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Bigger Than A Breadbox: Twenty Questions Every American Should Ask

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Bigger Than A Breadbox by Larry Butler
We Americans see our images reflected back to us by a highly subjective mirror.   Our sense of self has been profoundly influenced by our culture, our education, our history, our economics, our social class, our families, and even by those who would mold our views to serve their own interests.   At times we have difficulty understanding and interpreting events inside and outside the USA that may profoundly impact our lives.

Often our culture, our understanding of history, and even the media through which we receive our information interpret events poorly, incompletely, or even falsely.   We become so accustomed to hearing officially-endorsed myths that we internalize them as truth.   We are often poorly equipped to respond appropriately when our interests are threatened or attacked; we may not even be aware of these threats and attacks.

The solution is found not in answers, but in questions.   In a technological age that offers instant facts to anybody who can click a mouse, answers can be found to conform to any position, bias, or preconception.   Asking the right questions with a mind open to discovery can lead to a greater understanding of ourselves, our institutions, and the motivations of those who would shape our views. 

We must choose for ourselves the right questions -- these are only suggestions -- and find for ourselves the answers that are consonant with our most critical view of the world around us.   Implicit in each and every question is another:   Why do I believe as I do? 

*****

Is America the greatest country in the world?

By what criteria?   Choose among size, wealth, income, degree of social equality, global political power, aid to other countries, racial history, or any other standard you like.   Do you see a country that is consistent with the rhetoric of politicians and the slogans of self-proclaimed patriots?

Are we the "good guy" in the world?

We have always stood for human rights and democracy throughout the world, have we not?   Why is the US often reviled in Latin America and the Middle East?   Why must we maintain such a large military presence on foreign soil?   Have the interests of our multinational corporations ever conflicted with the interests of citizens in foreign countries? 

What is Social Darwinism?

The great American tradition of self-reliance has led to a widespread belief that successful people deserve what they have gotten and that the poor have gotten what they deserve.   Does America really have social classes?   Look carefully at the notion of blaming the poor for poverty, and consider current trends in social and economic safety nets such as unemployment, welfare, and food stamps.   Who wins and who loses when wealth and income are increasingly concentrated?

Who faces inequality today?

The US has a layered economy, with the wealthiest among us controlling a growing portion of the nation's income.   The income disparity is increasing, and is greater than other developed economies.   Unemployment and poverty rates are a persistent problem.   But wait -- who exactly are the privileged and the underprivileged?   Are there patterns along the lines of age, gender, race, geography, and social class?   If so, why?

Who considers critical thinking a threat?

The platform of the Republican Party of Texas explicitly opposes teaching critical-thinking techniques in public schools, and Texas may reflect the values of others throughout the country.   How could students and citizens possibly be harmed by critical thinking?   If not students and citizens, then who?   What institutions gain, and what institutions lose?

What is the value of public education?

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Years ago I made a decision to commit to a life of business management. Kids do the dumbest things! After thirty five years as a small business consultant, CFO, and university educator specializing in quantitative business and economic (more...)
 
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As I studied for my qualification to teach a univ... by Larry Butler on Thursday, Aug 1, 2013 at 3:57:37 PM
Any county could cherry pick a criteria and call t... by Steven Grove on Thursday, Aug 1, 2013 at 9:28:10 PM