Monday, June 6, 2011

Fighting For "Rats"

Recently I was reading a book about the Civil War.  Some union soldiers were questioning why some southern prisoners  were fighting to keep slavery.  One southern soldier replied he wasn't fighting for slavery, he was fighting for his "rats".  After hearing the same reply several more times, the union soldier finally realized "rats" meant rights.  So the union soldier asked him which "rats" he was fighting for.  After great though, the southern soldier couldn't come up with a suitable answer, but he was sure they were important "rats".

Think of the times you watched the news and saw some clips of rebels fighting in some third wold country.  How many of these people really know what "rats" their fighting for or even have a clue that they are being exploited by leaders who basically care only about their own self  gratification.  It doesn't even have to be a third world country, just check out our own political or religious bickering.  I am always amazed watching elderly people on television bitching about keeping the government out of their lives.  Hello -- anybody heard of Social Security or Medicare.  That seems like a government intrusion, but one that nobody wants to give up.

As I see it, a major problem is people do not know how to exercise critical thinking.  It's easy to remember and chant bumper sticker quotes.  It takes a little effort to dig beneath the surface and separate fact from fiction.  Worst yet, it is really hard to face facts that are contrary to your opinion.

When I am King, every school in American will be required to have daily critical thinking activities starting in kindergarten.  Maybe someday, people will actually know which "rats" there fighting for.


  1. Not everyone's wetware is equally well equipped for critical thinking; i.e., poor critical thinking is partly nature rather than nurture.  The techniques used to teach critical thinking would have to allow for the fact that not everyone can learn it the same way, or can end up with the same skills.

    I've some sympathy, in this regard, for military folk; willingness to put oneself on the line for the common good is something a society needs — the problem is how to safeguard that sort of service against abuse by the "leaders" of society.  Some people still believe the US Civil War wasn't about slavery (and others who know better can still get away with pretending they believe it) because the Confederate soldiers weren't fighting for slavery — just as the US troops on the ground in the latest Iraq war weren't fighting for oil or corporate greed.

  2. Good educations realizes everyone can learn, but some will learn better than others. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  3. Absolutely. Well worth venturing. In the particular case of critical thinking, I mean to suggest it's even more complicated than some doing it better than others; there are really deeply different ways of thinking involved, and a successful education strategy will likely have to allow for that. Like a science fiction scenario with a meeting between several diverse sapient species, whose minds work on different principles.

  4. so john, at what age would you stop compulsory education for children (on the basis that by then you can tell who's brain can't gain any value from an education)?

    i'm pretty sure i heard somewhere that philosophy lessons are given as standard in norway, just as maths and history etc are. it should happen in more counties... if i ruled the world ;)

  5. Good educations realizes everyone can learn, but some will learn better than others. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.