Critical Thinking

Exploring Egocentrism: Pathological Tendencies of the Human Mind

Egocentrism

(Photo Credit: YouTube)

In an epoch where selfishness pervades the land, the use of reason is seriously waning, the value of critical thought is fading, and mendacity has become almost normalized, this piece offers you new vocabulary words to understand what’s at the core of the aforementioned: egocentrism. We must fight the human mind’s proclivity to favor the egocentric. Engage with the following vocabulary words to expand your analyses of egocentrism.

Egocentric myopia: the natural tendency to think in an absolutist way within an overly narrow point of view.

Egocentric memory: the natural tendency to “forget” evidence and information that do not support our thinking and to “remember” evidence and information that do.

Egocentric righteousness: the natural tendency to feel superior in the light of our confidence that we possess the Truth when we do not.

Egocentric hypocrisy: the natural tendency to ignore flagrant inconsistencies—for example, between what we profess to believe and the actual beliefs our behavior implies or between the standards to which we hold ourselves and those to which we expect others to adhere.

Egocentric oversimplification: the natural tendency to ignore real and important complexities in the world in favor of simplistic notions when consideration of those complexities would require us to modify our beliefs or values.

Egocentric blindness: the natural tendency to not notice facts and evidence that contradict our favored beliefs or values.

Egocentric immediacy: the natural tendency to over-generalize immediate feelings and experiences, so that when one event in our life is highly favorable or unfavorable, all of life seems favorable or unfavorable to us.

Egocentric absurdity: the natural tendency to fail to notice thinking that has “absurd” consequences.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men: A Review

The Black Man Can Journal

Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men (2012), penned by Brandon Frame of The Black Man Can, is a powerful journal specifically designed for Black boys and men to engage in critical thought and reflection.  In the 284 pages of the journal, Black boys and men have an opportunity to create a vision and plan for ameliorating their own lives in their own language.  Never has there been a personal journal produced solely for Black boys and men.  Through this journal, they are provided with space to express their thoughts on a range of issues and respond to essential questions.  Powerful quotations from accomplished Black men have been carefully selected and masterfully deployed by Brandon Frame to inspire critical thought.

An extensive body of empirical research has evinced that Black male students throughout the educational pipeline academically underperform all students.  In the face of this reality, tools must be available to militate against the factors that contribute to Black male academic underachievement.  Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men is one of those innovative and valuable resources we need to help Black boys and men to progress academically, professionally, socially and personally.  The issues and questions they will confront in the journal offer them opportunities to face what they must do to make a significant change in their lives.

Too many Black boys and men are allowed to read and internalize negative narratives about themselves—primarily verbal and written narratives from Whites who do not wish them well.  Harper (2009) contends that Black males must have the opportunity to tell their own narratives in their own voices to offer meaningful and necessary counternarratives to the dominant extant narratives about them—the dominant narratives about them are mostly untrue, demeaning, and racist.  Through this journal, Frame empowers Black males with opportunities to write their counternarratives.

A growing body of professional literature demonstrates that mentoring Black male students leads to higher academic achievement and motivation.  Frame’s journal equips those who mentor with a resource that can be used to aid them in the process of transforming the lives of Black male students.  For those who mentor Black men, it gives them a tool to facilitate proper guidance and support.

Black fathers and sons now have a serious means through which to share and learn from one another.  I envision this journal helping to form Black male virtual and non-virtual communities and spaces where important ideas, challenges, problems, and solutions are discussed, shared, envisaged and implemented.  Additionally, I can see multifarious conferences and think tanks developing from those who read and use this journal.

I highly recommend this journal.  It can be purchased here: Purchase the Journal Here.  For only $15.00, you could save your own life and/or the life of a Black boy or man by buying this journal.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Preparing Students to be Critical Thinkers

Black Woman Thinking

One of the most important jobs of an educator is to prepare students to be critical thinkers.  In a postmodern America educators have a responsibility to provide multifarious opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking exercises.  More focus has to be placed on building critical thinkers rather than assuming students are already critical thinkers.  Many educators see that believe that they already have critical thinkers who need to be challenged to become more advanced critical thinkers.  Even the most ostensibly gifted student in your classroom needs to benefit from rigorous preparation for critical thinking.  While great attention has been devoted to teaching Common Core standards throughout the United States, the top goal of those standards must be to produce true critical thinkers.  An educated person is a critical thinker.  If a person cannot think critically, he or she is not adequately educated.

We have to reimagine our pre-k – college classroom as critical thinking laboratories.  The pursuit of a diploma and degree must have significantly increased critical thinking skills and capacity attached to it.  Many people are familiar with the trite question: Why can’t Johnny read?  Let’s replace this question with a new question: What critical thinking preparation have we given Johnny to help him to be able to read?  Learning how to read is a challenge.  We, therefore, have to offer Johnny training in critical thinking that will enable him to conquer the challenge of learning to read.

Do You Truly Want to Close the Achievement Gap?

Educators and administrators genuinely committed to closing the academic achievement gap between white and non-whites will begin to embrace how vital it is to transform classrooms into critical thinking laboratories.  Imagine being in a Mathematic class where teachers take the time to view each problem through the lens of building critical thinkers.  How the students conceive and work through each problem will be viewed as just as essential as the actual answer.  We will begin to see instructors assigning students to write reflectively about their Mathematics problems, empowering instructors and students with a keen understanding of strengths and weaknesses in solving assigned problems.

What is the Goal of Preparing Students to Become Critical Thinkers?

First, our American democracy depends deeply on an educated citizenry.  Without a mind that thinks critically, one cannot fully comprehend democratic principles and values.  If you don’t think that a failure to grasp democratic principles and values is a problem in America, think again.  At the epicenter of racial, economic and educational problems is a problem with the majority of citizens not being able to cognize and maximize the power of democratic principles and values.  The fight to maintain democracy in America rests first at the doors of democratic education, which critical thinking is central to its composition.

Second, we need critical thinkers to solve the complex national and global quandaries we face.  Terrorism, economic inequality, racial discrimination, world hunger, and etc. cannot be resolved without critical thinkers.

Finally, critical thinkers are crucial to making the next generation of thinkers ready for the tremendous challenges they will encounter.  The world will continue to advance.  Educators must ensure that there is an appropriate transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.

Conclusion

Let’s empower teachers with the flexibility and tools to transform students into powerful critical thinkers.  From pre-k – college, teachers must concentrate on how they can become meaningful participants in facilitating the evolution of leaders equipped to think in ways that change our world.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sometimes You Need to Cry

Black Man Crying

I’m not shame to cry in front of you!

Many people see crying as a weakness.  You’re going to face times in your life when you will need to cry.  It’s healthy for you to cry occasionally.  When you allow yourself to let the tears roll down your face, this can be a moment of emotional and psychic cleansing.  This moment can also provide you with the clarity you need in your life.  Do not, however, allow crying to become your answer to all of your problems—let it be a part of the process of how you deal with many of your problems.

Even for those of you who say you don’t need to cry sometimes, it’s time to stop fooling yourself—you need to cry also!  Don’t let your “tough guy” persona or “strong woman” persona cause you to end up at the nearest insane asylum.  Life presents us with many heartbreaking and vexing experiences.  We have to be wise in our response to those experiences.  Shedding tears during the process of handling heartbreaking and vexing experiences can be cathartic.  Your tears have the potential to help you to see that things are going to be okay and a brighter day will come.

Your tears can cause you to engage in the critical thinking you’ve not given yourself time to do.

In no way am I advocating for us to turn into a nation of crybabies.  When you overly rely on crying, you end up losing the power of engaging in an appropriate amount of crying.  You can make yourself seriously ill by crying too much.  You will find that crying about everything will result in you feeling quite depressed often.  Crying is not a solution to your most challenging problems.  It is, however, a part of the process of successfully addressing many of your most challenging problems and it’s crucial to the healing process.

Have you every cried yourself to sleep?  Did you wake up feeling better the next morning?  I’m sure you felt at least somewhat better, considering your tears allowed you to release some of the emotion invested in what led you to cry in the first place.

If you experience a moment in public where you have to cry, don’t feel horrible about it.  Your emotions are your emotions.  You can always quickly excuse yourself to a restroom or private area (if one is available).

Recognizing that you don’t have to be afraid to cry in front of people is recognizing it’s great to be yourself.  If you’re too embarrassed to cry in front of people, you’re too embarrassed to simply be yourself.  What a shame!

People are going to do things to you that will make you cry.  Your enemies are going to do things to you that are going to make you cry.  Don’t think you’re weak when you feel compelled to cry.  Your crying is going to assist you in defeating the negative things that made you cry.

When you feel the need to cry, go ahead and do it!  Crying can be a vehicle for liberating yourself!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Choose Your Principles Over Your Paycheck

Don’t let fear of being terminated from your job result in you surrendering your principles.  Some people are willing to capitulate who they are just to keep their paycheck.  While it’s a reality that you need a paycheck to survive, there are other employers who can supply you with a paycheck than the employer who currently does.  I have witnessed too many individuals who will do the wrong things just to be viewed as doing the right things in eyes of their supervisors.  While there is certainly nothing wrong with treating your supervisor with respect, he or she is not your master.

Too many people are allowing themselves to be enslaved by their supervisors.  When one relies too heavily upon capitalist ideology without engaging in critical thinking, the individual will begin to view himself or herself as being powerless at his or her place of employment.  The individual will feel that what one’s supervisor says must be done—no matter how wrong it is.

If your supervisor is mistreating you and/or requiring you to do something that the law safeguards you from, you don’t have to accept what your supervisor is doing to you.  The law is on your side against reckless supervisors who abuse their power.

Stop running around kissing your supervisor’s butt!

When you let someone take advantage of you all of the time, he or she will continue to take advantage of you.  It’s up to you to break this cycle.  People think that when they run around and kiss their supervisor’s butt their supervisor is going to appreciate them more—that’s foolishness!  Wake up!  If you’ve been doing great work for a long time and your supervisor does not already appreciate you, what makes you think kissing his or her butt is going to make him or her appreciate you?

What you say matters.  Therefore, stop calling your supervisor “boss.”  Your supervisor is not your ruler—he or she just gives you a paycheck.  You’re a liberated American who does not have to dance to the tune of your supervisor.  When they made one job, they made another one.  When they made one paycheck, they made another one.  Remember this the next time you find yourself acting all fake around your supervisor.

When you don’t like something that your supervisor says or does, then let him or her know it.  Too many people just fuss about their mistreatment at their jobs at their kitchen tables, but they are unwilling to make the public aware of the injustices that take place in the workplace.  What you say at your kitchen table is not going to matter if it’s not concatenated with meaningful action.

Be willing to give up your supervisor and not your principles.  Principles matter!  If you will allow your supervisor to say and do anything just to keep a paycheck, then you’re making it easy for your employer to exploit you.  People who are principled individuals will not willingly accept exploitation.  They vehemently fight exploitation, especially from those who are in positions of power.

Your values and beliefs that define you are more important than the paycheck you’re currently receiving.  You can get another job.  You didn’t have a job before you got your current one.  While I can understand for those of you who live from paycheck to paycheck can believe that receiving your paycheck is a matter of survival, I encourage you to look for potential employment elsewhere and consider ways you can advance yourself, including furthering your education, to significantly diminish your worries about losing your current job.

Don’t be a prostitute for your employer!

If your supervisor extends a contract to you that has a stipulation in it that tramples your constitutional rights, don’t be a fool and accept that contract as is.  If you’re going to accept the contract, indicate that your signature does not represent a relinquishing of any safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution.  Your life is more valuable than any paycheck.

Of course, I’m not advocating for you to be a reckless person at your job who is rude to everyone for no reason.  However, when your supervisor is not being fair to you, don’t accept this inequity just to keep your paycheck coming in without any problems.  When your supervisor feels like he or she can do anything to you, your paycheck is not safe in the first place.  Therefore, you need to be proactive to not only protect your paycheck but also to protect your principles.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Think Beyond the Present

Life is full of noise.  Although many people can be productive when they are surrounded by noise, and many people enjoy lots of noise, try to find some quiet time for yourself each day to reflect on yourself and your future.  Far too many people situated in the postmodern epoch are not thinking beyond the present.  In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson contends that ephemeral thinking is a dominant characteristic of the postmodern moment.  In The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, David Harvey agrees with Fredric Jameson that ephemeral thought is a central characteristic of postmodernity.  While one should certainly have solemn concern about what’s going on in his or her life in the present, this should not hinder him or her from thinking about and planning for the future.

Don’t simply let your present conditions and circumstances defeat your vision for where you want to be in the future.  If you have set high aspirations for the future, then you need to find some quiet time each day to reflect on how much progress you’re making toward meeting those goals.  You need to think about solutions to your present conditions and circumstances that are hindering or that could be hindering you from reaching your goals.  Think about the things you’re investing your time in right now and resolve whether the things you’re investing your time in are conducive to moving you closer to meeting your goals.

Even if people begin to wonder why they cannot find and contact you at certain periods of the day, don’t worry about this.  Effectively planning for the future will require you to get away from it all for periods of time.  If you can only find about 15 minutes a day of quiet time, use this time wisely to reflect on yourself and your future.  You will be amazed at how much can be accomplished by just reflecting and focusing on your future for just 15 minutes a day.

During the quiet time that you’re engaged in planning for your future, always have something to write with available.  This can be pen and paper or a laptop.  It’s vital to capture your thoughts in written form.  Too many people do a whole lot of talking about what they want to do and what’s going to happen to them in their future, but they have not developed a thoughtful written plan to help lead them to achieving their aspirations.

If you’re really serious about your dreams and aspirations, you will create a written plan that contains the thought, research, and knowledge necessary to progress you toward making your dreams a reality.  Yes, you must think about aspirations and discuss them with others, but you must inevitably construct a well-thought written plan for those aspirations to be taken seriously and for them to be achieved.

Yes, life is saturated with noise but find ways to escape the noise to plan for your future.  Just because things are not working in your favor right now does not mean that they are going to continue to not work in your favor—unless you just give up on your goals!  You may have to make changes to your goals and the details of your written plan, but you should never give up on your dreams.  Don’t let any person or thing keep you from accomplishing your goals.

References

Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Exploring the Popular Use of “Don’t Judge Me”

“Don’t judge me” is increasingly becoming a popular and pervasive statement, especially among the 16 year old – 35 year old crowd.  I’m not against people judging me or anyone else. However, you must be qualified to judge others.  You should not be really serious about your use of “don’t judge me.”  While I think that it’s quite entertaining when I see “don’t judge me” used on Twitter and Facebook, you really should not be too concerned about what people say about you.  I’m not, however, saying that you should not totally overlook what people say about you and that you should not respond to some things people say about you. You should not overlook some things people say about you and you should respond to some things people say about you. However, I want to devote my dominant attention to my argument that you must be qualified to be an effective judge.

We cannot stop people from judging others and we should not try to prevent people from judging others.  What I would like for those who are committed to judging others is for them to be qualified about the things and aspects of people they judge.  For example, so many true and supposedly heterosexual people are quick to make a determination about whether a man is gay.  They will look at surface level things and rush to a quick judgment and call him gay.  As a deep and committed intellectual, I’m bother by how so many people will make a sweeping conclusion about someone’s sexual orientation and/or identity by just observing him in such a short amount of time.  Every man does not have a deep voice.  Every man does not and has no desire to “bust slack.”  Every man does not and cannot walk in a way that’s predominantly perceived by society as a “heterosexual way of walking.”

By the way, is there some class available that heterosexual men or women teach that men who want to learn how to walk like the typical heterosexual man can attend to learn this style of walking?  If so, I would like for you to let me know so that I can tell the people who are not committed to simply being themselves where they can attend this class.  Thanks in advance.

Some people even get a thrill out of being able to “detect” when a man is gay.  If the man does not reveal to you that he’s gay, then what makes your determination that he’s gay an intelligent judgment?  I’m not suggesting that you have to be gay to determine whether a man is gay, but your conclusions should not be based on the most inane surface level things that you see and hear.  What prevents you from mustering the courage to personally ask the man if he’s gay?  Always do this in an appropriate way because the method you elect to ask him can amount to nothing more than an attack, even if this was not your true intent.  If you are truly serious about being an effective judge, then why won’t you do the work that’s necessary to truly get to the bottom of your claims?  It amuses me sometimes and flummoxes at other times how someone can hear and/or see things out of context and then immediately arrive at a conclusion that someone is gay.

Always put things in their proper contexts.

People make judgments about myriad phenomena besides sexual orientation.  I selected to use sexual orientation as my primary example because sexual orientation is a phenomenon people often make swift judgments about without any critical thought.  Another example I could have focused on at length is about how people make judgments about others being smart.  People who are not smart are hasty to tell others that they are smart.  While their determinations may be true, what are the values and principles they employ for making their claims?  Do they even have any values and principles?  I could continue on and on with examples.

If you’re going to judge people, then make as strong of an effort as possible to ground your judgments in truth.  Try to avoid making judgments about things you have limited or no knowledge about.  Be real with yourself too and don’t try to pretend that you know everything.  If you want to be a qualified judge, then you need to focus on substantive things when you make your judgments.  While I certainly don’t have a problem with people judging others, I just don’t want you to end up looking like a fool because you focused on the wrong things and your conclusions materialize to be completely wrong.

Don’t be a fool.  Make informed, substantive, and wise judgments.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison