The Importance of Critical Thinking

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The Importance of Critical Thinking

Have you ever heard the catch phrases, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “if you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book,” or my personal favorite, “never fight someone who buys his ink. for the barrels.”

These sentences serve as testaments to the power of the written word. Newspapers, magazines, books and print advertisements provide us with a wealth of news, entertainment, research, economics, politics and personal information. Most assume that the information provided is accurate and honest. That’s why when Jason Blair of the New York Times admitted to lying and falsifying information, the media acted as if the foundation of journalistic integrity that the press was supposedly built on was rocked to its proverbial core . In reality, Mr Blair is not the first journalist to ever make up stories, create sources or lie. There were many others before him like Stephen Glass. The television news program “60 Minutes” reported that Mr. Glass covered people, places and events while working as a reporter for the New Republic newspaper. Fostster Winans of the Wall Street Journal was tried and convicted of insider trading after making trades in advance of reports he made in his market column “Hard on the Street.”

The reality is that we, as consumers of the written word, must become readers and critical thinkers. We cannot afford to sit and read our newspapers and magazines and books with a passive mind. For what? It is simple. Journalists, authors, journalists and advertisers have an interest in the information that we, the consumers, receive. They create the news with their purpose and agenda in mind. The unfortunate result of this prejudice is that all too often African-Americans do not fare well and are portrayed in a negative light. We are expected as predators of our own society. What is even more unfortunate, however, is that we accept these stories as reality and begin to believe that we are the sole cause of most of the crime, disease, poverty and urban conditions that our country has had

The media manages to turn us against ourselves and we see through those same smoke colored glasses.

To combat this cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies, we must become critical thinkers and understand that without our critical vision of media information we are nothing more than pawns of propaganda and racial miscegenation. Some of the steps for critical thinking are:

1. Know the author – find out who wrote the article or story and what is the purpose of the author to write.

2. Research that is the sponsor of the author – many articles are written for specific companies and, therefore, the research contained in those articles will be sided towards the contributor. Tobacco companies are a prime example of media sponsors. They hire individuals or companies to conduct studies and then publish the results of those studies. Think about it, would you write a negative article about the company that pays you?

3. Find the target audience – if you can discern what kind of people the author is trying to reach, you can usually deduce what they are trying to convey, sell or persuade to believe.

4. Look for illogical arguments or fallacies – often an author will use an argument that has no relevance to the subject and is used only to persuade. An example of this is when an advertiser is trying to sell a product and uses a celebrity to endorse that product. Most people think to themselves, “Well, if this rap artist, or that soap opera star uses it, it must work.”

African-Americans are a powerful force in this country. If we begin to read and think critically about the information we receive every day we begin to recognize how our society tries to control our economic spending, our thought processes, and our actions. We will begin to think more critically about how we are being targeted and make more educated decisions when spending our hard earned money. We will begin to see how we are used in the political arena. We will begin to see how advertisers target our children in an attempt to convince their parents to spend money on frivolous items. And hopefully, we will start to see that we really have the power. If we as a people begin to exercise our power as a whole collective, there are no limits to the changes we can make in this country.

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