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I teach Critical Thinking in community college. I live in California and Critical Thinking is required for a BA or BS. Point being, my students are young people who plan to transfer to a four-year college, supposedly the cream of the crop of my community college. They mostly belong to the Facebook generation: they text, use their cell phones to access the Internet, and send me late papers via email. But when I asked them to talk about what just happened in Egypt, the majority told me they didn’t know much about what was going on.

I hate to sound overly critical, but last semester I confess my students shocked me: most of them didn’t understand Congress well enough to explain the difference between the House and the Senate. Very few had plans to vote.  

I can’t get over how disinterested they are in the political reality that surrounds them. The word entitlement comes to mind—in my opinion most of my students feel entitled to democracy. They have almost no sense of responsibility, no understanding that it's participatory. It’s hard to imagine them out in the streets demanding their freedom; they take it for granted.

We’re examining the media and how it shapes our opinions and our sense of what’s true, legitimate and fair. As I watched them struggle with the basics of noticing bias, I questioned them about Obama’s birth certificate. I assumed their answer would reassure me because most of my students seem to have fairly liberal attitudes.

Say it ain’t so! A good two-thirds of the class didn’t believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. They didn’t seem disturbed by their belief—not a bunch of angry Tea Party types. If anything, they seemed amused by their belief. Just a bunch of young people who don’t care one way or the other, but who don’t think our President is an American citizen.

When I asked where he was born, one of the young women who contributes quite regularly and often with insight, told me Obama was born in Hawaii, but Hawaii didn’t really count as America. She seemed to think Hawaii was some exotic island that’s connected to the US, but not really part of it. When I pointed out Hawaii was a state, she shrugged as if to say, “doesn’t make any difference to me.”

So the birther myth has become a lesson. They now have to defend their position with facts and rational argument. Maybe a few minds will get changed, but… God Lord! They're not watching FOX. They're not watching anything. They're just sucking it in from environment, from attitudes roaming the zeitgeist.

It feels like democracy (or whatever is left of it in the US) is an endangered species. The Right is out to make itself a permanent majority, and seems to be succeeding. It makes me think that what's happening in Wisconsin is like the Battle of the Alamo. Where are the national voices that should be standing up with those folks? I have to say it frightens me. Does it frighten anyone else?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pathman, Claudius Bombarnac

    In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

    by Circle on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 10:44:21 AM PST

  •  We are fucked. That is a scary story. (3+ / 0-)

    I talk to my kids all the time about critical thinking. It irritates the crap out of them but too bad. Thank you for sharing this information.

    We have "Nobel Peace Drones" creating terrorists one hellfire missile at a time

    by pathman on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:06:21 AM PST

  •  This is why elections are won (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Circle, irishwitch

    with sound bites and bumper stickers. It is also why over 30% of the people will vote against their own best interests. With the average ADD'd voter, you've got to make your point within 7 seconds or less.

    The Republicans were masters of this tactic. The Democrats were much too nuanced until Obama's marketing team came up with the bumper stickers:

     Hope & Change
     Change We Can Believe In
     Yes We Can

    Critical thinking requires a basic foundation which most public schools do not provide. Your work must be Sisyphean.

  •  My husband went back to college after retiring (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geek of all trades

    from the Navy.  He would come home seething from his history and government classes.  WHen they discussed the two wars we're fighting, none of the students (except him) knew that there were no WMDs found. Most of them loved the war, and adored Bush. But, natch, none of them planned to enlist to help fight the war  

     One group during the oral presentations only two of its three members show up. The third arrived late, because she "had to attend a birthday party." She complained when he told her she'd go downa ltter grade for that.  ANother student did a presentation on  HIV prevention.  He kept talkign about barrier methods.  WHen myhsuband asked him to name a barrier method, he admitted he had no idea.  Neither did hal;f the class.  It was scary.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 01:37:44 PM PST

  •  I can't speak for kids but ... (0+ / 0-)

    most grownups I know have long been tired of all the game-playing and fact-spinning by the media and politically-involved friends performed to attempt to influence stupid voters to suit their own agendas.  The teeth-gnashing is no less intense (and ridiculous) than that seen, for example, among rabid football fans.  They clearly aren't intelligent themselves or else they'd realize that bright people can see right through it.  

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