On yet another occasion during which I was stunned by one of my neighbour’s stupidity and ignorance, it suddenly occurred to me that the person I was speaking with probably hadn’t read a book since high school.
(Yes, it then occurred to me that s/he probably hadn’t read a book during high school either.)
Then it occurred to me that that was probably true for most people.
I tried to imagine what that would be like. What my mind would be like if I hadn’t read a book, not one book, in the last, say, forty years.
Oh the horror.
Because what could possibly go on inside such a mind?
In addition to their high school history and geography textbooks, through which they might have plodded here and there, they might have read, perhaps, a dozen novels, in all. Library books for the annual book review assignment in English class. Who is the main character? Describe the setting. What is the main conflict?
They may as well be illiterate. They are, essentially. They’re functionally illiterate. Because yes, they can and probably do read package labels and price tags, but what else?
The newspaper. Which is pretty much nothing but exposition. Low-level description. No analysis. No critique.
What if everyone read just one non-fiction book a week? What if employers rewarded them for doing so, as many of them do now for physical exercise: in addition to so many points per kilometer, because it reduces their healthcare costs, so many points per page, because — Ah, there’s the rub. What’s in it for them? Nothing. In fact, on the contrary, it’s to their advantage not to have their employees develop knowledge, understanding, critical ability.
Okay, so what if the government implemented such a reward program? Well, it’s not really in their best interests either. Which explains, perhaps, why the education system doesn’t mandate critical thinking courses.
Of course, if parents … But every time they say ‘Because I said so,’ they stomp on critical thinking. It’s just easier that way, I guess.
So in whose interests is it be critical? Our own, of course. Otherwise, we’re suckers to manipulation by media. Corporations. Government. Anyone who puts their own self-interest before yours.
But in our society, the word ‘critical’ has negative connotations. It’s bad to be critical.
Oh the horror.