Now, here is an abstraction I would fight for, as many that came before me here in America did as well. Without free thinking, there would be no Mayflower or Plymouth Plantation. Without free thinking there would be no American Revolution, no Constitution as we know it, and no 230 some odd years of American history.
Without free thinking there would be no innovators, no “American Dream,” no birthright to make the most of your life, no Bill Gates, no Steve Jobs, no Microsoft, no Apple, and no great history of the American economy. Without free thinking, there is no literature, no American literature, just propaganda is all we would get. The world without free thinking is a very sad and dismal place. Imagine a world where the only words we are allowed to hear and read come from a Right that wants to control our thoughts and what we think.
So, why are some afraid of free thinking? Why are some afraid of teaching all our history in schools? Why are some afraid of the past that is not always an example of stellar behavior? Why are some afraid of what we might think?
I can give you an example from my lifetime, without free thinking we would probably still be in Vietnam sending more young Americans to a senseless slaughter. Free thinking led me to learn that the protestors, both civil rights and anti war of the 60s were right. Free thinking helped me to learn we do have a climate crisis of our making and we are running out of time to do something about it. If I had stayed in the comfort zone of my upbringing, I would never have learned to question what I hear and read. I would have let others do my thinking for me. I would have been easy picking for the partisan divides that tear American apart today. I cannot do this.
The absence of free thinking allows a Putin to send his own people to a war that is a war crime from its beginning. The absence of free thinking allows a North Korea to exist as a hermit country making bellicose threats just to remind the world that it is there. The absence of free thinking allows a country to shut down information, both coming in and going out.
The absence of free thinking has always allowed dictators to gain and hold power. The absence of free thinking allowed a Holocaust to happen and a country to look the other way as well as much of the world.
The absence of free thinking allows politicians to control our lives – end of story.
I will never be afraid of students being exposed to ideas and free thinking. I will never be afraid of teaching that opens minds to what has been and what could be.
What we should be promoting in our schools is teaching critical thinking. We need to teach respectful discussion. We need to teach an exchange of ideas, not what a thought police says is only allowed.
I shudder when I read the rhetoric coming from the Right. It is not new rhetoric, it has been heard before, try 1930s Germany, try the McCarthy period in the 1950s, try the racist defense coming from the pre civil rights American South, try the Republican movement of led by Reagan and Newt Gingrich in the 1980s, and now try the Trump/MAGA bunch.
All of these are echoes of thought control. This is antithetical to the American experience as we were given by our founders.
I will always fight for freedom to think. I have not leased my brain to anyone and I want to do my own thinking.
If we want to do American students a favor that will carry them through life, teach critical thinking and problem solving. Sorry Far Right, but you are Far Wrong.
Take care and thank you for reading me.
West Topsham, Vermont