The development of critical thinking is crucial for students as well as other people in the contemporary society because, today, people are often affected by biases and stereotypes imposed on them by media and those who control the media or are able to influence them.
Moreover, the role of media has increased consistently in the modern world since the progress of telecommunications and information technologies stimulated the rapid progress of mass media which penetrate in the life of all people, often regardless of the will of people. In such a situation, it is very difficult to remain unbiased, especially when an individual get used to “consume”ť information produced by media which tend to support right or left views, for instance. In other words, if an individual cannot think critically, if he is unable to evaluate information he receives from media, he is likely to be totally dependent on the media and his identity becomes totally shaped by specific media, while his personal position becomes inferior to the position imposed on him by media. Therefore, people need to learn thinking objectively and independently from media and students should start learning to be unbiased before their identity is fully shaped and their personality is conditioned by media and ruling elite.
In this respect, it is possible to refer to the book “Assault on Reason”ť, written by Al Gore, where the author explores the impact of media and the American authorities on the mass consciousness of American people. One of the major ideas Al Gore promotes in his book is the idea that people are unable or, to put it more precisely, they are deprived of a possibility to think objectively. The author explores how people debate and decides on the critical issues of the day. To reveal his position and to prove the growing impact of the official position and media on the perception of crucial issues by Americans, Al Gore researches and criticizes of George W. Bush and his administration in regard to the US post-9/11 policies (Gore, 2007). To put it more precisely, he argues that the Bush administration skillfully used the shock, which struck the country after the terror attacks, in order to achieve its own goals, including the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The author stands on the ground that the US authorities used mass media as means of pressure on the mass audience. Moreover, media served as means of psychological pressure on American citizens since they accelerated the fear that overwhelmed minds and souls of American people. At the same time, the author point out that American’ reasoning abilities were practically paralyzed because of the overwhelming power of mass media which bombarded the consciousness of Americans with terrible news and even more terrible forecasts concerning the future of the USA (Gore, 2007). In such a context, the military operations initiated by the Bush administration were amply supported by Americans shortly after 9/11.
In such a context, it is obvious that the power of reason is crucial and when the reason of an ordinary person is under attack from the part of mass media or from the part of the authorities, it is very important to keep your mind cool and be able to think critically. In fact, it is important to teach students to think critically in order to prepare them to think objectively and independently in their adult life. In this respect, it is possible to recommend developing critical thinking abilities through the analysis of the media and events presented by media.
Today, the role of media is important, but still the US has different media which present different views from left to right. Therefore, students should understand the fact that in order to get more objective information concerning some important issues, it is necessary to analyze this information as it is presented in different media, i.e. media supporting different political and socioeconomic views.
Basically, it is possible to group mass media into three major categories: right media, which support conservative, capitalist views, left or left-centrist media, which support socially-oriented and, in a way, socialist views, and centrist media, which occupy the intermediate position between left and right media in the USA. In this respect, it should be said that specialists (Sullivan, 2005) define the following media which belong to left of center: CBS’ “Evening News”ť, New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which represent a liberal position. Fox News and Washington Times are positioned by specialists (Sullivan, 2005) as right media, while the most centrist media are CNN and ABC.
In fact, in order to make objective judgments concerning issues covered by media, students should learn to work with different sources of information, i.e. different media. For instance, they should use not only right media, but also left and centrist media aforementioned, to get a larger view on certain issue.
At the same time, they should not just perceive the information from all the media and select the one position they support the most. This will be wrong because, in such a way, they simply stick to the position of either media, but they do not make the judgment of their own, they do not develop their own position. Hence, they need to collect the information on certain issue, for instance the war in Iraq, from different media, such as Fox News, New York Times, and CNN, compare them and, on the basis of the analysis of all the information they received from these media, they should make their own conclusions concerning the issue, such as the war in Iraq.
In addition, it is possible to develop skills and abilities of critical thinking. For instance, if students work with such important issue as the war in Iraq, it is possible to suggest them a sort of role play, where students will be divided into groups representing the USA and Iraqi authorities and an independent group representing the public of either the USA or Iraq or both countries. It is possible to give them a task to defend their own position as if its position is absolutely right and attempt to convince the audience in the righteousness of their position. As they work, students can develop various approach to convince the audience, but it will be obvious that when they ostentatiously defend their position, regardless of the possible opposition within the group, they are likely to develop a biased position, which rejects any criticism and the audience will easily reveal the fact that both parties, “Americans”ť and “Iraqi”ť are highly subjective and attempt to defeat their opponents rather than reveal the truth.
In such a way, students will acquire a very important experience and they will be able to de-bias their own views on important issues. Thus, it is obvious that the development of critical thinking should be a constituent element of the contemporary education in order to maintain democracy and traditional American values.