Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Should We Teach Critical Thinking? It Just Gets In The Way Of The Propaganda by Dr. Michael Flanagan

As a government and history teacher, I have this pesky habit of learning from the past and relating it to current events. Lately, incidents such as the Spanish American War and the yellow journalism of “Remember the Maine” come to mind, where the U.S. used propaganda to justify that imperialistic war. Or referring to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a “sneak attack” even though the Japanese had notified FDR and declared that there was a state of war between the U.S. and Japan. Or the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, and the false “attack” that the U.S. used to send half a million more soldiers to war. Or the invasion of Panama, in order to lock up a CIA drug dealer. And of course, there was the ever-popular Weapons of Mass Destruction, the global threat used to justify the war that made politically connected corporations like Halliburton, billions. Our government sees teaching of historical facts as dangerous, because they lead to logical conclusions. Critical thinking is not what a corporatist government wants, it wants automatons. Low information drones that accept mainstream media’s call to arms. History is problematic to propagandists.

So with fact and fiction so blended in our historical narrative and current events, I often find myself in the challenging position of having to decide between teaching the facts, or do what the majority of our politicians and so called journalists do: belch the propaganda that serves as facts but really just promote the lies that perpetuate wars, to enrich billionaires and kill untold numbers of innocent people, and American soldiers. When teaching or discussing politics, I must also consider the arguments I will encounter from those who wholeheartedly support the deceit they are fed --  as long as there is an American Flag flying in the background, and a Chyron at the bottom of the news broadcast insisting it is true.

Many of us remember the clarion call to war that echoed across this country when the Bush administration seized on the patriotism resulting from the 9/11 attacks to push for an oil war that cost trillions, and resulted in millions of casualties. People who dared to question or even disagree with the clear propaganda were attacked by both war-mongering political parties. Remember the Dixie Chicks? Now we have lowlife, also-rans like Howard Dean, a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) calling for Democrats to remove Tulsi Gabbard from her Hawaii Congressional seat because she is not lining up to support Donald Trump’s asinine attempts to escalate the U.S.’s proxy war in Syria. Freedom of speech and responsibility to the American voters be damned: if someone does not swallow the propaganda whole, they must be removed.

Tulsi Gabbard is perhaps the rarest breed in politics. A politician with integrity who speaks the truth regardless of party doctrine. She is also one of the few members of Congress who served in the armed forces in Iraq. She resigned from the DNC when it was clear that the Democrats were rigging the election against Bernie Sanders. As a matter of fact, she nominated Bernie Sanders at the DNC convention when he won the early morning vote, before the “super delegates” showed up to guarantee a Trump win in November. Tulsi is also the one politician who actually went to Syria and spoke to the people about what is going on in their own country. She proposed a bill to have the United States stop funding terrorist organizations, and to help refugees displaced by the U.S. attempt at regime change in Syria. For those of us who are not aware, when the U.S. uses the term “moderate rebels” what we mean is terrorists groups such as Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Al Nusra and ISIS. It just sounds more palatable to the masses if we use euphemisms. Many of those weapons our government provides to these altruistic “moderate rebels” are “stolen” and sold on the black market. Then, tragically, they are used to kill civilians and even U.S. military personnel.

Just hours before Trump bombed a dirt airfield with more than $90 million dollars in Raytheon ordinance, Hillary came out of the woods to say that... America should bomb an airfield. I would think it would give many pause to see Clinton advocating the exact same action that Trump took. And her supporters still wonder how she lost to the most unpopular presidential candidate in history. There is no real difference between the two when it comes to war mongering. And what was Howard Dean doing during that election? He was a super delegate, trying to force her down our throats. Afterwards, he wanted to run the DNC. These political shills feigned resistance to Trump, right up until the oil companies and military industrial complex saw the Syrian cash cow open up with the Sarin gas attacks. The very same gas attacks that have yet to be investigated. We now see liberal politicians that were resolved to resist Trump, calling him "presidential" and praising his decisiveness, just because he fired some missiles at an already war ravaged country.

Trump has proven over and over again to be a liar, yet as soon as there is money to be made, the DINO’s pucker up and kiss his orange ass. In a time of lies, telling the truth and questioning authority is dangerous. Especially when most politicians are owned by the military industrial complex and the oil lobby. Both political parties are corrupt, and dissenting political views, such as the truth, are decried.

So what is a social studies teacher supposed to do? Do I just regurgitate political talking points, and promote blind patriotism, or do I dare to resort to empirical data, critical thinking and common sense? Haven’t we all heard the old one about “those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it”? This adage was meant to be a warning, not a blueprint for perpetual war and the avarice of greed.


  1. What about sharing with students (and parents) some critical thinking around the real reasons behind standardized testing?

  2. Since when is "DINO" not a political talking point? I'm all for critical thinking, but this piece shows its bias quite clearly.

  3. Howard Dean is now a corporate lobbyist, and he is threatening the congressional seat of a fellow Democrat, a congress person who is an Iraq war veteran, because she questions Donald Trump's illegal act of war. A corporate lobbyist who threatens a Democrat, who is representing millions of people, is a DINO. That is not bias, it is a dissenting opinion, which the MSM is avoiding.

  4. Excellent article. Too much 'patriotism' and not enough critical thinking is a serious problem. Lack of actual information due to American censorship and media manipulation, and an idiotic refusal to listen to sources that are not American ( try listening to some of the speeches before the UN about US aggression and refusal to respect International laws), are leading us into a US instigated WW3. Rabid patriotism is not intelligent people!

  5. Read your own references much?

    ===== quote =====
    But Mr Shirley said: "Based on all my research, I believe that neither Roosevelt nor anybody in his government, the Navy or the War Department knew that the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbour. There was no conspiracy.

    "This memo is further evidence that they believed the Japanese were contemplating a military action of some sort, but they were kind of in denial because they didn't think anybody would be as audacious to move an army thousands of miles across the Pacific, stop to refuel, then move on to Hawaii to make a strike like this."
    ===== /quote =====

    The Japanese did not notify Eisenhower three saysd before Pearl Harbor.

    1. I am including additional references here. I never said the Japanese notified Eisenhower three days before Pearl Harbor. I wrote: "Or referring to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a “sneak attack” even though the Japanese had notified FDR and declared that there was a state of war between the U.S. and Japan.". But, Pear harbor was far from a sneak attack: "Because American cryptographers had also broken the Japanese naval code, the leaders in Washington knew as well that Japan’s “measures” would include an attack on Pearl Harbor.[4] Yet they withheld this critical information from the commanders in Hawaii, who might have headed off the attack or prepared themselves to defend against it. That Roosevelt and his chieftains did not ring the tocsin makes perfect sense: after all, the impending attack constituted precisely what they had been seeking for a long time. As Stimson confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”[5] After the attack, Stimson confessed that “my first feeling was of relief ... that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.[6]" . It was clear to both the US and Japan that war was inevitable. The US had frozen japan's assets, and placed oil embargoes on Japan.

  6. I would definitely try to be unbiased, yet point out how many stories in the media lack factuality and teach your students the importance of questioning authority. I had two or three high school teachers do this for me and it changed my life. Let the students do the rest themselves and with each other, Vygotsky proved that's how we learn best anyways.

  7. I guess critical thinking is the basis of the best level of education that should be taught and delivered to all the students. Of course, there are people who would say that less clever people are easier to manipulate, thus they are the best material for the development of the future world with people who cannot make up their minds. Critical thinking is what always takes the main place in my lesson planning so I hope that it will only flourish. It can also hope that paper writing service will become a better way to teach the kids to think critically.