Revising Columbus

Here I am at work writing about Columbus Day on Columbus Day, which is appropriate because if ever a “holiday” ever deserved to be downgraded it is this one.

Among the older “traditionalist” white crowd, Columbus and his day have defenders such as this essay by Bill O’Reilly (aka “Uncle Bill had a few drinks and is yelling about random shit again”).  In the essay, which has all the depth and accuracy of an average middle school English paper (no offense intended to middle schoolers, of course), Uncle Rant decries political correctness (Wow??? Really?) and revisionist history.  O’Reilly’s conception of Columbus is so revisionist it swerves into fairy tale territory.  Bulbous Bill seems to believe that Washington Irving is a reliable primary source.

But even if we set aside his racist world view and probable murderous ways, was Columbus any kind of hero?  Are you kidding me??  Let’s look at a few historical facts.

After several failed screenplays and TV pilot that was never picked up, Columbus was looking for an easy score that would put him on the map. Using a Powerpoint that he copped from an obscure TEDx talk and a little of his own razzle dazzle, Columbus was able to grab a reverse Fullbright (an “Isabella”) to fund his travels.

His pitch to NASA (North Atlantic Sea Association) said that he would find the elusive Northwest Passage or Panama Canal, whichever came first, providing a direct route to India.  This would open a pipeline for tea and peppercorns benefiting committee members Lipton and McCormack respectively, which won the day for Columbus’s application.

It only takes one look at a globe (or a map if you are a flat earther) to realize that there is no way in hell to sail west from Europe and NOT “discover the New World.”  Columbus’s “discovery” is about as impressive as you “discovering” your own front yard.  Point yourself in the right direction and you can’t miss it!

A large part of the reason that almost nobody (other than the Vikings and the Irish, which are pretty much the same thing) sailed west from Europe before Columbus set off in his Fiat, was the mind crushing lack of curiosity of over 1000 years of Church rule.  The church avowed that they had all the answers, but nobody had any questions as pretty much everyone was busy either oppressing or being peasants.

This one book reliance by Europeans for over a 1000 years also lead the mapmakers of the day to overestimate the shortcutness of the western route.  Even though Eratosthenes had pretty much nailed the actual circumference of the earth some 2000 years earlier mapmakers never seemed to ask what could possibly be missing, even though it was pretty much a third of the actual globe.  When you can be burned at the stake for asking questions, you stick with what you know.

In summary then, Columbus was a grant grifter who stumbled over something that he literally could not miss and so is credited with “discovering” a place where 30 million people already lived.

Of course Uncle O’Rantly already knows all that and thinks that Columbus is really a hero for bringing “white, European, Christian values” to our continent.   By which he means the idea that if a peoples skin is darker than a Norwegian’s they are obviously potential slaves or exterminees — or both.

But that is more non-revisionist history for another time.  Or you could hear Randy Newman tell it.

Guns and Racism

It is unfortunately all too predictable in the USA.  We know we are going to have another mass shooting and we can predict what the reactions will be to the event.  I am not going to go on about the uselessness of “thoughts and prayers” but rather the other predictable aspect of the reactions.

When I first read the news of the shooting very early Monday morning, I was pretty sure it was carried out by a white guy.  How did I predict this given that the identity of the shooter had not been released yet?  Simple.  The police were already saying it was “not an act of terrorism” and that the shooter was probably a “lone wolf.”

These kinds of statements generally rule out a perpetrator with a foreign sounding name and dark skin.

Indeed through out the day the statements that politicians were issuing lead the conclusion of a white guy doing the shooting.

Member after Republican member of Congress expressed their “sadness” and offered “hopes and prayers” for the families.  Trump, after offering “warmest condolences” (what the hell are those?  Is he even a native speaker of English?) on Twitter, gave a speech full of bible verses of comfort for the victims.

If the shooter had been a dark skinned person with a foreign sounding name, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Republican Congress members and Trump would have been expressing anger much more than sadness.  Much more.

And instead of all this, “we shouldn’t politicize this moment with discussion of gun control” it would have been wall to wall, “See!  We need to clamp down the border!  Round those people up!”  Trump screamed this after every European attack, even when it turned out that the attacker was second or third generation European.

All of this is even more ironic given Trump’s campaign promise to “stop the carnage.”  His followers knew exactly what he meant, throwing even more inner city blacks into prison, while at the same time making it even easier for white guys to acquire huge arsenals, because, of course, they would “prevent crime.”

The NRA, the political third rail for Republicans, functions on the same sort of logic.  If for even a moment, the NRA were seen as a factor in allowing THEM to get guns, they would fall in shattered ruins.  But as long as they are able to portray themselves as allowing “law abiding citizens” (white people) to arm themselves for “self defense” (to shoot Black people) they can go merrily along.  Even mentioning gun control would shatter the Trump base, according to Steve Bannon.

Trump has shown he can screw over his base any number of ways, take away their healthcare, raise their taxes, continue filling the swamp and so on, but by god, you’ll be able to keep your guns!

In any kind of rational world, we would realize that people take up arms for all kinds of reasons ideological, religious, personal and even insanity.  Knowing that we can’t control the information people have access to or what kinds of beliefs they might hold (whether rational or not) that the answer is not trying to limit what people believe, but rather limiting their access to weaponry.

This is not to say that we should not try and prevent violence by those who announce their intentions, especially groups that do so, but how many times (like this one) have we heard the refrain after a shooting, “We had no idea he was thinking of such a thing.”  In the case of Las Vegas, the shooter had no criminal record and was actually seen as quite the high roller and business man.

Another interesting angle was added by Ann Telnaes, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post: sexism.  To wit:  When was the last time you heard of a mass shooting committed by a woman?  We run around trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, etc., but no one (except her, so far) seems to notice that we really should keep guns out of the hands of men.  Whether homicide or suicide, men are just damned dangerous when it comes to guns.

The only expressions of anger I saw yesterday were from Democratic representatives and others who think we need a more sensible gun control strategy.  I agree with them.  Why in the world should a guy be able to accumulate an armory’s worth of firearms which can rain down death on hundreds of strangers from half a block away?

Keeps gun companies rolling in money, Republicans in office and the rest of us in mourning.

Time for a change.


ps I am behind a school system firewall, so my sourcing is weak today.


Another Priest, More Child Porn

I will assume that most of you have seen by now that another Catholic priest is a suspect in child sexual abuse.  The Vatican had to withdraw one of its diplomats from the US following allegations that he violated US laws in regard to possessing child pornography.  It was reported that the Vatican was asked to lift his diplomatic immunity so that he could be charged, but the request was denied.

This time I am not going to go through the outrage of yet another priest being charged being protected by higher ups in the church.  So much for the new levels of accountability and transparency that Pope Francis promised.  Same shit, different priest, it looks like.  I am going to hold my outrage over that to make what may be a larger, more comprehensive point.

This is proof the Catholic Church — from Francis on down — doesn’t believe its own shit.

Now, with all the “this is still just alleged” caveats in place, we can use this guy or anyone of the Catholic priests in similar situations to show this.

So, if you really believed that there was an eternal god who watched everything you do and who could send you down to eternal torment and damnation, would you really be downloading child porn to your computer?

This is not some case of rationalization: “If I browse incognito, my wife will never find out, and any way divorce ain’t so bad.”  This is a guy risking eternal damnation from an all seeing, all knowing god.  There is no way to rationalize or hide his guilt.

Normally, I would say, “There is no way to really know what someone believes,” but in this kind of case we have some serious clues.  In this case he seems afraid of facing the civil authorities, looks like he is more afraid of jail time than eternal damnation.  Seriously?  Jail worse than hell?  Apparently so.  This guy clearly doesn’t believe what the church preaches.

And neither does Pope Franky.  If there really was a god who has strategy sessions with Franky, what do you think the chances are that secrecy and coverup is what god would recommend at this point?  Maybe at some point it could have been argued that covering up a stray case or two might have been best for the organization (I would not make such an argument, but it could be made).  But that time is well past.  This kind of report clearly hurts the organization, with Franky risking being dismissed as just another hypocrite.

But is Franky at all concerned about divine retribution toward himself or the church?  Sure as hell doesn’t seem like it.  Sure seems like the attitude is, “If we can sweep this under the rug until people forget, we are OK.”  But god supposedly sees all and remembers forever.

I usually say that we can’t really know what people really believe, but judging from their actions, the Catholic church believes in a god that is much more concerned about what people eat for lunch on Fridays than about stopping child sexual abuse.

And these are the kinds of “absolute moral standards” that belief in god is supposed to bring us.

No thanks!!

Tough Being a Bigot These Days

Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about our current atmosphere of normalizing bigots from the White House on down.  I am speaking here philosophically, what can your modern bigot really believe in?

Even a modicum of science shows that there are no “races” among human beings, but only one “race,” human.  Once again, don’t misunderstand, I know that bigots are really big on the Black vs White thing, but once you get beyond that, bigots must be confused these days.

You really have to wonder how many of those Neo-Nazis and Neo-KKKers in Charlottesville and elsewhere even know the history of their bigotry.

Steve Bannon must know that it was not that long ago that Irish Catholics were not considered  were not considered “white.”  At the same time, Catholics were considered “UnAmerican” because of their religion.  The idea was that because their loyalty was directed toward the Pope that they were incapable of participating in a liberal democracy.  Sound familiar?

And don’t even get me started on whatever the hell “Aryan” might be.

After the Irish, during the early part of the 20th Century, southern and eastern Europeans were not considered “white.”  These two paragraphs sum up the situation pretty well:

Between 1880 and 1910, almost fifteen million immigrants entered the United States, a number which dwarfed immigration figures for previous periods. Unlike earlier nineteenth century immigration, which consisted primarily of immigrants from Northern Europe, the bulk of the new arrivals hailed mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe. These included more than two and half million Italians and approximately two million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as many Poles, Hungarians, Austrians, Greeks, and others.

The new immigrants’ ethnic, cultural, and religious differences from both earlier immigrants and the native-born population led to widespread assertions that they were unfit for either labor or American citizenship. A growing chorus of voices sought legislative restrictions on immigration. Often the most vocal proponents of such restrictions were labor groups (many of whose members were descended from previous generations of Irish and German immigrants), who feared competition from so-called “pauper labor.”

To add fuel to the fire, new developed “intelligence” tests were widely used to test soldiers for the armed forces in World War I.  The main developer of the test, Lewis Terman, believed (early in his career) that…

The tests have told the truth. These boys are ineducable beyond the merest rudiments of training. No amount of school instruction will ever make them intelligent voters or capable citizens. . . . They represent the level of intelligence, which is very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes. Their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stocks from which they come.

 Again, sound familiar?  In my own cultural upbringing we were still telling Italian and Polish jokes in the 1960s that reflected Terman’s view that such people were culturally and genetically doomed to idiocy.    But now, racist Richard Spencer’s wife is (apparently) of Eastern European descent, not to mention Trump’s (latest) wife as well.
Again and again, racists have taken up the cudgel that says that some group or another can’t ever be smart enough, dedicated enough or whatever enough to be as good as the “leading” group.  Humans, being infinitely adaptable prove this trope wrong over and over again.
Which leaves racists in trouble again and again.  Does “white” include Asians, who just happen to out perform many “whites” academically?  Are Greeks and Italians now “white?”  What the heck “race” are Jews and/or Israelis?  Are the people who come from the modern Caucacsus  region “white” (that is to say, Caucasian)?  Even if they are Muslim?
Seems like it is pretty damned hard to know who to be racist against thse days.
Some racist types try to get around this by not referring to race specifically, but rather “culture” or “heritage.”  So they will refer the superiority of say, “European Judeo-Christian” culture.  And yet, this idea of such a “culture” doesn’t extend to Mexico, even though “For three centuries Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, whose legacy is a country with a Spanish-speaking, Catholic and largely Western culture.”
Which leads me to wonder if the problem in Mexico is that the Spanish were not quite as thorough in their extermination of the native peoples, like the “superior” Europeans were north of the border.
And again, for some racists, those of “Judeo-Christian” heritage doesn’t actually include Jewish people.  For other racists, coming from “Western Civilization” doesn’t actually include modern Italian and Greeks — WTF??
The “cultural” idea also breaks down because “culture” is obviously behavioral to a large extent.  People can adopt new cultures or ignore old one.  Richard Spencer says he is an atheist, but also claims to be a “cultural Christian.”  WTF does that even mean?  So, he can reject large chunks of his “culture” but still claim membership in it?  But other people can’t adopt that culture and have actual membership in it?
Confused?  I know I am!
Near as I can tell the racist types decide who is in what camp on a case by case basis, which is, of course antithetical to the idea of racism.  Which is not to say that racists are somehow admirable in modern society, only that they don’t seem bright enough to even figure out what they are really about.
Other than just hating other people, of course.

Islam, Pishlam

In both the atheism community and the wider culture there is a stream of thought that Islam is the worst existential threat to Western Civilization, since, well, ever.

While this video is representative of the genre, it is not the best, or even the most over the top, there is probably someone more shrill on Fox news at this very moment, but he does pretty much hit the high points and happened to be in my feed the other day.

For me, the most hilarious part of the video is when he says that Islam is more dangerous to the West than the Nazis or the Communists.  This is completely laughable.  ISIS is certainly reprehensible, but as powerful and dangerous as Nazi Germany?  As scary as the Soviet Union with its nuclear arsenal?  Get real please.

Don’t get me wrong, ideas can certainly be dangerous, but ultimately it isn’t really ideas that kill people.  Murderous regimes have come about under all kinds of guises and ideologies.  People have killed in the name of Jesus, Mohammed, Odin; for communism, socialism and capitalism.  I sometimes wonder if the desire to kill comes first and the ideology comes later as cover or explanation for what people wanted to do in the first place.  As of yet, Islam has not captured the full power of modern industrial state to carry out some program of world conquest, like the Nazis did in Germany.

Nazism is certainly a dangerous idea, but without the power of a state behind it you get Charlottesville, not the Holocaust.  Islam is not going to “destroy the West” any time soon.

I would agree that Islam is more on the radar right now, but I don’t think there is something unique about the religion that creates terrorists.  When you look around at the world at the moment the areas of the world that have failed states or people with extreme grievances fall into areas with Muslim populations.  Whatever religion Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon harbored would be a problem in today’s world.

In the same way, I disagree very strongly with Sam Harris (and others like him) that say that Islam poses some kind of unique threat to the world.

There are billions of Muslims in the world and most of them are like most of the Christians in the world, in that religion is but a small part of the make up of their lives.  They spend most of their time just trying to feed their families with and occasional nod toward the mosque.

Are Muslims getting more conservative, literal and public with their religion?  Yes, I think they are.  Even here in small town Wisconsin I have seen women wearing headscarves.

But the exact same thing can be said about Christians as well, large numbers seem to be getting more conservative, literal and public with their religious observances as well.  For the last 50 years they have been trying to force their religious views into public policy on abortion, contraception and gay rights.

I am also pretty sick and tired of the “Islam, religion of peace my ass” memes that go around.  Again billions of Muslims go about their business not being a threat to anyone.  I am no expert on the Koran, but I really do find it hard believe that it has any more violent or stupid laws or incidents than the Bible does.  And even if it does, most Muslims in most countries ignore that stuff just as easily as most Christians ignore the need to be stoning people for various “offenses.”

Some of the Islamic Alarmists point to the fact that Muslims will probably outnumber Christians in the next 50 years or so.  OMG they are converting the world!  Well, actually no.  Being that Muslim countries tend to be poor (and Asian, believe it or not) they are simply out reproducing Christians at the moment.  Oh and the largest populations of Muslims are going to be in Indonesia and India.  Countries we worry about all the time, right?

Now, it is certainly understandable that Fox news is going to continue to demonize and overhype the Muslim threat to “Western Civilization.”  That’s what they do.

I wish though, that actual smart people, like Sam Harris, would get off the idea that Islam poses some kind of unique threat.  It doesn’t.  It is the same as pretty much any other religion.  The really ironic thing is that conservative Christians and Muslims agree much more than they disagree.

Both oppose evolution, reproductive rights, women’s rights and secularism.  Both feel that they understand exactly what is in the mind of god and that it is their duty to impose the “will of god” on everyone through a theocratic government.

All of that is dangerous and needs to be opposed, no matter which god or “holy book” is behind it.

Beyond Belief

I have had several streams which have brought me back to this subject/idea which I have written about before.

The idea is simple, as a person who studies psychology, I am pretty sure that there is no way to actually know what is going on inside a person’s brain.  If I can’t know if we both see the same color red, there is certainly no way I can know how you actually feel about something.  Specifically, there is no way I know whether or not someone really believes in god.

Recently on Reddit, someone asked whether Hitler was a “Christian.”  The answer at some level was “yes,” as he was born and raised in the Catholic church.  But throughout his life he expressed all kinds of opinions about the church.  What did he really believe?  I contend we will really never know.

It is also clear to me that the same question can be asked today of people like Joel Osteen and Newt Gingrich.  Do they really believe?  It is easy for the cynic to say that they are simply using religion to further their political and financial goals (which is also probably true), but they might really believe what they say as well, I don’t think we can ever know.

The other stream that lead me to think along these lines again is the last few episodes of the Thinking Atheist podcast, Seth is sounding a bit like I have been feeling over the last six months — burned out and losing a bit of hope.  Seth’s recent episodes have got me thinking about atheism and our movement.

Oddly, the atheism movement has its ideologues, people who think that agnosticism is wishy-washy atheism, and that, in fact, accepting atheism means accepting an entire skeptical worldview.  As an atheist (to hear some say it) I am also supposed to not believe in ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot as well.  That somehow atheism relates to the acceptance of the effectiveness of vaccines as well.

For myself, I am moving away from an “anti-theism” position to much more of a “anti-coercive-religion” position.  This might take a bit of explaining, I suppose, so I will use my children as an example.

After my divorce, my ex plunged deeply back into her Catholicism.  During the divorce she accused me of “browbeating” her to join me in my lack of religion (by letting her go to church while I stayed home and made breakfast, apparently) so she doubled down after we split.  She continues to raise the kids in the church, which I can’t do much about.

Now that they are entering adulthood, I find myself not really caring what my kids “believe.”  If they want to believe in god, UFOs or Bigfoot, that is OK.  I just don’t want them going off the deep end.  It is one thing to think you just might see Bigfoot someday, it is quite another to move to Saskatchewan into a remote cabin to dedicate your life to getting a picture.

I hope very fervently they will leave the corrupt and evil Catholic church.  Do I care if they say “Thank god” when something good happens.  Not really.  Do I care whether they meditate or pray?  Not really.  Whether they offer “thoughts” or “prayers” in tough times?  Not really.

Of course I would prefer if they used critical thinking skills and made decisions based on evidence.  But I understand that no one does that all the time and a few irrational beliefs are a part of our humanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that beliefs and attitudes affect our eventual behavior.  I know there has to be a middle ground between the slippery slope argument that any belief in god eventually leads to the Inquisition and the very real idea that allowing for a belief in god also allows for the belief that the Bible is really the word of god which allows for the belief that homosexuals must be killed.

It is my opinion that we don’t necessarily need to go back to the belief to prevent the slippery slope.  If my kids tell me they think Bigfoot is real, OK, maybe he is out there somewhere.  If they tell me that Bigfoot is emptying their birdfeeder, then I am going to need some kind of evidence.

Which brings me back to agnosticism, which actually I find to be a viable philosophical position.  Is there a god?  Maybe.  I see no evidence there is, but there is also no evidence to alien civilizations, but they might exist.

Philosophically, I can concede the existence of god without really changing anything.  For example William Lane Craig likes to use the Kalam Argument to “prove” god exists.  I think it does no such thing, but even if I concede that it does, I see no way to get from “Something supernatural created the universe” to “Everything in the bible is true and Jesus died for our sins.”  And apparently Craig doesn’t either as he just leaps over the gap with no further explanation.

I see it as perfectly possible to be against any and all religions — whether or not a god exists.  In fact sometimes I find the logic of “Do you really think that I god who created all this would say the silly things people have put in his mouth?” to be a fairly persuasive argument.  Really?  The creator of the infinite universe is offended and upset how some people have sex?  Makes no sense.

I also find that this position is helpful from a political standpoint.  Many religionists are actually in agreement with us that secular government is the way to go.  We need all the allies we can get in these times.

For me, anti-theism is not an immediate or even long term goal.  Being against religious people and organizations that want to impose the “will of god” on other people is now my goal.  I don’t think for a minute that atheism is necessary to want “freedom from religion.”


A Painful Admission

It is painful for me to admit, but I lost heart.  Totally lost heart.  It wasn’t so much that I knew the incoming administration would be bad (and the reality has been worse than the anticipation), but rather that the country had been duped and worse, was OK with being duped.

Watching the entire country make a disastrous decision based on bad information is a really hard thing for a teacher of critical thinking to live through.  Even worse was that many of my actual students were in agreement with the country’s decision.  It continues to amaze me how many of my students, both male and female, are Trumpian in outlook.  It saddens me deeply.

I lost heart so much that I just couldn’t write.  Words seemed hollow and useless.  I thought lots of words, but none of them seemed useful to actually put on “paper.”

This is a halting restart of my writing…more to follow.

Encouragement most welcome.

Critically Ventilating

As those of you who have read my scribblings in the past might know, I teach Critical Thinking as an adjunct instructor at a public college.  With your kind indulgence, I am going to vent a bit about some of the issues that I have with the teaching of this class, partially as venting and partially as an indication of what can go wrong in the ed biz (as Tom Lehrer once put it).

First let me say that I am a great believer and supporter of education, in terms of learning new things and general self improvement.  However, I have had more than a few problems with the educational system.  And now is one of those times.

Teaching critical thinking is one of those interesting things in that you are looking for an attitude change as much or more than the acquisition of facts or skills.  I have looked many times and have been assured that it is possible to assess the changes in a person, what, criticalness of thinking, but as of yet, I have not found an instrument that actually does that.  So, assessment is a bit of an issue.  Sure, I would love for students to come up to me at the end of the semester and say, “You know, I think maybe Trump is a liar,” or “Creationism now seems nuts to me” or even, “This class made me decide I’m an atheist.”  But I am not holding my breath for any of that, and I certainly can not give grades based on that criteria.

My first semester or two, I had to figure things out on my own, and I think I did OK with that.  Recently the college has decided that all instructors should follow the same course outline and all use the same assessments.

Had they invited me to the meetings where the course outlines were decided I would have told them that I think it all sucks.  The textbook is much too heavy on deductive argumentation (a full chapter on Venn Diagrams, another on logical truth tables, out of twelve chapters).  The book barely mentions cognitive biases, statistical concepts such as correlation and nothing at all about Bayesian reasoning.  So, I am not a fan.

The assignments are even worse, in my estimation.  For each chapter there is a quiz.  Each quiz consists of an average of about seven (yes, 7) multiple choice or true/false questions.  Students are to take 10 of the 12 quizzes.  Each chapter has a discussion board question which allows free form answers, but students only have to do six of the twelve chapters (yes, you read that right as well, 50%).  Finally there are four “papers,” three of which amount to expressing opinions.  Here are the four assignments: 1. asks the students to say what they would do in a legal case (and justify their reasoning); 2. Write a personal goal statement and plan; 3. Make a major decision using a decision matrix; 4. Write a position paper on a controversial topic.

In a meeting last year, I suggested getting rid of the tests and having more projects (I previously used oral presentations and debates) and people freaked out.  This year I have been informed that students should be allowed unlimited attempts at the quizzes and that they can work together on them and treat them as “learning exercises.”  But the scores still count toward their grades — and no other assessments have been added.

I now have no way to differentiate the students, the quizzes were a bit of a crap shoot, now everyone should get them all right, bulletin board posts tend to be good and they are informal, so most people get full points, three of the papers are just expressing opinions, and most people do terrible on the position paper because they are not good at academic style writing.  So, do I give everyone an A or a C?

I feel like they have made a class that is supposed to impart one of the most meaningful “soft skills” of the 21st century is now pretty meaningless.  I am deeply disturbed by this development.

And don’t worry about my future as a result of my public airing of this, I am already “fired” by my college.

This past summer the college decided that all instructors have to have a Masters degree.  At first they said that they would pay half the cost to help those of us who are lacking, but then decided the funding would only go to a chosen few.  I still have no idea how they chose the few.

But this is where I have a real problem with educational system.  I have 30 graduate class hours from a Masters program.  For lots of different reasons I did not write a thesis and therefore did not get a degree.

I have looked at getting my degree and pretty much no college I have contacted will give me credit for my previous graduate work (too old!!).  When I look at their programs (all online, no graduate school here!) I basically take 30 hours of classes to get my Masters — no thesis requirement!  Which is exactly what I have now.  So, basically it will cost me $20K to retake the courses I already have to do a job that I have been doing for the last seven years, with no guarantee on their part that will be given future class assignments.

To add some insult to injury, my background is in psychology and I do often teach psych classes, but for the past several years, I more often teach critical thinking now, so if I got a Masters in Psych, I STILL would not have a Masters in what I am teaching.

Again, although I love the idea of education and self improvement, the idea of certification chasing (paper with little or no real meaning) is abhorrent to me.  I have been told that since I have the required number of graduate classes in psychology I can continue teaching if I get a Masters in ANYTHING.  That strikes me as completely insane.

Thanks for letting me vent, feel free to fire away in the comments.


What is Critical Thinking?

Of course every election season has me asking the above question, especially this one, but that is not why I am asking.

Several years ago I was asked to teach Critical Thinking at my college and I agreed to do so.  The textbook I was given looks at the subject from a philosophical standpoint.  It starts with “What is an argument” and includes things like Venn Diagrams, Truth Tables and several chapters on formal and informal logical fallacies.

The book touches on (very obliquely) Bayesian and other statistical reasoning which I expand on quite a bit.  It also touches (very obliquely, again) on some of the modern work in cognitive biases, which, again, I do expand on.

My question to all of you is: Is there other areas of Critical Thinking that you feel are important?

What have been your most important lessons in Critical Thinking?

What do you wish you knew about Critical Thinking?

Any and all responses would be most helpful to me and my students!