I did not have an exceptional public school education, but my dutiful, dedicated teachers taught me to think critically, to look at the issues, to weigh the scales, to ferret out the fallacies and uphold and affirm the truths, to do this: objectively analyze and evaluate an issue in order to form a knowledgeable judgment and, eventually, to do so as if by rote.
I didn’t think much about those things as school went along; I just assumed that is what education was about and that all students of our universal, public education system were getting the same as I was.
Then I started to reflect on the 2016 presidential election and seeing all the rabid Trump supporters at his rallies shouting mindless phrases and I began to wonder what schools they had gone to, why they missed being taught critical thinking skills and I am left with nothing but questions.
Did they not get the education they were supposed to get? Were they taught those things but those things, for whatever reason, didn’t sink in or get through their thick skulls? Was it a combination of both? Is it that fear blinds us to reality and cripples our ability to think rationally? Is it fear at the root of so much ignorant rage? Grievance at thinking one is cheated out of what’s only fair and right, thus blocking any thought of what was taught? Something else? What could it be?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but this one thing I know: I am profoundly distressed at the level of ignorance and wrong thinking in evidence in our country and what that might bode for the future of our representative democracy — a fragile system dependent on the populous’ ability to see the forest for the trees and have a reliable, dependable compass of reason to navigate through that forest.
Right now, I’m not so sure and I’m not at all comforted by the fact that what amounts to a much more sophisticated, educated, cultured people than ours even now or any other at that time on the face of the earth were culpable and complicit in the barbaric, brutal destruction of six million human beings and the near overthrow and destruction of civilization to fascism, despotism and barbarism.
Or do we just have to throw our hands up and accept that about a third of the population of the United States, at any given time, will be mindless fellow citizens and pray and hope that that percentage never increases?