In Plato’s Apology, Socrates declares himself “a sort of gadfly” to Athens, constantly stinging it, ‘stirring it to life.’ Among other things, he is concerned with the idea that Athens’ survival depends upon the quality of its citizenry. That quality is determined by each individual’s continual self-examination, that is, reflection on what makes a good life and how to live it. This is no easy task. Just what is the method whereby one examines one’s life, and just how one recognizes what the good is, requires an investment of time and effort that many people find insupportable.
I live on 17th Street.
Before dawn on any weekday morning, my street awakens. Bedroom windows in the apartment next door open onto my driveway. Showers start, people cough. Someone sings in Spanish, a radio is tuned to classic rock. Minutes later, a guy walks to his car, lunch box in hand. A mother stops briefly to tie her small daughter’s shoelaces before hurrying on to school.
I grew up in Malibu.
About a month ago, I landed on a site called American Thinker. I noticed “critical thinking” in the title of an essay by investigative journalist, Richard F. Miniter: “The Great Critical Thinking Dodge”. Because I routinely conduct critical thinking courses in my discipline, my curiosity was piqued. I was disappointed, however, that the essay was more a superficial political attack than a genuine engagement with an interesting topic: critical thinking and the politics of education.
“I am an artist first,” Tammy Ruggles declares. “I am also a legally blind artist.” The soft patter of her accent belies a steely determination she developed growing up in the rural South.
It was the only place where she felt calmer, and she had created it for herself. Temple Grandin was just fifteen-years old when she designed and built the “squeeze machine,” or “hug box,” and she’s been using her extraordinary mind to innovate ever since.
You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln
Some people believe that politicians attempt the ultimate fool: all of the people all of the time. Consequently, many observers find politics, and especially political campaigns, to be distasteful at best, and morally offensive at worst. Candidates, it is believed, will say anything to get elected, will engage in ruthless practices to win votes.
Of course, political “dirty tricks” and manipulative rhetoric disguised as argument are nothing new. That’s because they’re effective, inviting you to check your thinking skills at the door. The current master of this technique is the man who ‘has the best words,’ Donald J. Trump:
It’s in the air. You can catch a whiff from the U.S. presidential race as it gears up for the 2016 election. But it’s not just a political fragrance. No, it’s a pungently familiar smell that permeates all aspects of our lives. You produced some yourself in your last job interview. And, yes, that advertisement for penis enlargement supplements is an exemplar. “What’s that scent?” you ask. It’s bullshit.