As I See It

This month’s topic is on education.  This is a subject of great interest to me on multiple levels.  I am a professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.  I believe education is the key to success in a modern society, but I think we must first define what “education” really is.

The first thing I can tell you is that America has been in a consistent downward spiral in educating the public on the basics of math, English and critical thinking.  The university I am teaching at is a S.T.E.M.-based school, concentrating on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The basis of this method of study is critical thinking or the scientific method of thinking.

Within critical thinking, individuals are instructed in gathering data, testing their ideas against that data and coming up with what is the most correct conclusion. This is called testing a hypothesis.

It is unfortunate that, in today’s public schools and universities, critical thinking is seldom taught.  It is reflected in the loss of meaningful debate between persons or parties with different points of view.  You often see this when you watch people debating on some TV shows.  In these segments, they seem to yell back and forth, but neither side really presents information in a coherent form.  Generally, at the end of what declines into an argument, each side resorts to personal attacks rather than defending their position with facts.

This loss of critical thinking has caused a condition called “cultic thinking,” which is thinking driven by emotion.  Facts don’t matter – a person is so tied to their emotional position that new or relevant information makes no difference.  This affects every area of our lives.

Politicians ignore the fact that this country is going broke.  Instead of looking at the facts, which in this case are figures, the politicians simply try to blame the opposing party.  They never really address the facts.  We have divided our country with this cultic thinking and, in the process, have brought truth and problem-solving to a standstill.

We must get back to the search for truth and let go of this cultic thinking.  We can’t say that open borders are OK if there is no indication that any country can exist without borders.  When we call each other names, when we ignore truthful information, we put both sides of an issue in peril.

We must believe in truthfulness.  We must test our own position and not fear to change in position if the facts indicate a more truthful position.  We must learn to judge a position and not the person.  We must accept evidence that may challenge our preconceived notions.

So, in this time of division within the country, I suggest we teach critical thinking and proper debate.  Let us observe facts in a situation and then debate strategy without personal attacks.  Our results will be less divisions and more intelligent solutions in the future.

Graham Hetrick

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