BREAKING NEWS: FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead:
Reports that an FBI agent investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server killed himself after murdering his wife.
BREAKING NEWS: Hillary Clinton & Campaign Chief John Podesta Discovered Running Child Sex Trafficking Ring from D.C. Comet Ping Pong Pizza Parlor: Child sex slavery peddling ties Hillary to “pizzagate” scandal.
These stories would have been the most stunning and damning political scandals in decades had they been true. But they were not! Even though they amounted to nothing more than trashy contrived fake conspiracy theories, they nonetheless wrought damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and might have cost her votes.
And possibly even more importantly, they could have resulted in senseless loss of life. On December 4, Edgar Maddison Welch drove from his home in North Carolina carrying three firearms to the Comet Ping Pong restaurant. He entered the shop with two weapons and shot into the floor with an assault rifle. His purpose was to confront the parlor’s management over charges of the online sex trafficking conspiracy.
Well, as the infamous quote from Nazi chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, makes clear: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
In the current political climate, though, telling a lie merely once is enough for people to come to believe it. The non-partisan Politifax organization fact-checked Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump collectively 400 times during the past campaign season, and rated them on a scale from “true,” “mostly true,” to “half false,” “mostly false,” “false,” and “pants on fire.”
Results indicated that Hillary was either “true” or “mostly true” 52 percent of the time. For Trump, he scored “true” or “mostly true” 16 percent of the time. On the flip side, Hillary rated “false” or “pants on fire” a combined 18 percent of the time, while Trump scored on these same indicators 53percent of the time.
But what, if any, responsibility should politicians take in spreading their lies? What responsibility should corporations have in marketing false claims on its products? What responsibility should reporters and supposed “non-fiction” authors take when purposely misrepresenting objective truths?
No matter how we respond to these questions, the fact remains that we as individuals and as a society must take responsibility in critically, reflectively, and creatively investigating and analyzing media and other sources of information we consume rather than simply absorbing these at face-value.
Not only must our schools help equip students with communication and reading literacy skills, but also they must actively teach skills of critical thinking and critical media literacy to empower students to deconstruct, analyze, and reflect images and messages that bombard them like atmospheric microwaves on a daily basis.
In all my university course syllabi, I include a page titled “Critical Consciousness: Reflecting, Thinking, Observing, Reading, Researching, & Writing Through a Critical Lens.” I expect students to develop a critical consciousness on the concepts, topics, issues presented, and on class discussions, readings, videos, and written assignments.
I have often found to my utter astonishment and disappointment that asking students to reflect critically is something they have not been called to do in other courses. I require, however, that students justify and backup their thoughts and opinions since opinions without justification are just that—opinions—and students can expect to have points deducted when failing to provide a critical analysis in their coursework.
“But what do you mean by ‘critical thinking’?” a number of students each semester ask. I first quote Dr. Stephen Brookfield’s four inter-related phases:
- Discover the assumptions that guide your decisions, actions, and choices. (What do I think and why do I think of it the way I do?),
- Check the accuracy of these assumptions by exploring as many different perspectives, viewpoints, and sources as possible. (Pose questions, talk with others, take courses, read, research, etc.),
- Use abstract ideas to interpret the information effectively,
Take informed decisions that are based on these researched assumptions. (Informed decisions are based on evidence we can trust, can be explained to others, and have a good chance of achieving the effects we want).
I also suggest that students consider a number of questions to ask themselves during course discussions, when reading course assignments, when watching course videos, and when researching and writing papers. These include:
- Consider the person(s) choice of words.
- What are the points being made, and what is the overall message?
- What are behind the points and behind the message?
- What is in the mind of the writer of the piece or the character(s) in the video? To know this, you must suspend, for a time, your reactions to the person(s). You must attempt to walk in their shoes, to perceive the world and the people around them as they would perceive—in other words, you must be able to develop empathy. From where comes their motivations, their behaviors, their actions?
- What underlying assumptions are made by the person(s) delivering the message?
- What is the person(s)’ underlying philosophical/political/behavioral perspective?
- What are the person(s)’ social identities, and do these impact their perspective(s)?
Pull out each point, analyze it from various perspectives, determine how each point fits with other points being presented, put the individual points back together into the whole, determine whether the points are consistent or contradictory, unified or disjointed, etc.
- What are the words the person(s) set off in quotations/underlining/bolding? What is the overall effect?
- What is the impact of the message on the receiver? What impression does the message have on you? Again, justify your answer.
- What are the possible repercussions of this message?
- What was one or more points that either you did not know previously or that particularly surprised you?
- Have you read or heard something like this elsewhere? Connect it to previous readings, author(s), video(s), or theory(ies).
- What was left out or questions you have that were not answered? Ask “critical questions”!
- Are there any points with which you take issue or with which you disagree? Why? Fully justify your critique! Are there any outside sources you can reference to back you up? If so, refer to them.
- What ideas, concepts, issues and/or theories that were covered connected in some way(s) to your personal experiences? How? In what way(s)? Explain and fully analyze.
Many people do not organically develop critical thinking. This skill does not emanate from our autonomic nervous system. Therefore, it must be taught, supported, nurtured, acknowledge, and encouraged in young and older people alike.
Many educators find, however, that with all their duties and responsibilities, time simply does not allow them to assist students learn how to think. Why, though, is this not THE top priority?
Now more than ever within our increasingly fact-free environment, the more people who develop critical thinking skills, the more likely we are to actually save ourselves, our country, and our world from possible destruction resulting from the lies of our “leaders.”
Have a happy and critical next four years.
For my Critical Thinking Checklist, press here.
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