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Critical thinking skills must be used


To the editor:

Many people agree that our democratic republic is being threatened, but there is great division regarding the origin of the threat. We make better decisions when we have a clearer vision of reality. I try to do that by looking at a variety of sources and consider motives and consistency with reliable sources. I have a background in science teaching and use that experience to judge the veracity of sources.

We now have many more sources of information, many of which are not bound by any loyalty to true facts. Because there are many more unvetted media outlets it is more difficult to avoid disinformation. Added to that challenge is the true fact that many people have little time to devote to checking the veracity of statements. One good test is to try to understand the motivation of the source. Another factor to consider is whether the source is appealing to your emotions or to verifiable facts. (All facts are verifiable, otherwise they are not facts.)

When I consider what rules to live by and promote I ask myself, “Am I willing to live under the rules and behaviors I want others to follow?” Autocratic governments can be efficient and provide great economic benefits for a small portion of the population. I am against autocratic governments because if I was not part of the minority that governs the country, I would suffer. 

I am also in favor of a “practical liberal education.” That is an education that exposes students to a variety of views and promotes critical thinking. (For a conservative view see www.hoover.org/research/why-liberal-education-matters). To accept emotionally-laden statements without applying critical thinking can lead to horrible outcomes.

Our country is again going through a phase where fascist views and “white nationalist” feelings are erupting. The name-calling and incitement to violence is not consistent with our democratic values. Accusing “the other” of illicit behaviors to justify those behaviors of your followers is a sure sign of autocratic leanings.

Use your critical thinking skills to judge the veracity of what you are hearing. Don't let your feelings override rational thinking and lead to regrettable behavior (e.g. the January 6th attack on Democracy). 

James Vokac,
Willow Springs