CRITICAL THOUGHT OVER CRITICAL RACE
I recently attended a large conference in Atlanta, Ga, with over 10,000 people in attendance. I would estimate that upwards of 90% of that crowd fit the "racial" demographic of 'white.' I don't operate inside of the "racial" ideology of skin color, but most Americans understand our "racial paradigm" of "black/white" people. So as I sat at the conference I asked myself, "did the organizers consider in their planning the demographic diversity of the event that they were conducting?" And I self-answered, "I don't think so." I don't think they did it for any hateful or "racist" reason. In fact the real answer is probably that they simply didn't think about it. And maybe that's the problem, "thinking."
America is in a tough place on the issue of 'race;' because though it would be nice if we had the luxury of not having to "think" about it, the reality is if we ever envision a day where we won't have to think about it, then for now, we need to think about it. If you remember Morgan Freeman's interview with Mike Wallace many decades ago, Freeman said, "stop talking about it." We can't do that right now, but it is a future hope and I dare say a dream for those who want to live in harmony with others without regard to skin color.
And to complicate things further, now trending in our public discourse is the idea of Critical Race Theory. Few seem to know what it means and it simply confuses and bewilders a populace already dumbfounded by all of the ideas and concepts about "race" that have consumed us over the last 18 months. So what are we to do? Let's think about it. Really. Let's think about it.
Not addressing "race" in any constructive manner today is to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room.
Given I have been working in this particular field of "race" for the last three years, I understand the conundrum we face and the solution I believe is EDUCATION and teaching our students what it means to think critically.
Our public education system has been the problem for many years but it is the solution as well. The K-12 education of our children is not only the solution for issues like "race," but on most any other social, public or private matter affecting our country as well. How and why is this the case? It is not simply based on which facts we included or excluded in our history classes. We all grew up with varying degrees of knowledge on history. I particularly had a great wealth of "black" history growing up in Prairie View, Texas. I thought all kids knew Dr. Daniel Hale Williams and Garrett Morgan and others like them. But even being equipped with the knowledge of those facts didn't give me the tools necessary to make use of those facts. The education I needed was how to think critically.
As an educator, at the youthful age of 43 I learned about Bloom's taxonomy. This framework was used to address learning on varying cognitive levels. The lowest levels consist of simply recalling or remembering facts, which is how I recall most all of my assessments/test/exams outside of math being administered up through high school.
I was amazed in college when I saw students in my class taking facts, breaking them down, looking at them and then having an opinion on them. Wow, I didn't realize that you could go further with the facts and question them, analyze them and have an alternative view on them. They were learning and being educated. I was recalling facts and doing that quite well, but I was not being educated. Bloom shows us why education is so much more than just a recall of the facts.
This is why education is to blame. The problem has long been that we taught information without teaching how to make application of the information. As an example, today's arguments about the effects of slavery and a history of discrimination are all one-dimensional arguments about what happened and how we should now feel about it. Therefore most of our arguments aren't constructive sessions of intellectual dialogue about the pros and cons of viewpoints, but instead they are adversarial camps attempting to shout louder than the other side or stage the biggest protest/demonstration. When you're armed with only "facts," that's what you do. .
What if the facts could be used for more? What if we went higher on Bloom's taxonomy and began understanding, applying, analyzing and evaluating those facts? I think we could then "create" solutions rather than most people repeating, "yep, it's a problem.". We need to not only understand and know the facts of yesterday, but we should also have the ability to ardently interrogate those facts to determine how and if they are impacting us today. We could then place those facts in their proper context and use them to create beneficial solutions for our communities, schools, businesses, state and local governments, churches and other segments of our society. And what if we were able to do that with other issues beyond "race." What if we were able to do that with a pandemic?
But back to "race;" Because of our lack of elevation on Bloom's taxonomy, most people have no idea how the idea of "race" came into being, but they can tell you about the fact that slavery existed and that it was bad, really bad. Most people can tell you about the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but they haven't done the research to analyze how he personally felt about slavery. Was he in love with Ms Hemings, the slave, or was she raped? Most people can tell you about the fact that the slaves were emancipated, year and date, but they can't give you an analysis of why Reconstruction failed. Who were the pivotal characters making these decisions and what was their view?
Quality education produces the thought that gives rise to probing questions such as these and ultimately the answers. This is critical thinking/thought. It takes critical thought to ask, "why" and probe to find out. Much of our public school education only asks about facts and the reality is, life is not just about the facts; it's about the meaning ascribed to those facts by those wielding them and further an analysis of how those facts impact the issue being contemplated from various viewpoints.
We don't have a "race" problem. We have an education problem. The thought necessary to fix the education problem is the same thought that will solve our perceived "race" problem. Whether our schools have Critical Race Theory or not, it should all be subject to Critical Thought.