Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a social justice activist and six-time NBA champion.
America’s most dangerous enemy is not terrorism, war or immigration. The greatest threat to our country is ignorance.
A healthy democracy depends on knowledgeable discourse for survival, but our national conversation is incessantly muddied. Information is twisted, contorted and butchered — so much so that Americans struggle to reach informed decisions about which policies or politicians to support. In order to arm Americans with the ability to distinguish truth from distortion, we must implement critical thinking into our K-12 education system.
Sixty-two percent of American adults get their news from social media. During the 2016 election, malicious fake news stories were more popular and shared more often on Facebook than legitimate headlines. Facebook itself brags it has the power to influence voters. According to a former Facebook employee, “There’s an entire political team and a massive office in D.C. that tries to convince political advertisers that Facebook can convince users to vote one way or the other.”
To make matters worse, we have junk science advocates in Congress (such as the senator who threwa snowball while on the Senate floor in an effort to disprove climate change); sanitized history lessons in schools (a history textbook describes slaves as “workers” and the Atlantic slave trade as a part of “patterns of immigration”); and Fox News, where only 10 percent of statements are true, according to PunditFact. Then of course, there’s our woefully uninformed president who routinely cries “Fake news!” in response to reports that are proven true.
Instead of acknowledging the leaks inside our own ship, we wave enormous flags, launch impressive fireworks, march in star-spangled parades and brag about American exceptionalism. We do everything to celebrate ourselves, but we do little to actually feed our malnourished democracy what it needs to thrive: informed citizens. Informed citizens are made, not born, and to make them, a nationally mandated program that teaches critical thinking in our schools is the lasting solution that we need.
Critical thinking isn’t just for political purposes — it also has practical career and life applications. It is a skill listed by employers, so learning how to think critically in childhood will increase employability in adulthood. It also appears to improve problem-solving abilities. A study of 85,000 teenagers across 44 countries and regions showed that students from countries that encourage critical thinking were better at problem-solving.
Read entire article at The Washington Post.