In search of critical thinking

Ask almost any university educator about the purpose of a college education, and you will hear about critical thinking. Higher education involves much more than learning facts and concepts. It’s about learning how to think clearly, assemble facts, and make judgments. Our society today suffers from a shortage of critical thinking.

Consider the ongoing racial unrest. George Floyd’s death was a tragedy but continues to be poorly understood and misrepresented. Video accounts of an incident are at best limited and at worst misleading. They ignore everything before a recorded incident, cover a limited visual angle, and do not tell us what the participants were thinking. In the case of George Floyd, we know that Officer Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck when he died. Without any additional evidence, scores of political leaders and prominent media anchors concluded that Chauvin acted irrationally and intended to kill him.

Floyd’s “murder” was touted as more evidence that police prey on minorities in a country entrenched in systemic racism. Statues must come down, the police must be defunded, and violence in the streets must be understood. Somehow a disturbing video raised serious questions about the nation’s legitimacy. Anyone who points out the logical flaws in this analysis or dares to question the political agenda of Black Lives Matter is a racist.

The widely accepted interpretation of Floyd’s death raised many questions. For example:

  1. What does the evidence tell us about interactions between people officers and citizens of various races? We shouldn’t base our conclusions about police on a relatively small number of videos.
  2. Would Chauvin have dealt differently with Floyd if he were not black? It’s impossible to know for sure, which is precisely the point.
  3. What did race have to do with Breonna Taylor’s death? It resulted from a tragic police error, not racism. We should eliminate no-knock warrants.
  4. Why weren’t CEOs held accountable for the corporate sins they confessed after Floyd’s death? For example, if 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki was serious, why didn’t she resign in shame? I suggest you follow the money trail.  

We still don’t know all the facts about George Floyd’s death, but Chauvin’s attorney—Eric Nelson—offered a different and detailed account based on the bodycam footage. We also learned that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison initially withheld the video that could have shed additional light on the incident before the civil unrest began.

I don’t expect a media outlet like CNN to take Nelson seriously or question why Ellison did not release the video. As I write, most Americans know little, if any, about his claims, but anyone seeking to make a fair analysis of Floyd’s death must consider them. Many will refuse to listen to Chauvin’s defense because it might make them uncomfortable. But as former Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (and others) used to say, people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

Critical thinking takes practice, but it’s not complicated. It requires serious questions and a willingness to deal with inconvenient truth. Once you practice critical thinking, you will demand no less from corporate leaders, politicians, and media outlets.

15 thoughts on “In search of critical thinking

  1. Eric Nelson is just trying to save Chauvin’s ass. How can anyone NOT SEE Floyd’s murder as racism given all we’ve seen in the past. Maybe you are not blind but you are racist.

  2. only #4 of your questions is legit. 1. Evidence says that black people get shot by cops. 2. Yes Floyd would be alive now if we was white. 3. Police raided Taylor’s house because she was black. 4. The CEOs should resign and be replaced with qualified black candidates.

    your score is 1 of 4, 25%, failing in any class.

    1. cc: (1) what evidence supports your claim about cops shooting black people? (2) how could you or I know if Floyd would be alive if he was white? (3) Police executed a no-knock warrant by mistake. It had nothing to do with Taylor’s race.

      Show me where I’m wrong…

  3. Chauvin is making up the best story he can. He doesn’t have a choice, We know that from history. It’s common sense not critical thinking

  4. I LOVE PORTLAND but what’s happening here is tragic. I don’t care who you are voting for, this must stop now. Peaceful protests are welcome, riots are not.

  5. To the guy who calls himself BLM–I am not blind but I cannot see racism in the police videos. Racism is an attitude not an action. Unless you hear someone say something racist on a video you can’t tell. You are making assumptions. Remember, assume makes an ASS out of U and ME.

    1. Short answer: There will always be tribalism, but the US is not a racist nation. Most Americans I have met share MLK’s dream of a society that focuses on character, not race. The esteem for individual liberty and free enterprise in the Constitution has helped create a remarkably free, prosperous, and diverse country over the years. America is not perfect, but we have a lot to be proud of. We can keep improving if we work together, uphold the rule of law, and respect due process.

  6. everyone should get due process, but it takes time. we should demand full and honest investigations, not guilty verdictss

  7. happy labor day–great post, i love this site. i can’t answer any of the questions, don’t know why nobody else is asking them.

  8. Well said. The Daily Mail is publishing a lot that is being overlooked. We must ask the questions others are overlooking. Must be critical thinkers.

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