Critical Thinking- You Are Doing it Wrong

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What we are deficient in his critical thinking skills. There’s a lot of talk on the Internet and all these blogs about privilege.  White privilege, male privilege, white male privilege, female privilege, CIS privilege, ad nauseam.  Perhaps it is a larger issue that affects our society. Maybe it’s some sort of cultural inherent behavior that were taught from birth. Personally I think it’s a failing of our schools and the curriculum

No one in this country is taught how to think critically. Logic is something they cover briefly in a math course, usually in high school. I’ve sat in boardrooms with CEOs and VP’s that are not capable of finding a root cause to an issue. Highly experienced professionals that can’t tell the difference between an opinion and a fact.

Example:  There was a minor fender bender involving two forklifts. Both drivers were following company policy, drug tested, and came up clean. So now everybody meets around the boardroom and tries to discuss what happened, what went wrong, and how do we fix it.  I was informed that the root cause was carelessness on the part of the driver. No one could illustrate how they came to that conclusion or find any supporting documentation. They thought about it and they put themselves in the drivers position and they came up with they just weren’t paying attention

No one went out to the site of the incident, no one took pictures, no one looked at the dock area. They just stated their belief firmly and emphatically. Because surely, if they stated their opinion enough times with enough emphasis it would become a fact and everybody would just accept it because of their position of authority.

Enter me: Demanding to have documentation and photographs evidence. You can all imagine how well this was received! Heaven forbid I say “perhaps there was an obstacle that prevented them from seeing the other driver, let’s go look.” I was told we couldn’t because it was a few days ago and now the dock looks different and here I go again with my logic saying let’s look at the cameras from the date of the accident. It took a good 20 minutes to convince people that we should look at the film footage and actually view the incident as it was occurring. Turns out there was a large pallet in an intersection and it was blocking the view of both employees.

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Sounds like we found the root cause. Okay, now we have to come up with some sort of corrective action. That one was easy, we will just move the pallet. Great! Now what are we going to do about a preventative action to make sure that it doesn’t happen again? Apparently, insisting that we don’t overload the dock is pure blasphemy. It seems the only acceptable solution is that everybody be more careful when the dock is overloaded and their view is of obscured. I pointed out the deviation in investigating our incident or record keeping would not be an acceptable solution to a government agency. That was met with a whole bunch of eye rolling and sighing. And remember, I’m dealing with VP’s and CEOs who are rolling their eyes and sighing at me. And let’s not even discuss the one manager who was outright hostile to my suggestion that they might need to make some changes in their operating procedures to ensure the safety of their employees.

So back to my original point. This is what’s wrong with people in our country and our culture. No critical thinking skills. We have a population of “educated adults” who can’t think logically. Grown people who cannot tell the difference between their opinion and a fact. Experienced professionals who think that just because they don’t agree with the law or regulation that’s enough to ignore it.  Some days I feel like my entire professional life has been spent trying to convince upper management that it would be much easier, faster, and efficient to just comply with the regulation then it would be to find ways to get around it. And all of this because I’m dealing with people who can’t draw a straight line from A to B to C. Large groups of people who cannot seem to make the connection between cause and effect

We can make the argument that this is a cultural phenomenon due to privilege. Of course that may be true and in some cases it probably is. The solution to this is to introduce critical thinking and logic into our school system. It’s really hard to justify putting down one group of people to raise up another when you’re using logic. Once you understand the difference between your opinion and the actual data presented to then you, you’re able to make much more concise choices. My mantra at work for the past 15 years has been this ” It is not my opinion, this is a regulation. You don’t know what my opinion is because it’s a relevant.” I just can’t understand why when something is a government regulation and I show them where it is written that they then go “Well, do we really have to do that?” Yes, yes you really have to do that and you have to do it right and you have to do it consistently and you have to train everybody to do it. Yes, you do even you even though you are a VP, even though you’re a CEO, and even though you’re a white male. Nobody cares,you still have to do the right thing. You still have to follow the law.

Not Today

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Today isn’t going well. Sure on the exterior is look s fine. I’m dressed and at least minimally presentable as a professional adult. I showed up on time, or at least close to it, I have my work, I am pretending to perform my work (I’m really writing this).

Under the surface I have a dull and muted sense of defeat. Where it came from I have no idea.  It’s one of those days were all the small and insignificant things go wrong one after the other. I forgot to make lunch, I’m out of cat food, the button on my last pair of clean pants is missing, I have no matching socks, the kitten chewed the cord on my straightening iron, I’m out of gas, I can’t find my wallet in my bag, my tires are low on air. Fuck it! I just want to drive to work.

I would really like to crawl back into bed pull the covers over my head and sleep for a few more hours. But that isn’t going to happen, so I’ll settle for driving. Just drive. But what should have been simple turned into a 40 minute delay. Damn it!

So now I’m at my desk, I’ve had my coffee, I participated in a conference call, I was pleasant but for the most part silent. My give a shit has broken down. You are out of supplies? I don’t care. You are missing paperwork? I don’t care. Do I have anything? Yes I do and I need it by next Monday. The answer? OK, I’ll get you something. I want to scream that a vague reply of “something” simply won’t suffice and I need details, but I don’t care.

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I’m hungry and have access to food. Food I usually enjoy, but I don’t want to eat. I’m just not interested. It would take too much effort. And what’s the point? In a few hours I’ll just be hungry again. Might as well wait a few hours and see if food is more appealing then. I can’t even muster the motivation to reflect upon why I don’t care. I don’t care enough to warrant the effort.  

Today I am a pile of flesh taking up space and wasting precious time. Perhaps I will look back and be angry of all the increments of time that passed, moments of limitless opportunity that I squandered. I probably will, but not today.

 

When Men Talk About Feelings

It is a widely accepted dogma* that women like to discuss their feelings. Men are all about remedying a situation and have no desire to analyze. The conjecture is that this creates much of the disparity between the sexes. It has been the basis of books, sitcoms, and countless comedy acts. Even with our progress in LGBT issues and greater acceptance of the gender spectrum this bias persists. I have stumbled upon an exception. I know that another common axiom is that the exception proves the rule. That is rather faulty logic.

If there is one place that men love to discuss thoughts and feelings it is in meetings. There is one constant to every single meeting I have ever been involved in and that is there will be men gathered around a table blowing hot air. Place a bunch of male executives at an overpriced, highly lacquered table and present them with something new and they will dissect it like a twelve-year-old girl with a text message from a crush.

There will be meetings, committees, subcommittees, and action plans. None of the action plans will be implemented until each member of each team has gathered data and presented it in power point. They will utilize charts, graphs, pivot tables, and the never-ending litany of meetings. Meetings where we talk about how the project feels, what each executive and manager thinks about the project, and what possible road blocks could present to impede progress. It will take a minimum of three meetings, spaced no less than a week apart, to decide on a plan of attack.

In the mean time, the women involved in said meeting (usually just me) are watching the deadline inch closer and closer. The women (me) wonder how we are going to have time to implement anything if and when we ever decide on a game plan. First there is the sense of exasperation as the women (me) are forced to listen to each executive voice their concerns (fear of change) in turn. Then there is aggravation as no one ever wants to hear a different point of view unless it is a new reason that the project won’t work (justifying the fears). Somewhere around meeting number three the women (me) will take notes and formulate a strategy. They (me) will then begin to quietly but assertively execute that program. By meeting number four it is apparent that change is happening and the project is taking shape. At meeting five the men congratulate each other on a job well done. The women (me) get asked to type up all the minutes and compile a report on the project.

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The woman in green- I make that face every meeting

I hate meetings like this. I am a list maker. There is always a list, either allegorical or prosaic. My goal in life is to cross items off of those lists. Now, I don’t ever want the same thing to enter back on to the list therefore I am a big fan of getting it right the first time. When I am presented with a new task I want to find out what I need and just make it happen. Discussion ad nauseam is infuriating. Let’s just get to work and get it done. But we can’t. Because everyone has to feel 100% comfortable with every bit of minutia before we can effect change.

This is when I really want to break out the radio-active nipples and shrink those whiny ass, disconnected, blow holes down into binary and incarcerate them in the phone app. The talking would stop, I would not longer have to deal with the egos, and there wouldn’t be a chain of command in my way of progress. Because nothing sets off executives more than stepped upon toes!

*Disclaimer: I do not personally subscribe to the gender normative behaviors that are prevalent in western culture. I don’t think that anything is inherently male or female, masculine or feminine. My interpretation is that these are gross generalizations of accepted segregation of roles based on social labels that are outmoded.