Author:Tuccille, J.D.
Position::LIFESTYLE - Column

"HE HAS A class on race and emotional safety," an old friend of mine squealed with delight about her son's public school schedule.

I am equally delighted to report that my own kid receives no such lessons. When it comes to Anthony's education, my goal is to de-emphasize, not ratchet up, the importance that race plays in his interpersonal dealings. I also don't think that focusing on emotional safety--whatever that is--is likely to build the kind of strong, resilient people who can handle life's curve balls.

But I'm also glad that my friend is free to feed her offspring whatever nonsense she sees fit. The worst-case scenario is a world of homogeneous groupthink. Instead, if enough families do their jobs right, our kids will grow up in world of differing opinions and contending values--the sort of intellectual scorpion pit that fuels a free and open society.

"An important part of critical thinking is being able to give reasons to support or criticize a position," argues Joe Lau, a philosopher at the University of Hong Kong who specialized in metacognition. "The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice."

Critical thinkers "strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society," writes educational psychologist Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. "They strive never to think simplistically about complicated issues and always to consider the rights and needs of relevant others."

To support or criticize a position and consider the rights of others, you first have to be aware that ideas beyond your own exist, and that it's important to engage them. There's not enough of that right now.

Echo chambers arise when children are raised in an environment kept scrubbed of disagreement. Many college students today never learned to defend their positions because they rarely encountered contrasting views. Given that, headlines about speakers being chased off campus, while troubling, are hardly surprising.

In her May 2017 commencement speech, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust addressed the obvious disconnect between the students and faculty at elite universities, including hers, and recent political developments in the country. Too many people were simply blindsided by the degree to which a large percentage of Americans disagreed with them...

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