My Purpose as expressed by those with more eloquence than I

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

- John Adams

"These are not the vapors of a melancholy mind, nor the effusions of envy, disappointed ambition, nor of a spirit of opposition to government, but the emanations of a hear that burns for its country's welfare. No one of any feeling, born and educated in this once happy country, can consider the numerous distresses, the gross indignities, the barbarous ignorance, the haughty usurpations, that we have reason to fear are meditating for ourselves, our children, our neighbors, in short, for all our countrymen and all their posterity, without the utmost agonies of hear and many tears."

-John Adams

"I do not stand here as advocate for any partisan cause, for the issues are fundamental and quite beyond the realm of partisan consideration. They must be resolved on the highest plane of national interest of our course is to prove sound and our future protected. I trust, therefore, that you will do me the justice of receiving that which I have to say as solely expressing the considered viewpoint of a fellow American. I address you with neither rancor nor bitterness...with but one purpose in mind - to serve my country."

-General Douglas MacArthur

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Think Critically "Moldy Toast"

By my lovely friend.....Hailey Holm

Imagine a plate of warm and fluffy blueberry pancakes, glistening with maple syrup and begging to be eaten. Now imagine a piece of stale, moldy toast hastily jammed into the toaster oven and pulled out blackened around the edges. There’s no question as to which breakfast option would be the most desirable. Let’s say many prestigious people started eating moldy toast each morning claiming it to cure every ailment from the common cold to cancer. Would the choice be any different? Maybe moldy toast does cure cancer. The point is by choosing to conform the individual is choosing to let someone else make his or her decisions, whether that be about breakfast or something more significant. Authors Brian Merrill (1998), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841), Harold J. Morowitz (1980), Mark Twain (1923), and Aldous Huxley (1958) write about conforming, along with the dangers of conforming they also discuss how to think critically, which may or may not lead to satisfaction and happiness.

Conforming is easy, convenient, and even praiseworthy in our society. Opinions and behaviors are ready-made, which certainly makes thinking a far less time-consuming and energy-absorbing activity. Mark Twain confirms that there are those who’d rather conform than study. In his essay “Corn-pone Opinions,” he says, “We get our notions and habits and opinions from outside influences, we do not have to study them out” (Twain, 1923, p. 2). Religion, politics, dieting, and fashion are some of the many social facets in which people follow the crowd. Politicians often conform for convenience, and for the vote of course. They have to fit a specific mold or have a broad view of thinking in order to get the most votes. Twain quotes what he heard from a friend: “A man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority” (Twain, 1923, p. 2). In fact, some politicians remarkably believe in everything at once, that way everyone will love them. Regarding politicians, Twain said, “Can’t bear to be in disfavor . . . wants to be smiled upon, wants to be welcome, wants to hear the precious words, ‘He’s on the right track!’” (1923, p. 3). The desire for praise, convenience, and ease is not a bad thing, but when it compromises thinking critically and acting on what we know, it is not only bad, it is dangerous.

Consider Hitler’s dictatorship in Nazi Germany. His tyranny, however short-lived, was disgustingly successful; Huxley describes Hitler's tactics:

To make them more masslike, more homogeneously subhuman, he assembled them, by the thousands, and the tens of thousands, in vast halls and arenas, where individuals could lose their personal identity, even their elementary humanity, and be merged with the crowd. (Huxley, 1958, p. 3)

It wasn’t his skill with words that determined Hitler’s success; it was the lack of rational thought among crowds of people. Hitler was a great orator who spoke to the masses. He knew that in great aggregations people aren’t driven by reason; they are driven by emotion. He manipulated the crowd’s feelings and weaknesses because he knew what would and wouldn’t appeal to them. By distorting people’s individuality, he was able to subject millions of people to his corrupt will (Huxley, 1958, p. 3). When in a large group of people, individuals quite often lose identity, and they think as a crowd. “The crowd-intoxicated individual escapes from responsibility, intelligence, and morality into a kind of frantic animal mindlessness” (Merrill, 1998, p. 2). Critical thinking is the antidote for “crowd-intoxication.”

Critical thinking, in simple words, is the pursuit of truth. In Brian Merrill’s essay, “The Examined Life,” he writes of the Socratic Method, a method for discovering truth. A critical thinker questions without fear of being wrong, considers other’s point of view, and pursues moral virtues. Merrill indicates that chasing after actuality naturally leads to good action (Merrill, 1998, p. 2). The opinions of other people can build on our partial knowledge and either change our views or make us more convinced of our own convictions. Merrill says, “Socrates pursues truth by sifting his own and other people’s minds” (1998, p. 2). According to the Socratic Method, we should take the beliefs of others just as seriously as our own, test them out, and see if they are true (Merrill, 1998, p. 2). The Socratic Method also touches on the importance of asking questions, which Merrill illustrates by giving this graphic description of Socrates: “He asks questions, drawing out his interlocutor’s thoughts as a midwife draws out an infant, slowly, methodically, often painfully” (Merrill, 1998, p. 2). Those who wish to pursue the truth learn that asking questions is the gateway to critical thinking.

In “Drinking Hemlock and Other Nutritional Matters,” Morowitz discusses a fancy name for critical thinking: epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. Epistemology is inquiring how knowledge has been obtained and questioning the validity of facts. Some think that teaching young people epistemology would be a nuisance. “Epistemology is, after all, a dangerous subject. If we start to question the validity of statements, then the teachers themselves come under question” (Morowitz, 1980, p. 2). Teaching young people how to think for themselves is more important than teaching them to memorize textbook pages that will most likely be forgotten during a summer break. Memorization and learning from textbooks are good things, but critical thinking should be, at the very least, a basic principle taught at elementary stages of education. It should eventually become instinctual.

A genuine person does not conform for the benefit of others, but conforms to what he/she knows to be true (Emerson, 1841, p. 2). When one is constantly questioning what he/she knows, it’s likely their opinions might change over time. Take, for example, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s stance on abortion. He made a dramatic change in his pledge to never waiver on a woman’s right to choose; instead, he pledged to preserve the sanctity of life. In an interview on the subject he said, “I didn’t hide from that change of heart . . . I recognize it’s a change” (Russert, 2007). People look down upon inconsistency; in “Self Reliance” Emerson says, “With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do . . . Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today” (Emerson, 1841, p. 5). Knowledge evolves over time, with individuals changing according to whatever new truths they discover.

Students should never be afraid to question facts, statistics, cultural beliefs, or even ideas that are rooted deep. They should feel free to express ideas; even if the idea they are exploring is that moldy toast will cure cancer. Emerson encourages to trust in genius, saying, “Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart” (Emerson, 1841, p. 2). Critical thinking takes effort, diligence, bravery, and time; so why do it? According to Aldous Huxley (1958), “The kingdom of heaven is in the mind of a person” (p. 4). Once individuals are able to master true independent thought, they will have a satisfaction that can never be obtained by the approval they get from other people. They will be ensured peace of mind once they become accustomed to trusting their own genius.

Thinking critically is looking beyond the obvious to pursue the truth. Questioning, the major activity in critical thinking, leads to discovery and prevents the dangers of conforming and “crowd-intoxication.” When individuals choose not to conform, they are instead choosing to think, take control of personal choices, and, ultimately, take control of their lives. After all, life is about so much more than choosing between blueberry pancakes and moldy toast.

Battle Cry!

"In the battle for the life of our nation, to paraphrases one of our great presidents, we must look to those who enter the arena of active struggle; whose faces are stained by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly to overcome temporary obstacles; who, supported by faith, enthusiasm and devotion, assault the enemy stronghold with the sword of patriotism." -Ezra Taft Benson

Morality Preserves Freedom

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Romes decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars..." -Will Durant in his book Caesar and Christ

Does the fall of Rome sound familiar? The greatest empire of all time, yet destroyed by decaying morals. Is this not the same thing we are experience here in America? As history has shown over and over again there is a direct relationship between the moral decay of the people and the corruption and collapse of their government. If we want to save this country, and the individual freedoms and opportunities it upholds, then we need to save ourselves. By this, I mean that each an every America needs to return to the eternal truths and morality that this nations was initially built on. The first step in being able to do this is recognizing the decaying moral law of our society. This is evident through the horrific displays of violence, sex, and other unrestrained passions openly shown on our t.v. sets and in the lyrics of all popular music. This is just one example of how the American people have lost all honor and dignity. What happened to working for what you receive, the universal law of "If you don't work, you don't eat." This country was founded on the backs of men who worked and worked very hard for every morsel they ate. America is the land where if you put your mind to doing something, and work hard to reach that goal, you WILL achieve it! Why are more than 40% of the America people now receiving aid from government assistance programs expect something for nothing? This is not the American way! Americans have dignity. Americans have honor. Americans have independence, and do not rely on someone else for their wants and needs. Americans are losing their great heritage by enslaving themselves to the government. Once you depend on the government for your sustenance, the government is your master and has complete control over you. More Americans are becoming enslaved every day, because it is the easy and lazy way out!
I believe this stems from the decaying morals of our society, and we must return to being the practitioners and exemplars of moral truth! This is necessary in our personal lives, by living lives of integrity, honor, charity, hard work, and sacrifice. No more talk about relativity! Moral truths are not relative, they are eternal and established by God, just like this country's Constitution was established by great men who were inspired and directed by God! This country is the promised land, and will be protected and stand as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world, but it will only continue to be as long as the American people adhere to moral truth. The moral truths of our government lay within the Constitution of the United States of America. Just as Americans have slipped away from moral truths in their own lives, our government has gradually slipped away from the morals truths of the Constitution, due to the corruptibility of power hungry men. This MUST stop! If we want our country to stay free and strong. We must return with the strength and courage our Founding Fathers and incorporate into the affairs of our government the principles of the Constitution and the private morality it teaches. We cannot hope to escape the fate of other nations who have gone to their destruction following the same path we are now taking. Be an American, and DO something about it!