Blog Post: [Part 11] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

Richard Paul Archives
Sep 20, 2023 • 304d ago
[Part 11] Critical Thinking and the Critical Person

{"ops":[{"insert":"One of the major ways in which sociocentric bias is introduced into social studies texts is through the fostered illusion of “scientific” objectivity. Nothing suggests that the authors are taking a position on issues about which reasonable people could disagree, or at least that they are taking such a position only when they explicitly admit to to.\n \nThe textbook "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"American Democracy In World Perspective"},{"insert":", written by four professors at the University of California for use in college political science courses, is an exemplary case in this regard. Virtually everything in its 700-plus pages is oriented toward persuading the reader that he United States has the best form of government, comes closest to “perfect” democracy, and that the fate of freedom in the world depends on the United States: “As democracy fares in the United States, so will it, in the long run, fare throughout the world.”\n \nThe text divides all governments into two basic types, democratic and non-democratic, the non-democratic ones are divided into authoritarian and totalitarian ones, in accord with the "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"figure 1"},{"insert":".\n\nNumerous features stand out in this chart. "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Democracy "},{"insert":"is a term that we apply to ourselves (a positive term with which virtually all people identify)."},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" Authoritarian "},{"insert":"and"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" totalitarian "},{"insert":"are negative terms with which virtually no one identifies. The United States is characterized by a term that expressed an ideal, whereas its enemies, the USSR and its allies, are characterized by terms that in effect condemn them. The chart, presented as purely descriptive, obscures its tendentious character. By the same token, the distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism provides, under the guise of pure description, a means whereby support of dictators by the United States can be justified as the “better” of two evils. It does not take too much imagination to reconstruct how an equally tendentious chart might be fabricated for a “neutral” Soviet social studies text (see "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"figure 2"},{"insert":").\n\nThe authors also imply that most Americans believe in"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" reason"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"and experience"},{"insert":", whereas Communists believe in "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"dogmatism"},{"insert":":\n \nBy using reasons and experience, man has scored impressive advances in the mastery of nature . . . Democrats believe that reason and experience can be fruitfully used in the understanding and harmonious adjustment of human relations . . . in contrast, dogmatists (such as Communists or Fascists) reject this belief in reason and experience."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nAt the same time, the text gives lip service to the need for free discussion of issues in social studies.\n \nIn trying to present a fair and balanced picture of American democracy, we have not sought to avoid controversial issues. The United States owes its existence to controversy and conflict, and throughout its history, as today, there has never been a dearth of highly controversial questions."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nI know of no textbook presently used in a large public school system that focuses on the multilogical issues of social studies or highlights the importance of strong sense critical thinking skills. Monological thinking that presupposes a U.S. world view clearly dominates. At the same time, students do not recognize that they are learning, not to think, but to think like “Americans”, within one out of many possible points of view.\n"}]}

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