e 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
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
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
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?
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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
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Thirty five years as a small business consultant, CFO, and university educator specializing in quantitative business and economic modeling - a suite of experience now focused on economic inequality. Carefully attributed data, thoughtful (more...)
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and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.