Critical Thinking: or Making Me the Straw Man

May 10, 2006

By Tom DeWeese

They are one of the biggest publishers of textbooks in the world, and they wanted to use some of my writings in one of their products. My first thought was, “Gee, I’m coming up in the world.” The second was, “How do they intend to use it?” So I asked for a sample. A good thing I did.

The textbook will be entitled “Invitation to Critical Thinking,” and apparently will be distributed to children’s classrooms in Canada. It will cost the schools $59 each. “Critical Thinking,” of course, is a major tool in the arsenal of today’s restructured government schools that are designed, not to educate, but to indoctrinate. Education expert Charlotte Iserbyt, in her landmark book, “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America,” describes Critical Thinking as “challenging students’ fixed beliefs.” It’s a tool to get them to question their values system.

Of course, when I saw the title, my alarm bells began to sound. How could anything I have ever written fit into the concept of such a book? Everything I have ever produced was designed to expose, attack and kill such an “educational system”

So I began to read the sample pages the publisher sent to me. It contained three excerpts, including mine. Here are two, exactly as they would be printed in the book:

Critical Thinking Tip 11.5 (these are instructions for the children at the top of the exercise)

Remember that issues are complex, so a diversion may on occasion be warranted and reasonable. A warranted and reasonable diversion should eventually return to the issue. Keep the issue(s) in mind. In other words, the teacher will decide what is to be a “warranted and reasonable diversion” and if you take a different path than the predetermined one, your argument will not be “warranted or reasonable.”

Exercise 11.16 Fallacies of Relevance II

In each of the following examples, check all fallacy categories that apply. More importantly, explain each fallacious instance you identify.

Example: And the Lord God commanded man, saying, “You may eat freely of every tree of the garden; but the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

(Here are the choices given the children to describe that statement)

In what category does this example fit and why?

Appeal to anger Straw Person EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER

Appeal to fear Two wrongs

Appeal to pity Common practice

Are you starting to get the picture as to how this book is used to challenge a values system? Now here’s my text they wanted to use in the book.

Example: In a Group Workbook (educational tool for children) entitled: Sunday School Specials, a chapter tells students that “real conservation means remembering to turn off the light, hiking or biking instead of hitching a car ride, and cooling off in the shade instead of in air conditioning. Kids are often tempted to do things the easy way instead of the ‘green way’. They need lots of encouragement and affirmation to develop and stick to an environment-conscious lifestyle…” That one line demonstrates an important key to the purpose of Group’s Sunday School curriculum – to promote a political agenda based on pagan earth worship rather than Christian values.

(Here’s the choices given the children to describe my statement)

In what category does this example fit, and why?

Appeal to anger Straw person EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER

Appeal to fear Two wrongs

Appeal to pity Common practice

They were using as the exercise in Critical Thinking quotes from an article I wrote a few years ago entitled “Is your church teaching pagan earth worship in Sunday School?” I wrote that article to describe how a popular new Sunday School curriculum contained the same Outcome-base education behavior modification indoctrination process that was being employed in government classrooms. This curriculum taught the children to play a game of tree hugging and taught them that the Endangered Species Act was the new Noah’s Ark. This is clearly a political agenda, not education. And I said so.

The point of my article was to expose the very process this new textbook is employing. Now I found myself being used in an exercise, as an apparent example of someone promoting fear and creating straw “persons.”

My response to their request to grant them permission to use my article in this way was swift and to the point. “I’m sorry, but I will not grant permission to use my work in this way. Your ‘textbook’ is the root of the very curriculum I was talking about in the article you want to quote. Obviously the entire section of the book where my material was to appear is a critical discussion of Christianity. Your selections offered Appeal to anger; fear; pity; straw person; two wrongs; common practice – all are negatives. There is no room for a person to agree with the statements. I can only imagine the classroom discussion your teacher’s guide will offer. This is not education, it is propaganda. Sorry, but no, I will not help you in perpetrating it on innocent minds. Shame on you for trying to call it education. Now, is my message an appeal to anger, fear or do I just pity you?”

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.