The shaping of knowledge

We have covered a number of interesting topics in this class. However, I believe that the discussion of critical thinking, prompted by Martin’s piece, is the one that should have the greatest impact on all readers. I say this because the article it points to the importance of our understanding that our knowledge of any subject is shaped by the information that we receive regarding that subject and that that information is made available to us by “gatekeepers” who determine what research is funded and whose interests are furthered by the propagation of this information. The result if this is that much of what we read is nothing more than propaganda intended to sway our opinion in one direction or another.

History is replete of examples of how the masses have been manipulated into advocating, defending and even going war over issues that they barely understand and that are not in their best interests. Nevertheless, these people are convinced that the positions they hold are based on irrefutable facts. “Facts” that, upon careful intellectual or physical examination, would prove to be untenable. Here are but a few examples:
1. The preamble of our constitution states ” we hold these facts to be self evident, that all men are created equal….” YET, the majority of the people had no problem with the institution of slavery (which flies in the face of the statement on equality and could not be held if LOGICAL/CRITICAL thinking were applied.
2. We launched a war against Iraq based on sketchy (often, manufactured) evidence and the strong belief by most of our populace that Iraq supported Al Queda and had something to do with the attack on the World trade center. Anyone who had studied history of our relationship with Iraq and analysed the facts critically would have been unconvinced by the flimsy connections that were made by those arguing in favor of war.
3,.The people running around claiming that President Obama was not born in the United States and, therefore ineligible to be President (not tho mention their belief that he is a Muslim). Has anyone stopped to think how elaborate a ruse would have had to be planned and worked-on for over FORTY years to get him accepted into the “right” colleges, elected to the Senate, selected as presidential candidate by the Democratic Party, and have him elected president at a time when there is an explosion of Muslim fundamentalism around the world.

Anyone who can THINK would conclude that it is necessary to have alternate sources of information and NEVER assume that anything that we’re reading is completely true or that it is being reported in a “fair and balanced” manner. If we take anything from this course and the time we spend in a university it ought to be the knowledge that there are entire organizations dedicated to “manufacturing consent” and that we should develop critical thinking skills so that we may not fall prey to their lies and fabrications.



One response to “The shaping of knowledge

  1. Critical thinking is a big part what we’re about in this course, you are right. We’ve discussed it on and off throughout the semester but will return to it in a big way in a week or so when we work on evaluating information. The “birther” movement of those who believe that the President is not an American citizen is a great example — we discussed that in this class last semester, actually.

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