In today’s Columbia Journalism Review is a excellent article on “churnalism”, their term for articles posted on news sites as news articles that are, in fact, simply press releases with little or no additional material. The article discusses who issues these “news” articles, and why. Not surprisingly, they’re a tool used to influence (and attempt to control) what the public thinks about specific issues.
I rant frequently in private about the failure of schools to teach critical thinking skills, and the consequent failure of much of the public to use those skills. Without them, you might be able to repeat experiments in a classroom, but you can’t do science. You might be able to decide who to vote for, but you can’t assess whether the candidate’s words and (more important) actions indicate that the candidate will do what you want them to do in office. You might be able to know what you want, but you can’t know why you want it, and whether what you want will actually have the results that you want it to have in your life. We live in a world where other human beings and the organizations that they create will try to influence us to think as they want us to think, not for our best interests, but for theirs. The amount of information we have access to is immense. It bombards most of us, forcing us to determine what to ignore and what to listen to. Without critical thinking skills, we won’t be able to sort out the nonsense from the lies from the truth.
People without critical thinking skills are at least as severely handicapped as people who never learned to read and write.