AC, CA, writes: “My daughter-in-law is arguing for a candidate for President she is supporting and thinks other family members should agree. This candidate has been freely expressing what I think are hateful statements, and I don’t think this candidate has the attitudes or the skills to be our President. I hate to see family arguments about politics. I don’t want to be silent, but I don’t have the confidence to respond constructively to her opinions.”
Getting along with family members is very important, and who becomes President is also very important! Being able to put forth one’s opinions effectively requires some effort to inform oneself about the candidates and the issues, as well as being clear about one’s values. It also requires the ability to listen, to respect, and to try to understand the reasoning behind others’ opinions. [I watch TV commentary but avoid the stations that do mostly “edutainment,” and find more balanced and in-depth commentary at CNN, BBC, and programs on MSNBC and NPR radio stations. I often watch Morning Joe, where both Republicans and Democrats participate and can disagree without rancor. In spite of the news, many people in both parties, as well as independents, have moderate views about many issues that face the country.]
I am surprised at the depth of the anger people are expressing–on both sides, but much stronger on the Republican side. People seem to be making decisions based on anger rather than thoughtful thinking. My opinion as a “layperson” in this area: I think politicians have been victims of their own success, in several ways. The districts they come from have been gerrymandered to the point that politicians are forced to take more extreme stands than they might otherwise. Are they just saying what people in their district want to hear? Politicians have also “over-promised” what they can and will do. They have also created legal advantages for the wealthy to the point that most of the wealth is concentrated in a small percentage of citizens. (Many would argue that the statement that tax breaks for the wealthy will help create jobs and “trickle down” to the general population has been shown not to work.)
The oppositional approach that has been taken in the Republican dominated U.S. legislature to everything that the Democrats or the President present is inexcusable in my opinion. My belief is that people must be willing to compromise in order to solve problems in a balanced way. There also seems to be long-standing generation-to-generation anger about cultural changes that run counter to their own experiences. And there seems to be a lack of understanding of a major tenet of our country: Separation of church and state (for the protection of both).
Many people don’t seem to be thinking critically. What issues does the candidate state as priorities? What has been this candidate’s experience in dealing with domestic and foreign issues? How will the candidate solve issues important to the American people? Are safeguarding health, women’s hard-won issues, important to them? (When candidates don’t answer questions asked of them, I question their readiness to take on the most important job in our country.) We can be important role models for the next generations when we approach these decisions with care and thought.
To quote one source in the field of critical thinking:
“A well cultivated critical thinker:
- raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
- gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
- thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
- communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.”
(Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools,Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008. Accessed at: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766)