:

  1. Use a new, contrived vocabulary whose sole purpose is to censor debate on issues based on how they are affected emotionally by having to deal with such an issue, or
  2. Use "ad hominem" argumentation to discredit the individual holding the contrary viewpoint to their own
This shift has been driven home more and more on university campuses where once they were touted as places where the constitutional right of freedom of expression was heralded as a great freedom, now have become institutions where the only free speech that is allowed is that of the group think of the social issue supporters of the day. These are groups who have re-interpreted freedom of speech as a freedom of forced conformity.

In a debate titled: Campus Gone Crazy: Is political correctness damaging our universities?”, held at the University of Toronto (Nov. 2016), Anthony Furey, a columnist from Sun media pointed out three important ways that such groups are hijacking true Freedom of Expression:
" Fringe activist groups demand money and power from the system and then use those resources to tell us how to think and speak ..."
" Often some of the key stories underlying social justice warriors’ grievances are exposed as bogus. Like the fake stories used to prop up the rape culture narrative."
Fuery points out that the three strategies that should be used to defend used by against this "group think" control are:
  1.  First, don’t let them make you think you don’t matter as an individual: The far left has used identity politics as a weapon for years. They reduce human beings into nothing more than their gender, colour of their skin, sexual orientation and so on.
  2. Second, don’t let them tell you you’re a bad person. One of the key tactics of PC bullies is to question the motives of people who don’t hold their views. Notice how on many issues they don’t even bother to debate the actual topic? Instead, all they do is rush to label you all of these bad names to seed the idea there’s something deficient with your character.
  3. Lastly, absolutely do not let them frame the debate.
 With respect to education, the word "integrity" should become the most vaunted ideal to engage students with and it is also a value that should be modeled by all educators. In today's education, it needs to be defended and people who model this value should be heralded as examples for becoming a citizen who contributes well to the quality of life of all people.
We need to disengage from baseless opinion mandates and empower reasoned evidential debate on all issues of human life.
Next--Seeking a Better E-Learning Mandate

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