Of all the words in the English language “critical“ has become, well, the most critical word of our current national conversation.
If you read just about anything or watch your news, it is apparent that we live in critical times. We are concerned about the critical issues surrounding COVID protocols and measures as we get ready to return to school. There is a critical situation with wildfires that have been burning all summer and making our beautiful Colorado skies gray. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being debated, attacked, defended, and some school boards and state governments are taking action for and against the latest ideas about race, culture, and power in our society.
The thing about words is that they mean things, and ideas are propelled along by words strung together into sentences, which turn into ideas that form a narrative of thoughts. Those find their way into our culture by the things we read, say, watch, and discuss. It is, dare I say, critical that we all make a really concerted effort to be mindful of the way in which we embrace the new ideas and, in effect, throw off the old.
We are a culture that has been conditioned to take on the newest and freshest ideas and concepts that fit around a progression toward making our world a better place. COVID information changes daily, and we demand the information now! Fires burn in our western states, and we wonder why they can’t bring them under control now! CRT is a theory about the nature of how we perceive each other, how we have gotten to where we are, and we want to understand its endgame now!
But with the demand for fresh ideas and instant answers, we sway from the meaning and intent of the very word being bandied about to capture our attention. Easy answers are attractive to a culture that is consumed by instant gratification. But easy answers fly in the face of the logical intention of the word critical. Critical can mean condemning comments or judgments about something (which we are all really good at), or it can mean an analysis of the merits or faults of a particular theory or idea — such as CRT. We are all critical this week about what is happening in Afghanistan coupled with the heartbreaking scenes of desperate people chasing aircraft and crowding onto jets to escape what is impending.
The world is a critical place to live and when someone offers up easy answers for complex issues such as foreign policy, virus mutations and infections, forest management, and how we all have gotten to this place in time; buyer beware. As we head back to school it is the job of educators to teach our children to think, give them tools to be a critical consumer of information and allow them to explore ideas and make decisions. Telling students what to think represents a critical blow to the foundation of continuing this experiment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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