Originally published December, 2105
Have we reached critical mass in the sense that a staggering number of Americans cannot think critically and do not understand critical theory?
“Why is it imperative for the citizenry to be able to think critically?”, Patricia L. Dickson asked in her article Americans are Void of Critical Thinking Skills, (American Thinker, October 2015). She then answered with, “Because the mainstream media has abandoned its responsibility of reporting facts in exchange for distracting, distorting, propagandizing and protecting. The public education system also run by liberals, has dumbed down the quality of education in exchange for explicit (non-age appropriate) sex education and revised negative American history.”
Our critical thinking skills are imperative to navigate through the lies. We live in a world where we are immersed in “accepted thought”. We are often told to believe certain things just because “It is the right thing to do.” Well my question is who exactly gets to determine what I think is the right thing to do?
To find what we think is the right thing to do, it is important that we put in the effort to verify what we are being told by the media, books, television shows, movies, higher education and the “experts”. Just because a thought is put forth over and over again, that is not what makes it true. If an opinion is continually thrust upon us, that is not what should form our belief in it.
Instead of allowing ourselves to blindly succumb to the rolling waves that are intent on bringing us to a destination we may not be interested in arriving at, we must pay attention to the direction we are being lulled toward. Floating along aimlessly is not a good plan, unless you really do not care where you will end up.
Critical thinking is the steering wheel that can alter the route. Questioning and seeking answers are the engine behind our thinking. In the American Thinker article, Patricia L. Dickson suggests a miniature guide, The Art of Asking Essential Questions, by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul, founders of The Critical Thinking Community, which can help in our critical thinking. One chapter, Questioning Data, Information and Experience, is especially helpful due to all of the data we are bombarded with daily to “help” us to arrive at the “correct conclusion”.
Another overlooked area that is at critical mass, is the understanding of critical theory. Andrew Breitbart, in his book Righteous Indignation (Grand Central Publishing, 2011), introduced me to the concept of critical theory, coined by a Marxist philosopher named Max Horkheimer at the Frankfurt School (a school of social theory) during the 1930s. Critical theory and Max Horkheimer found their way to the United States and American academia. What is critical theory? Andrew Breitbart describes it like this in his Chapter 6- Breakthrough, of Righteous Indignation.
“Critical theory, says Horkheimer, is ‘suspicious of the very categories of better, useful, appropriate, productive, and valuable, as those are understood in the present order’. So if you liked ice cream better than cake, or thought a hammer might be more useful in a particular situation, you were speaking on behalf of the status quo. The real idea behind all of this was to make society totally unworkable by making everything basically meaningless. Critical theory does not create; it only destroys, as Horkeheimer openly stated, ‘Above all…critical theory has no material accomplishments to show for itself.”
Why worry about critical theory? Because the Frankfurt School of thought was embraced by the progressives in America and it lives on today, in academia, in the media, in our culture and in our politics. If we use our critical thinking skills, I think we will recognize critical theory in practice and note the way it is being used to make so many former common sense ideas no longer make any sense. Hopefully we can spread the word that we are at critical mass when it comes to the importance of understanding critical thinking and critical theory.