Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Critical Thinking Running Amok?

Acid tongues. Vented spleens. Poison pens. Caustic keyboards. Is it just me, or are we experiencing an unprecedented explosion of relentless, mean-spirited criticism toward anyone and anything?

Maybe it’s because we have more options than ever for expressing our “critical thinking”: Message boards, talk radio, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, even blogs like this one. Not to mention traditional venues, such as letters to the editor and public forums. Whatever the cause, it seems many people have adopted the philosophy, “If you can’t say something bad about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Having been a journalist for my entire professional career, I’m fully in favor of freedom of speech. But like any freedom, it should be cherished, not abused. Football coaches, for example, are lambasted by armchair quarterbacks who can barely distinguish between a jockstrap and a chinstrap. Government officials are chastised by citizens who have never set foot in any legislative chambers. Celebrities adept at acting or singing feel compelled to voice their “expertise” on national and world issues.

I’m not saying we don’t each have a right to express our opinions, but what’s wrong with making certain our views are informed by research and reason, not simply formed out of ignorance? Balance and rationality, rather than unrestrained bias and emotion, should temper the expression of our views.

When we point a finger at someone, our other fingers are pointing back at us. If we were as critical of our own lives, our own work, our own conduct as we tend to be of others, I wonder how well we would fare. As Jesus admonished, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

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