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Thread: Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism

  1. #1 Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism 
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    Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism


    The standard teacher/pupil teaching technique accentuates the importance of acquiring knowledge. The Socratic technique accentuates the importance of understanding and critical thinking. Being knowledgeable of a matter and understanding a matter are very different categories of comprehension.

    I thought I might compare and contrast the professional journalist with the professional military officer in an attempt to focus upon the difference and importance of these two intellectual traits of comprehension.

    What might be the ideal character traits of these two professions? It seems that the military officer should be smart, well trained, obedient, and brave. The journalist should be smart, well trained, critical thinking, and honest. The journalist must have well-developed intellectual character traits and be skillful in critical thinking. The military officer should be trained to act somewhat like an automaton in critical circumstances.

    The officer’s behavior in each conceivable circumstance should follow precisely a well-established code of action. The officer is trained to follow well-established algorithms in every circumstance. Even those instances wherein the officer is authorized to deviate from standard procedure are clearly defined algorithms. The officer deviates from established behavior only when absolutely necessary and that ad hoc behavior should follow along prescribed avenues. The officer obeys all commands without critical analysis except in very unusual circumstances. Bravery and obedience are the two most desired character traits of a military officer.

    The role of the journalist in wartime has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years. During WWII the journalist acted as cheerleader and propagandist. During the Vietnam War the journalist often played the role of critical analyst. While one can see some positive reasons for the cheerleader and propagandist I will assume that overall this is not a proper role for the journalist in a democracy. The ideal journalist must always be a critical analyst and communicate honestly to the reader the results of her investigation.

    Since most people unconsciously seek opinion fortification rather than truth they become very agitated when they find news which does not fortify their opinion. Thus, most people have low opinions of journalists. Nevertheless, it is no doubt the ideal journalist who presents the facts fairly, accurately, and in a balanced manner. The ability ‘to connect the dots’ in each situation is of primary importance for the ideal journalist. Knowledge is important but understanding and critical thinking is more important.

    We certainly want our military officers educated more in the didactic mode than in the Socratic mode whereas we would find that journalist educated in the Socratic mode would be the better journalist. The journalist must be able to recognize the prejudices of others as well as recognizing his/her own biases.

    What might one say as regarding the contrasting importance of critical thinking and knowledge for a teacher, engineer, accountant, nurse, factory worker or secretary? With consideration we probably will find that knowledge is more important than critical thinking when analyzing the individual as a worker. The credentials that appear on most resumes are those testifying to a degree of knowledge by the job applicant. We do not even have a metric for understanding or critical thinking.

    I think it is correct to assume that knowledge can be imparted by a teacher to an individual more quickly and efficiently using the standard technique whereas the Socratic technique, while developing understanding and critical thinking, is much less efficient in imparting knowledge. Here, as in everything else there is a trade off. In a set period of time more knowledge can be imparted using the standard mode.

    The question then becomes: is it more important to have citizens with greater knowledge and less understanding and critical thinking or citizens with greater understanding and critical thinking and less knowledge?

    I claim that democracy is more dependent upon the citizen who exemplifies more the characteristic of the ideal journalist than the ideal military officer.

    Democracy will eventually live or die based upon the degree of sophistication for critical thinking and understanding by our citizens. Our schools and colleges have made some small attempt to teach Critical Thinking but adults cannot wait for the distant future when many of our citizens have learned Critical Thinking. Today’s adult must proceed with the effort to become a self-learner of Critical Thinking.

    I think there are several levels of critical thinking, do you agree?

    Do you think that the journalist or the military officer offers the best example for educating the citizens of a democracy?


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  3. #2 Re: Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    The military officer should be trained to act somewhat like an automaton in critical circumstances.
    Do you have military experience? If so, does it date from World War I? Just curious.


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  4. #3 Re: Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    The military officer should be trained to act somewhat like an automaton in critical circumstances.
    Do you have military experience? If so, does it date from World War I? Just curious.
    I spent 1954 to 1956 in the army as an enlisted person. I was stationed most of that time in Germany. A beautiful country.
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    The world is a big place. The country with the most journalists, by far, is democratic India and the country with the most military officers is China. Generalizations of either 'what was', 'what is', etc. are meaningless. There is also no consensus as to what 'should be'. A journalist in democratic Malaysia may feel his ultimate task is to sever Allah and a military officer in Brazil to protect some reginal interest.

    Not everyone in the world holds the 'state', democratic or otherwise, as the ultimate allegiance. Not everyone has your goals as to what a 'proper society', democratic or otherwise, should be.

    'Critical' thinking is a loaded term and implies greater insight into 'the truth'. You are confusing one's purpose with one's method of thinking. Military officers do not use critial thinking any les than journalists...they use heir critical thinking to best achieve a goal. A slave does not use critical thinking any less than a slave owner.

    You would fit in well to Orwell's 1984...'this is how citizens will be trained to think'. How do journalists think? "This is how they SHOULD think. Critically and thus freely" There is an irony to your premise.
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  6. #5 Re: Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism 
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    [quote="coberst"]
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    The military officer should be trained to act somewhat like an automaton in critical circumstances.
    Do you have military experience? If so, does it date from World War I? Just curious.
    ?????

    I was an officer for six years and was never taught to think like an automaton. Someday you will find yourelf in a critical circumstance and you will think more clearly and rationally than you ever have. No background clutter in your brain and complete focus.
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    I have fro several years been trying to awaken readers to the importantce of two inportant matters. I have tried to push the importance of Critical Thinking and of self-learning. Almost always i get the response that we all are critical thinkers and we are all self-learners. The words are familiar words to people and they close there mind to any further consideration.

    What I am saying is that most readers have no idea what I am talking about and they never will because they think they already know what I am going to say.

    What you say in your post leaves me to believe you do not know what I am describing as Critical Thinking.

    Yes, everyone is a critical thinker. That is why it is important to discriminate the different levels of critical thinking. Most people are what I call Reagan level critical thinkers; they trust but verify. Those individuals who have taken a fundamental college course in logic, I call Logic 101, would be the next level. Of course, a person does not necessarily have to take the college course; they can easily learn the fundamentals of logical thinking on their own.

    The third level of critical thinking I call CT (Critical Thinking). CT is the level that our schools and colleges are attempting to teach our young people. CT adds to the Logic 101 level by acquainting the student with the intellectual character and attitude required to be a first class Critical Thinker.

    Learning the basics of Critical Thinking is how to learn to make good decisions. Critical Thinking is a combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

    The knowledge consists of: the principles of thought as set forth by Aristotle, the knowledge of the differences between inductive, deductive, and dialectical reasoning, knowledge of the difference between uni-logical and multi-logical type of problems, and more that do not come to mind at the moment. The skill consists of applying this knowledge in a coherent fashion.

    I consider CT to be ‘philosophy light’. CT differs from other subject matter such as mathematics and geography in that it requires, for success, that the student develop a significant change in attitude.

    The attitude required is a critical self-consciousness. This means that the student of CT become conscious of many characteristics of thought that are innate. The student of CT must have this understanding so that s/he can build the intellectual character so as to combat these irrational innate characteristics.

    My experience leads me to conclude that much of the population in general thinks that critical thinking is similar to Reagan’s “trust but verify”. Others think that critical thinking is equal to the knowledge and skills I have listed for CT but excluding the critical self-consciousness aspect.

    I think that a good place to begin study of CT is: http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Educ/EducHare.htm
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I have fro several years been trying to awaken readers to the importantce of two inportant matters. I have tried to push the importance of Critical Thinking and of self-learning. Almost always i get the response that we all are critical thinkers and we are all self-learners. The words are familiar words to people and they close there mind to any further consideration.
    And are you not willing to consider that many posters on science forums are self learners, that one of their developed characteristics is the ability to employ critical thinking? If you are preaching to the choir it would not be surprising if they joined in with an appropriate hymn.

    Am I a self learner? I am presently working my way through undergraduate textbooks on biology, supplemented by revisits to organic chemistry and biochemistry textbooks. I am labouring through every research paper I can locate on planetary formation. (And I'll set aside my ongoing study of the military history of WWII and rise of civilisations, since neither of these relate to science.)

    Am I a critical thinker? I can argue any side of an argument, including ones most people didn't know existed.

    Am I any different from other posters on this forum? I don't know, but I suspect, based on observation, that several others are self learners and critical thinkers to an equal or greater extent than I. Would it then be surprising if your appeal for self learning and critical thinking was greeted with a loud yawn? We already have the T-shirt.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I have fro several years been trying to awaken readers to the importantce of two inportant matters. I have tried to push the importance of Critical Thinking and of self-learning. Almost always i get the response that we all are critical thinkers and we are all self-learners. The words are familiar words to people and they close there mind to any further consideration.
    And are you not willing to consider that many posters on science forums are self learners, that one of their developed characteristics is the ability to employ critical thinking? If you are preaching to the choir it would not be surprising if they joined in with an appropriate hymn.

    Am I a self learner? I am presently working my way through undergraduate textbooks on biology, supplemented by revisits to organic chemistry and biochemistry textbooks. I am labouring through every research paper I can locate on planetary formation. (And I'll set aside my ongoing study of the military history of WWII and rise of civilisations, since neither of these relate to science.)

    Am I a critical thinker? I can argue any side of an argument, including ones most people didn't know existed.

    Am I any different from other posters on this forum? I don't know, but I suspect, based on observation, that several others are self learners and critical thinkers to an equal or greater extent than I. Would it then be surprising if your appeal for self learning and critical thinking was greeted with a loud yawn? We already have the T-shirt.
    I am convinced that anyone who understands my meaning for such phrases as self-learning and critical thinking will not be negative about these important concepts. Almost all individuals are negative about these concepts or they are apathetic about these concepts.

    Also I have been pushing these concepts on forums for several years and I often get the remark about preaching to the choir. All of my experience tells me that anyone who makes such remarks does not comprehend my meaning or does not have any comprehension of how few people in the world comprehend these ideas.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I have fro several years been trying to awaken readers
    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I am convinced that anyone who understands my meaning for such phrases as self-learning and critical thinking will not be negative about these important concepts.
    I, and many others on this forum, are extremely positive about these concepts. We are only negative about those who are graduates of the School of the Blinding Obvious!
    Perhaps your conviction that you are so correct is a reflection of a deficit of critical thinking on your own part.
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Also I have been pushing these concepts on forums for several years and I often get the remark about preaching to the choir.
    And yet, despite frequent evidence that your message is old, or poorly presented, you keep on the same entrenched path. It rather looks as if you have not only a deficit in critical thinking, but also lack the ability to learn from your experiences.
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    All of my experience tells me that anyone who makes such remarks does not comprehend my meaning or does not have any comprehension of how few people in the world comprehend these ideas.
    Most people in the world fail to comprehend these ideas. Most people in the world are moderately to severly thick. Equally, most people in the world do not participate in science forums.
    You are posting to a self selected audience that contains a disproportionately high number of critically thinking, self learners. You appear to have utterly failed to appreciate this fact. Your observations are self evident to any of the serious thinkers on this forum. They see your constant statements of the obvious whimsical at best and annoying at worst.
    What do you hope to achieve by them?
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    [.

    Also I have been pushing these concepts on forums for several years and I often get the remark about preaching to the choir. All of my experience tells me that anyone who makes such remarks does not comprehend my meaning or does not have any comprehension of how few people in the world comprehend these ideas.
    Then you need to do some critical thinking to learn why you are such a poor communicator. You have tried for years and failed. 'Few people comprehend...' Ever think that if you have a valid concept and nobody gets it then the problem isn't 'them' not getting it but 'you' needing to improve your communcation skills? The irony is that someone with this so-called 'critical thinking' should have looked in the mirror and understood this.
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    Becoming conscious of an idea is the first step on the road to knowledge and perhaps even understanding. I wish to introduce these ideas so that the reader will become sufficiently curious as to go the library and study the matter on their own.

    Most people take the turtle position when encountering something new but if that new thing stays long enough they will come out of the shell and perhaps examine that now old thing that is no longer so scary.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Most people take the turtle position when encountering something new but if that new thing stays long enough they will come out of the shell and perhaps examine that now old thing that is no longer so scary.
    But will you now accept either or both of these statements:
    a) Most, if not all, of those who have responded to you on this thread (and others) are self learrning, critical thinkers, and when they sya you are preaching to the choir that is exactly what you are doing.
    b) Many posters here have remarked that your style is turgid and not likely to encourage those who would most benefit from your ideas to actually consider them.
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  15. #14  
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    Try using less words.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kolt
    Try using less words.
    Is that for me or for coberst? You see the danger of using too few words?
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  17. #16  
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    For Coberst -


    Though I would say it is good advice for everyone, my self included. Condensing the amount of words one uses allows one to both focus their ideas and to better execute them verbally, on page or in text. Articulation is great but too much word play often becomes an over indulgence and the original point can get a little hazy. Narrative is important - Keep it simple.

    Coberst obviously has some interesting ideas that he wishes to share and I think I understand what he has said so far yet I think I might gain an even a better grasp of the issue if he were to explain it in layman’s terms.

    It's not so much that he is doing anything wrong it’s just that my own brain does not fare well when the topic becomes long winded. It's a personal defect.
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  18. #17  
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    Kolt

    Learning a new domain of knowledge is difficult. Not only are we faced with a new concept but also with a new vocabulary. I must admit I have studied this book for months before it began to jell for me. It is not possible to comprehend a matter as revolutionary to ordinary thinking as is this conceptual metaphor with a few short paragraphs. There is no way around it, one must study the book if one wishes to comprehend this rather revolutionary idea.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I must admit I have studied this book for months before it began to jell for me.
    What book?
    You do not indicate in your opening post that this has anything to do with a bookl. You imply that the ideas are your own, not a summary of someone elses. Technically at least you appear to have breached our regulations about plagiarism.
    This is the problem I have found repeatedly with your work and that we have discussed before: you regurgitate material you have read, putting very little of yourself into it. I would like to talk to a thinking, judgemental human being, not a Xerox machine.
    Read, study, absorb, self learn, think critically by all means, but then assimilate what you have learnt and expound it in a new light. Any other approach is self indulgent.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I must admit I have studied this book for months before it began to jell for me.
    What book?
    You do not indicate in your opening post that this has anything to do with a bookl. You imply that the ideas are your own, not a summary of someone elses. Technically at least you appear to have breached our regulations about plagiarism.
    This is the problem I have found repeatedly with your work and that we have discussed before: you regurgitate material you have read, putting very little of yourself into it. I would like to talk to a thinking, judgemental human being, not a Xerox machine.
    Read, study, absorb, self learn, think critically by all means, but then assimilate what you have learnt and expound it in a new light. Any other approach is self indulgent.
    I was talking about learning a new domain of knowledge and the book refered to that. In the case I had in mind the book was "Philosophy in the Flesh".
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  21. #20 Re: Democracy, Critical Thinking, & Journalism 
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    I don't know if I would be so quick to assume that the vast entirety of human thought and understanding could fit easily into two broad categories. I might agree that due to the circumstances and/or the work environment, a journalist might be more prone to abstract ideologies where as a military officer would deal mostly with technical or strategic matters. Yet I wouldn't assume that the thinking process of a military officer is any more automated than that of an ER doctor. Both are subject to strict regimented work place procedures but at the end of the day such training is purely academic. Real world problems with undetermined factors happen all the time both in the emergency room and in a firefight. The people involved with such problems can't always rely on text book training or simple commands. Never-the-less, I still get the gist of your Which one is the best example? scenario.

    I would be inclined to agree that a journalistic approach would be better suited for the average citizen of a democratic society. Though journalism has a tendency to turn all things into a moral crusade by looking for truth. Truth can be interpretative and sometimes even bias. A scientific inquiry, however, is usually more interested in raw facts and statistics. With journalism it is always about the story - With science it is simply about the data. Yet even science by itself is not the best way to educate someone on how to live in a democracy. I don't think there is any one area of study or field of expertise that works best alone.
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  22. #21  
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    Kolt

    You are correct; dealing with objects that remain the same throughout time makes the scientific method work for the natural sciences but not work for human relations. Who can verify a hypothesis when the subject matter of the hypothesis constantly changing?
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