Be all that you can be

Be all that you can be

No, I am not suggesting that you join the Marines!

“The religious believer assigns dignity to whatever his religion holds sacred—a set of moral laws, a way of life, or particular objects of worship. He grows angry when the dignity of what he holds sacred is violated.” Quote from “The End of History and the Last Man”.

To what does the non believer assign dignity? If the non believer does not assign dignity to rationality and self-actualization, upon what foundation does s/he stand? If the non believer does depend upon rationality and self-actualization for dignity how is it possible that so few know anything about such matters?

Abraham Maslow tells us that there are two processes necessary for self-actualization: self exploration and action. Self exploration is very important, the deeper the self exploration, the closer one comes to self-actualization. Self-actualization results from our desire to actualize our potential. As the Marines might say “Be all that you can be”.

I think that the area in which Western society fails most egregiously is in the matter of an intellectual life after schooling. We have a marvelous brain that goes into the attic after schooling is complete and is brought out only occasionally on the job or when we try to play bridge or chess.

It appears to me that the fundamental problem faced by most Western democracies is a lack of intellectual sophistication of the total population. Our colleges and universities have prepared young people to become good producers and consumers. The college graduate has a large specialized database that allows that individual to quickly enter the corporate world as a useful cog in the machine. The results display themselves in our thriving high standard of living, high technology corporate driven life styles.

Our schools and colleges are beginning to introduce our young people to the domain of knowledge called Critical Thinking. CT is taught because our educators have begun to recognize that teaching a young person what to think is not sufficient for the citizens of a democracy in an age of high technology. CT is an attempt to teach young people how to think. Like the adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish, a youngster who knows how to think is prepared for a lifetime rather than for a day.

What about today’s adult? Today’s adult was educated in a time when schools and colleges never gave universal instruction in the art and science of thinking—rationality.

If today’s adult wishes to learn CT s/he must learn it on their own nickel. I think a good read to begin with is this one

“Be all that you can be” was a US Army advertising slogan.

It isn’t necessary for the total population to be actualized for the society to function, though. Better to just increase educational opportunity and those who want to take advantage will, while those who’d rather have low-challenge jobs and spend their off hours playing Warcraft can go do that. Trying to force the issue will accomplish nothing.

Do you think only the non believer values critical thinking? The two concepts of religious belief and scientific process do not exclude each other.

I believe this is a misconception on your part. What has made you think that today’s adults were not trained in thinking skills? (Other than what you find posted in some of my arguments…)

Yes, non believers do value critical thinking more than believers as a rule. Otherwise, the believers wouldn’t be believers.

And religion and science are indeed fundamentally hostile to one another. Thanks to the human tendancy to compartmentalization, scientists can manage to be religious, as long they don’t let their religion corrupt their scientific endeavours too far. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t handicap them, and it doesn’t mean they can be mixed.

I am 73 years old. I have 5 children and seven grandchildren. I have a good deal of formal education and have been actively engaged on these Internet forums for more than three years. I follow closely political matters and often watch C-Span in which there are often call in shows where people express their views. These are my life experiences that inform me that almost all adults have never studied or have been taught thinking skills.

CT is an acronym for Critical Thinking. Everybody considers themselves to be a critical thinker. That is why we need to differentiate among different levels of critical thinking.

Most people fall in the category that I call Reagan thinkers—trust but verify. Then there are those who have taken the basic college course taught by the philosophy dept that I call Logic 101. This is a credit course that teaches the basic principles of reasoning. Of course, a person need not take the college course and can learn the matter on their own effort, but I suspect few do that.

The third level I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT includes the knowledge of Logic 101 and also the knowledge that focuses upon the intellectual character and attitude of critical thinking. It includes knowledge regarding the ego and social centric forces that impede rational thinking.

Most decisions we have to make are judgment calls. A judgment call is made when we must make a decision when there is no “true” or “false” answers. When we make a judgment call our decision is bad, good, or better.

Many factors are involved: there are the available facts, assumptions, skills, knowledge, and especially personal experience and attitude. I think that the two most important elements in the mix are personal experience and attitude.

When we study math we learn how to use various algorithms to facilitate our skill in dealing with quantities. If we never studied math we could deal with quantity on a primary level but our quantifying ability would be minimal. Likewise with making judgments; if we study the art and science of good judgment we can make better decisions and if we never study the art and science of judgment our decision ability will remain minimal.

I am convinced that a fundamental problem we have in this country (USA) is that our citizens have never learned the art and science of good judgment. Before the recent introduction of CT into our schools and colleges our young people have been taught primarily what to think and not how to think. All of us graduated with insufficient comprehension of the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary for the formulation of good judgment. The result of this inability to make good judgment is evident and is dangerous.

I am primarily interested in the judgment that adults exercise in regard to public issues. Of course, any improvement in judgment generally will affect both personal and community matters.

To put the matter into a nut shell:

  1. Normal men and women can significantly improve their ability to make judgments.
  2. CT is the domain of knowledge that delineates the knowledge, skills, and intellectual character demanded for good judgment.
  3. CT has been introduced into our schools and colleges slowly in the last two or three decades.
  4. Few of today’s adults were ever taught CT.
  5. I suspect that at least another two generations will pass before our society reaps significant rewards resulting from teaching CT to our children.
  6. Can our democracy survive that long?
  7. I think that every effort must be made to convince today’s adults that they need to study and learn CT on their own. I am not suggesting that adults find a teacher but I am suggesting that adults become self-actualizing learners.
  8. I am convinced that learning the art and science of Critical Thinking is an important step toward becoming a better citizen in today’s democratic society.

Wouldn’t effective use of critical thinking lead you to consider results as much or more than the anecdotal evidence of people who like to call radio talk shows? Consider the job of a call screener, whose role is to put interesting opinionated people on the air, rather than those who are well-reasoned and articulate and are likely to drone on for a boring five minutes explaining the distinction between rezoning and redistricting. The guy who shouts “it’s the DEVIL’s work!” is a lot more entertaining.

Is society overall stupider than in the 1950s? I don’t think so. Even the biasing effects of religious fundamentalism and new-age idiocy haven’t pulled the level down significantly. At the very least, lynching has fallen out of fashion, nor do a lot of people build bomb shelters in their backyards, which I take as positive signs.

I offer a small nit that I’m sure a CTer would appreciate. An acronym is something that is read as a word formed by initial letters. For instance: OPEC, POTUS, SCOTUS, NATO, SETI, AIDS. Some acronyms make it past that designation and become accepted as just words, no longer requiring the capitalization. Some examples of this are scuba, laser, and radar. If the initialism cannot be or is not read as a word, it is just that: an initialism. So, BBC, CPU, UFO, ID, KGB, USA, and CT are initialisms, read out one letter at a time, not acronyms.