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Colton Cutchens

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How much of a right do students have to questioning and independent thinking?

What is your opinion on how much students should be allowed to question? Do they have the right to question if they may see a logical fallacy? If so, how far are they allowed to question it? Why?

In addition: I understand teachers try to allow students to question, but sometimes are limited by the administration (and/or bureaucracy). Why is this?


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  • Jan 7 2013: Given the mass of comments and the fact that it's very late, I'll just read them later and give you my own thoughts as they are, uninfluenced. Forgive the contractions, but I'm feeling lazy...

    Colton, I'm also a university student, and although I study English, a lot of the theory that you deal with in philosophy I also deal with in critical theory. Learning as much as we do about the nature of humanity, knowledge, thinking and such, it's inevitable that we're going to question ourselves about how much we should question, and one of the qualities that comes with the act of questioning is that it is dangerous.

    Most people who think the way we do--when I say "we" I mean radical thinkers like those of the TED community--understand that to question conventional thought and to be critical of the things we hear, see, read, etc., is a part of who we are and we should not avoid it, much less repress it. I've been fortunate enough to come to that understanding in my first year when I outright told a professor I thought she was wrong when we were discussing the character duality in Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. Fortunately, she is an amazing educator and rather than discourage me she asked me why I thought she was wrong, but beyond that I learned that to question a supposed truth is not wrong; it is more important to question with reason and logic.

    Another important quality of the act of questioning is that the bigger the supposed truth, the more dangerous it is to question it. Consider democracy. As a Canadian, and as one who understands my country's political system, I do not find it to be democratic. I won't go into that explanation because I've only got 300 spaces left, but when I try to explain that to my family or friends, I'm met with doubt, indifference, and sometimes even anger. Canada has been run by it's current system since confederation, and it is not meant to be questioned. That's not to say I won't, but I must be ready to deal with the consequences. Pls comment.
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      Jan 7 2013: Yes, the pursuit of understanding should be why we question. And that is why "we," as you have put, question the social order of things. I, especially, question everything (even if a democratic government, such as a republic, is truly moral; alas, that is another conversation) because I hold reason, logic, and the awareness of my own ignorance to be the foundations of all my morals and beliefs. That way of life is, to my perception, not found in the mass populace, because it contradicts one's instincts and how our psychology has been wired. Therefore it is easier for one to act upon emotion, impulse, and instinct and making it difficult to live such a logical life without having people be wary of one's self. And seeming to me, that could be a reason of why questioning could be (or is) limited in the US, because some people of the bureaucracy could be acting upon emotion rather than reason? Is this speculation justified?

      Also, what is your opinion after reading the comments on this page?
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        Jan 7 2013: Is this speculation justified? Yes.

        Colton, you have raised the conversation from the bright young student in a stifled school environment such as founded in many public schools to a whole new level. So, if you haven't already, I suggest you get copies of the old "Star Trek" TV shows and get familiar with the character of alien Mr. Spock.
        He was a totally logical being and really had no moral code. He would not do an immoral act because it was illogical, not immoral. Although, he was more intelligent, more logical then the emotional, impulsive, instinctive Captain Kirk, he deferred to the Captain's solutions to the problems they encountered. Further, Captain Kirk relied on the intellect and logic of Mr. Spock in his decision making processes. Granted this was a created fiction, but unless you're an alien, you are stuck with the characteristics of Captain Kirk as are the rest of us. But, if you have the capacity to acquire the amount of knowledge to bring reasoning and logic to balance your life, you will have achieved a level most of us only aspire.
      • Jan 8 2013: My opinion still hasn't changed. It seems to me that there is some amount of separation in how much the commentators of this post believe one should question the things they learn or do in class, or their teacher for that matter, but in essence we agree that being critical is a necessary thing, even a responsibility. I still maintain that we should be considering the repercussions of critical thinking, especially when we're being critical of something that so heavily and influentially permeates the fabric of our society. We're questioning the education system right now, using reason and logic to examine the extent to which a student should truly learn, but the reality of the situation is that we're questioning societal norms and ideals that society generally holds to be true (though that does not mean everyone does). Students, especially those below a post-secondary level, generally do as they're told, or just ignore what they're told in the first place; regardless, society has developed systems that seek to provide it's self with working parts, simply for purposes of continuity. Unfortunately that has lead to a stagnation of conceptual thought, and ultimately to the stagnation of societal progression. As students, it is our responsibility to be critical of our nations, of humanity, and of ourselves, so that we can affect a certain amount of progression and change, regardless of the resistance we meet from our educational institutions or otherwise powerful organizations.

        @Mike Colera: I was just using democracy as an example. Regardless, Canada's political system being what it is, it runs based on democratic ideals and practices. We vote for MPs and our Prime Minister, and we call it democracy. So, going by the hegemonic norm that Canadians currently exist under, then Canada is a democracy simply because we have been told so since forever, regardless of whatever the conceptual ideal might be.
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          Jan 8 2013: @Mitchell. Fair enough. But I challenge your implied definition of critical thinking as to mean criticizing thinking. Why is it the responsibility of students to be critical of nation, humanity, or themselves. I stated in an earlier post that students have not a right but a responsibility to ask questions. The implication is that a student has a question to ask. Not all students ask questions, some accept the instructions given without challenge and some aren't really interested. And that is OK. I also commented on many American schools are so structured that scheduling hardly permits discussions on questions not noted on task. I further stated that students with unanswered questions may look elsewhere for answers. There is a world full of answers waiting for questions.
          I was conflicted by your concern of the stagnation societal progression, that you want to affect progression and change and you've recognized that society like people can be resistant to change... especially if comfortable. You live in one of the most free societies in the world, what would you do to make it progress? Is there a way to make it more free?
          What is your conceptual ideal?
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      Jan 7 2013: G'Day Sir:

      You must know that Canada is a constitutional monarchy, not a democracy. The USA is a constitutional republic not a democracy. I can't off handed think of a major nation that is a true democracy. There are a couple of small villages here in the US that are governed as democracies, but minor children have no vote.

      What is this fascination with democracy? Direct governing by the people? A phone call goes out to some 40 million Canadians asking them their vote on a trade deal with the USA? Who has time, the energy, the knowledge about such things. No one.
      People elect other people they respect to deal with such matters. The problem is the person I respect and elect has an entire differing point of view then the person you elect.
      So, here we are in this morass. The problem is to find a way for all these people can come together to deal with the nation's business and leave the rest of us to get on with our lives.
      The solution:
      If they can't get the nation's business done and cause the people annoyance, vote the rascals out. Keep voting them out until they get it right. Then vote them out before they get cocky and think they deserve to be there. Now that is real democracy.

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