Thursday, October 31, 2013

Judgement & Critical Thinking

     Judgement is essential to human existence but we are not educated to develop judgement, rather we are programmed to learn facts.  This seems to be a time of disfavor toward 'judgement', especially among young people we hear "you shouldn't judge", "don't judge me", etc.  because judgement has been equated with condemnation but that is limiting it to the negative end of the spectrum; at the positive end we employ it to choose the desirable, and use it to evaluate the various merits and flaws in a conflict situation.  Judgement is uniquely human and fundamental to choice making; education should focus on its development.  When we relinquish our ability to render judgement and rely solely upon laws, rules and procedures it can lead to absurdity in situations that don't fit the norm -- A gathering I attended this week highlighted this point.

     A soft-spoken Senior Citizen who walks with difficulty entered the discussion by apologizing for her state of mind because she was still upset and angry over nearly being arrested the day before; several people who knew her reacted with shock and disbelief, she went on to describe the incident:  She has given up her driver's license so now relays on public transportation.  She attends art classes at a Senior Center within a 10 minute drive from her home.  There is a town supported transportation service for Sr. Citizens/Handicapped for which you must call to reserve seating.  She and a friend planned to use the service to attend the art class, the friend had called in the reservation for 2, but another obligation caused her friend to cancel.  When the person telling of the incident boarded the bus, took a seat, and gave her name as required, she was told her name was not on the roster so she must leave; the driver stated, "only those registered can ride".  She refused to leave her seat, explaining that her friend had made a reservation for both of them but only the friend had canceled.  The bus driver recognized the woman from previous rides but explained she had been reprimanded for giving a ride to someone not registered, so she had to uphold the rule.  There were only two other passengers aboard and they were commenting…there was plenty of room and it was only a few short miles to the  Center…It grew a bit heated at the driver's refusal to allow her to ride.  The teller of the tale did not want to miss her class, she stayed in her seat, the bus went nowhere, a supervisor was called!  When the supervisor appeared she ordered the woman off the bus, telling her to call in as she was supposed to do and take the next bus that would be by within the hour.  Protesting that the suggestion was unreasonable and would cause her to miss her class, the supervisor threatened to call the police and have her arrested.  Still she sat; the supervisor took out her cell, dialed, asking for an officer to come there to resolve an 'incident'.  Our story teller said she then exited the bus because she reasoned that an art class was not worth going to jail for!     --As she told the story she was visibly shaken and the entire group was incensed by the injustice.

     In this complex world we occupy it is increasingly important to know how to assess situations and use reasoned judgement.  The term 'critical thinking' emerged in the mid-late 20th Century as an approach to problem solving based upon 2500 years of development from the Socratic method.  Most educators are aware of it but it is not widely used in our schools.  Wikipedia refers to 'critical thinking' as: "a process that leads to skills that can be learned, mastered and used."  There is a need for education to focus upon developing judgement in our students as it is not possible to write rules and procedures for every situation; we will always encounter the need for 'common sense' (=good judgement) so it seems only reasonable to work at enhancing it.

Monday, October 14, 2013


In creating a new nation, our forefathers foresaw government at its best--while today we must watch government at its worst:  legislators blind to the long range effects of bad choices made from intransigent positions and personal self-interest . . .
We wait and hope that ultimately their better natures triumph.

I recall a poem I wrote at another time for other reasons:


I believe in human potential--
       man can be more than he is
       if armed with the will to become.

I see the inherent dangers--
       power can either create or destroy
       so knowledge of it awakens fear.

I know of quantitative quality--
       that which can be expressed positively
       can likewise be expressed negatively.

       I look to civilization's development
              - the taming of fire
              - the mastery of communication
              - the understanding of order
              - the creation of beauty
              - the invention of systems
              - the development of industry
              - the perfection of technology
       laced with wars, tyranny, slavery, holocaust, bigotry,
             treason, genocide . . .

       This is my heritage, my lineage, my ancestry;
       It all came before me and is mine because I am!

       This awareness engenders painful ambivalence;
       majesty and pride joust with horror and shame.

       All this is because of human potential
       our being has changed the face of the earth.

       Man has traveled to the moon
       and he has created Auschwitz and Dachau.

                       Are we gods or demons?

       The more we refine our being
       the more aware we become of its flaws.

       Ignorance once hid from us our vast potential;
       yet once glimpsed, that image holds the mind in bondage.

       Reality forces us to live with the less that is
       while desperately longing for the more that can be.

Now, together, we are called to create a better world--
       the negatives are painfully real
       but somehow, somewhere, progress happens.

Truth demands we acknowledge our potential's full range
       without abnegating the responsibility;
       --each person's choices helps shape the future.