Blog Post: [Part 9] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

Richard Paul Archives
Aug 16, 2023 • 338d ago
[Part 9] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

{"ops":[{"insert":"[Missed Part 8? "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"Read It Here"},{"insert":"]\n \nWhen students cover a conflict between two countries – especially when one is their own – they should hear the case not just for one but both countries’ perspectives. Often other perspectives are also relevant.\n \nU.S. textbook writers canvassing the Cold War, for example, do not identify themselves as arguing for one selective representation of it. They do not identify themselves as having a pro-U.S. bias. They do not suggest that they represent only one out of a number of points of view. They imply rather that they give an “objective” account, as though the issues were intrinsically monological and so settleable by considering merely one point of view. They imply that the reader need not consider other points of view on the Cold War. They imply that the facts speak for themselves and that they (the textbooks) contain the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts. There is nothing dialogical about their modes of canvassing the material nor in the assignments that accompany the account the student is inevitably led to believe.\n \nThat some of the most distinguished historians have concluded that the United States bears a large share of the blame for the Cold War Is never, to my knowledge, even casually mentioned. It would seem bizarre to most students in the United States, and their teachers, to hear a distinguished historian like Henry Steele Commager speak of the Cold War as follows:\n \nHow are we to explain our obsession with communism, our paranoid hostility to the Soviet Union, our preoccupations with the Cold War, our reliance on military rather than political or diplomatic solutions, and our new readiness to entertain a possibility what was long regarded as unthinkable – atomic warfare?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThe notion that U.S. citizens might be obsessed or the victims of “paranoid hostility” completely contradicts how textbooks in the U.S. characterize the country, its philosophy, behavior, and values.\n \nOr consider Arnold Toynbee’s characterization:\n \nIn examining America’s situation in the world today, I can say, with my hand on my heart, that my feelings are sympathetic, not malicious. After all, mere regard for self-interest, apart from any more estimable considerations, would deter America’s allies from wishing America ill . . . [But] today America is no longer the inspirer and leader of the World Revolution . . . by contrast, America is today, the leader of a world-wide, anti-revolutionary movement in defense of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities; and since the poor, so far, have always been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness for the greatest numbers. America’s decision to adopt Rome’s role has been deliberate, if I have gauged it right."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThese views would shock most US citizens. Their schooling has given them no inkling that the United States’ and Britain’s most distinguished historians could have such a low estimation of our policies. They "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"would"},{"insert":" understand the recent California State Assembly resolution, endorsed on a vote of 52-0, that the Vietnam war was waged for noble purposes.\n \nSimilar points can be made about every major issue in history and social studies. They can all be approached from more than one point of view. All history, to put it another way, is history-written-from-a-point-of-view, just as all social perception is perception-from-a-point-of-view. There are, inevitably, different philosophies of history and society based on different presuppositions about the nature of people and human society. Different schools of historical and social research inevitably use different organizing concepts and root metaphors.\n \nTherefore, a rational approach to historical, sociological, and anthropological issues must reflect this diversity of approach. Just as juries must hear both the pro and con cases before coming to a judgment, irrespective of the strength of the case for either, so, too, must we insist, as rational students of history and human society, on hearing the case for more than one interpretation of key events and trends so that our own view may take into account this relevant evidence and reasoning. Intellectual honesty demands this, education requires it. It is irrational to assume "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"a priori"},{"insert":" the correctness of one of these perspectives, and intellectually irresponsible to make fundamental frame of reference decisions for our students.\n"}]}

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