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Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Old Apr 24th 2013, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Anian View Post
No, one guy in a helmet who can't see where he is going, being told what to do by people who don't know what's going on. 80s tv nostalgia.
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Old Apr 25th 2013, 5:39 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Xebedee View Post
I've worked (with Americans) in factories, on building sites and in offices for over 20yrs now.
My own conclusion is that they don't like change and are very suspicious of anything foreign to their way of thinking.
What's more, they tend to be very compliant with any authority which uses patriotism. Odd when you consider the country's origin..........
My sister said to me that she thinks it is because Germans were the largest white European immigrant group and so Americans have this deference towards authority that Germans had. I think she has a point because I don't find it as much among the latino Americans I meet.

You only have to look at the road system, Americans are reactive rather than proactive drivers.

Michael Moore made a movie about it as I recall.

Certainly I don't find it in Canada as much and obviously the British and French were the largest immigrant groups here.
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Old Apr 25th 2013, 6:31 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Steve_ View Post
My sister said to me that she thinks it is because Germans were the largest white European immigrant group and so Americans have this deference towards authority that Germans had.
Germans (42.8m) are the biggest ancestry group but only because those who originated from Great Britain and Ireland are spit into separate groups - Irish (30.5m), English (24.5m), Scots (4.9m), Welsh (1.9m) and Scots Irish (4.3). A further complication is that the 2000 census had an 'American' ethnicity added which 20.2m people declared (ethnicity has since been removed from censuses and will no longer be recorded). Since the numbers of people declaring themselves as English in 1980 (49m) dropped by 20m it is likely that a lot of these people - mostly whites in the South - switched ethnicity to American though a lot of these could also be Scots-Irish.

That means a large chunk of the US is made up of English, Scots, Welsh and Irish - none of whom are known for their deference to authority.

There is a large deceleration of German ethnicity in the upper Midwest and there is a deference to authority in German culture which arose out of the Prussian virtues of Frederick William's court - however these did not become established in the whole of Germany until after the founding of the German Empire in 1871. A large number of German immigrants arrived before then - including the 48-ers who had participated in or supported the rebellions of 1848. It's possible that later immigrants brought a culture of Prussian values with them but German-Americans have been noted for their assimilation.

I think if you look back at what the average Brit was thinking in the early 20th century you'll see plenty of blind nationalism, deference to authority and Victorian masculinity. The reason that declined in our culture is the impact of the 1st world war which brought in a mood of disillusionment and cynicism. I think that explains why the two countries have different attitudes to patriotism.
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Old Apr 25th 2013, 6:46 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Steve_ View Post
My sister said to me that she thinks it is because Germans were the largest white European immigrant group and so Americans have this deference towards authority that Germans had. I think she has a point because I don't find it as much among the latino Americans I meet.

You only have to look at the road system, Americans are reactive rather than proactive drivers.

Michael Moore made a movie about it as I recall.

Certainly I don't find it in Canada as much and obviously the British and French were the largest immigrant groups here.
Not sure about that - the main "issues" I have are with Americans that definitely aren't from a German or even a European background.

Given the ethnic mix of Silicon Valley, I am constantly surprised that those that tell me they have qualifications far in advance of mine are far more likely to be deferential to their manager, authority in general and take a very short-term view of the world.

Being blunt, Latinos don't figure. But interestingly, the MAJORITY of senior leaders that we have are from the areas of the heavily German influenced areas of the country, so maybe you are onto something....

More and more I'm putting this down to the toxic situation with health-care, house prices and education. Although salaries in the Valley are good, even when you're earning $150k+, paying $25k/child for education, $5-10k per family for health "care," and an average of $2800/month for rent is crippling.

I find that my co-workers would rather say nothing than say something that could undermine that already precarious financial position.
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Old Apr 25th 2013, 7:04 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
I find that my co-workers would rather say nothing than say something that could undermine that already precarious financial position.
But you are asking them to give some insight into how the business could be run better though right? Surely that's not something that could put your job at risk. In fact it's more of a risk not to say anything since it shows you aren't putting much thought into how the organization you work for runs. Plus the negative comments are usually anonymized anyway in these type of reviews.

I would say it's three things:

1) I'm assuming you are still an outsider at this stage and - while they are fine with complaining to their colleagues about the work situation - they might be reluctant to share their thoughts with you

2) Bigorganizationitus - there comes a point where a company gets large, accumulates a lot of staff and managers and then sinks into a terminal decline having lost momentum and strategic flexibility - I keep seeing this over and over again in the US and UK and it is one of the things that makes me nervous about our company's growth. You mentioned colleagues that were fine with opening up about the company but these seem to be in the smaller off-shoots not the main operation.

3) You mentioned that the company says they operated a 'flat management structure' but in practice doesn't. If that's the case then the company doesn't have a culture of soliciting employees opinions which explains why the employees are suspicious.
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Old Apr 25th 2013, 8:11 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Lots of generalizations here that I'm not sure are warrented. This varies widely by industry and company. I've personally seen huge variations even within the same company. I currently work for a large financial services company. I've been here for ~12 years. Certain areas I've been in involve constant status meeting, top-down micromanagement, kowtowing to the big man (or woman), fear of rocking the boat and love of conformity. When I was more junior, I had people sit behind me while I assembled a financial model, critiquing every step. This is nerve-wracking and pointless.

Other areas here (like my current area) have an entrepreneurial, see your boss once every two weeks, you figure it out, do the analysis and propose a solution, everyone contributes culture. It generally comes down to the management style of the boss and the type of job function. Your seniority plays a huge role as well.

Here in banking, highly process-driven areas like corporate finance, risk, analytics and FP&A are usually pretty top down. This makes some sense given the nature of the work. Marketing, operations and technology are generally more flat and open.

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Old Apr 29th 2013, 5:12 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Well everything like this is a generalization, but the fact so many of us have noticed it means it is somewhat prevalent.

Another point made to me various times by various people is that many Americans actually truly believe the stereotype that America is the best country in the world, so by definition they think what they are doing must be the best way to do it.

I always think Dick Cheney is an example of this mindset because of the war in Iraq: we're America, we're better than you, ergo we know better than you and we must be right.

But this is also the mindset that leads to various terrorist groups hating America, they sit and watch American TV and listen to all this "America is the best" claptrap too but to them it is offensive because their culture is so different.

But anyway if you think you are the best, what motivation is there to change?

For example I was watching CNN yesterday and they were explaining how this terrorist in Boston would get a lawyer free of charge, an example of what makes America great, but they probably won't get him out of the death penalty.

So to an American that statement makes perfect sense, but as a foreigner watching it, I think, well most countries give free representation to the defendant and in most other countries there is no death penalty, so it wouldn't even be an issue...

Americans just seem to laugh off things like international comparisons of education that show the US is lowly ranked, or infant mortality, etc. It's like they don't quite believe it. Or if they do believe it, they justify it to themselves by saying, well that's only in Mississippi or some other place where they don't live.
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Old Apr 29th 2013, 6:31 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Wow, so much to respond to!

1. Steve: "Well everything like this is a generalization, but the fact so many of us have noticed it means it is somewhat prevalent."

- or, coming from other countries, you just have other ways of viewing both social and business activities, and just ASSUME your processes are better. (You were somewhat right with the first part, however - it is a GROSS generalization.)

2. Steve: "Another point made to me various times by various people is that many Americans actually truly believe the stereotype that America is the best country in the world, so by definition they think what they are doing must be the best way to do it."

- And of course, the British have never, ever believed the stereotype that the UK what the greatest nation on earth, and that the only way to do things is the "Propah British" way.

3. Steve: "I always think Dick Cheney is an example of this mindset because of the war in Iraq: we're America, we're better than you, ergo we know better than you and we must be right."

- You just recently planted the British version of Dick Cheney - her name was Maggie Thatcher. (In fact, your whole little rant is a shining example of the Brit / Canadian attitude of "We're so much better than everyone else.")

4. Steve: "But this is also the mindset that leads to various terrorist groups hating America, they sit and watch American TV and listen to all this "America is the best" claptrap too but to them it is offensive because their culture is so different."

- Steve,WHAT !! Are you even reading the illogical "claptrap" you are posting? Why on earth should national pride be a cause for nations to hate other nations? (Are you trying to justify the Irish bombings in England? YOUR post could be said to apply in regard to that relationship also.)

5. Steve: "But anyway if you think you are the best, what motivation is there to change?"

- I have often heard Canadians claim that they lived in "The best country in the world" - is this your condemnation of Canada?

6. Steve: "For example I was watching CNN yesterday and they were explaining how this terrorist in Boston would get a lawyer free of charge, an example of what makes America great, but they probably won't get him out of the death penalty. So to an American that statement makes perfect sense, but as a foreigner watching it, I think, well most countries give free representation to the defendant and in most other countries there is no death penalty, so it wouldn't even be an issue..."

- So, you feel that the death penalty is wrong. I think it is wrong for the U.S. to have to warehouse a premeditated murderer for the next 60+ years, at our tax expense. If it is found that he intentionally sought to kill people, then he should forfeit HIS life.

7. Steve :Americans just seem to laugh off things like international comparisons of education that show the US is lowly ranked, or infant mortality, etc. It's like they don't quite believe it. Or if they do believe it, they justify it to themselves by saying, well that's only in Mississippi or some other place where they don't live."

- And yet, tens of tousands, even hundreds of thousands, of foreigners every year still flock to attend American colleges and universities. Not something you care to mention, is it?

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Old Apr 30th 2013, 5:55 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Steve_ View Post
Americans just seem to laugh off things like international comparisons of education that show the US is lowly ranked, or infant mortality, etc. It's like they don't quite believe it. Or if they do believe it, they justify it to themselves by saying, well that's only in Mississippi or some other place where they don't live.
Nah - I think you have this backwards. Americans flip out when international comparisons show the US isn't number one in education & both political parties use the league tables to push their own political agenda (e.g crushing the teachers unions).

In fact there are relatively few reputable measures for comparing school systems worldwide and the biggest one is the OECD PISA survey, which is very limited in terms of sample size and will show up varied data depending on where the children were in the country which was sampled etc.. In any event the OECD figures show the States in at 14th or 17th in the rankings depending on what measures you are comparing. This is actually above the OECD average and although it's below Canada, Iceland, Finland, Korea etc, it's above Germany, Ireland, France and the UK. Furthermore the scores awarded are actually pretty close so there isn't a vast difference between the top ranked countries. In fact the countries tend to move up and down the league tables every time a new survey is released.

When it comes to infant mortality, the US ranks low among developed nations - however the measure used for this is totally inconsistent between countries which makes comparisons tricky. The US follows the stricter measure given by the United Nations Statistics Division and thereby does poorer in the rankings than it otherwise would.
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Old Apr 30th 2013, 6:30 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Wolverine75 View Post
- or, coming from other countries, you just have other ways of viewing both social and business activities, and just ASSUME your processes are better. (You were somewhat right with the first part, however - it is a GROSS generalization.)
Got nothing to do with "processes", it's to do with what the OP said. And this isn't just some casual observation from a first impression, I've spent many years in the US and have US qualifications, family etc.

- And of course, the British have never, ever believed the stereotype that the UK what the greatest nation on earth, and that the only way to do things is the "Propah British" way.
What have the British got to do with it. We're talking about Americans. But yes, the British are the world's most opinionated people on subjects they know nothing about, which is imo why they took over a quarter of the world... but the US is definitely now the heir apparent.

- You just recently planted the British version of Dick Cheney - her name was Maggie Thatcher. (In fact, your whole little rant is a shining example of the Brit / Canadian attitude of "We're so much better than everyone else.")
Once again, what have the British got to do with it. Having an observation about the British doesn't invalidate an observation about Americans. I wasn't ranting either, I've actually met Dick Cheney in person so I think I've likely got a better idea of what he's like than you do. I was never a big fan of Thatcher frankly for similar reasons.

- Steve,WHAT !! Are you even reading the illogical "claptrap" you are posting? Why on earth should national pride be a cause for nations to hate other nations? (Are you trying to justify the Irish bombings in England? YOUR post could be said to apply in regard to that relationship also.)
Because American media is predominant throughout the world, everyone watches American TV. Yes I agree jingoism is throughout the world too but American jingoism is more prevalent globally. It rubs people in other countries the wrong way. We all know that the statement "America is the greatest country in the world" needs to be taken with a mighty pinch of salt because we're familiar with America in person but they aren't, they often see it as an attack on their culture. And national pride btw has often led to pointless wars.

- I have often heard Canadians claim that they lived in "The best country in the world" - is this your condemnation of Canada?
There's no way you can compare Canadian nationalism to American nationalism, no way, no how. It's not even remotely in the same league. Although now you mention it I do find it somewhat ironic how many American TV shows are shot in Canada and Americans by and large don't realize what they're looking at are locations in Canada.

- So, you feel that the death penalty is wrong. I think it is wrong for the U.S. to have to warehouse a premeditated murderer for the next 60+ years, at our tax expense. If it is found that he intentionally sought to kill people, then he should forfeit HIS life.
Comment had nothing to do with the death penalty, had to do with the apparent lack of knowledge of the commentator about anything outside of the US, i.e. that the US was somehow special in giving him a public defender. Just so happens it wouldn't be as big of an issue in most other countries because there is no death penalty. Nor is there in Massachusetts for that matter, takes the feds to swoop in for that.

- And yet, tens of tousands, even hundreds of thousands, of foreigners every year still flock to attend American colleges and universities. Not something you care to mention, is it?
As they do to colleges in the UK, Australia and elsewhere, not a terribly relevant comment because the rankings are supposed to be objective, your comment is subjective. No-one disputes that Americans are pretty good at marketing, American universities have better marketing, perhaps? Especially as universities in other countries receive more in the way of funding from taxpayers.

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013...e-degrees?lite

Not a particularly good indication of the superiority of American higher education, is it?
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Old Apr 30th 2013, 6:40 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by HumphreyC View Post
Nah - I think you have this backwards. Americans flip out when international comparisons show the US isn't number one in education & both political parties use the league tables to push their own political agenda (e.g crushing the teachers unions).
I wasn't really making a point about the facts of it, whether the US is better or worse than country X, all I'm saying is that when the subject comes up, it seems to be glossed over for one reason or another. Like you say, often for political reasons, doesn't fit with ideology of whoever it is. I don't think that is a uniquely American thing, perhaps I notice it more because the US has x number of 24/7 news channels.

Certainly the BBC does it, my cousin calls it the "British Bullshit Corporation" because they can be seriously condescending sometimes.

What the US needs is more foreign news coverage.
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Old Apr 30th 2013, 6:53 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Rick Mercer talking to Americans

Yes okay I know you could pull the same trick in plenty of other countries and some of the comments were taken out of context but still, makes the point.
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Old May 1st 2013, 1:27 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by Wolverine75 View Post
Wow, so much to respond to!
tbh, this post comes across as both defensive and aggressive. It is symptomatic of the attitudes I've encountered when dealing with issues like those described by the OP. QED really.
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Old May 1st 2013, 3:12 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Critical thinking does take place here, of course it does - by virtue of the law of averages but when you look at the number of christians running around, it's hard to believe critical thinking exists here at all.

Oh, before you get all up in arms and offended - that isn't a generalisation. Blind faith in fairy tales is a textbook example of a lack of critical thinking. Deal with it.
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Old May 1st 2013, 3:27 pm
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Default Re: Critical Thinking and Debate in the US

Originally Posted by SultanOfSwing View Post
Oh, before you get all up in arms and offended - that isn't a generalisation. Blind faith in fairy tales is a textbook example of a lack of critical thinking. Deal with it.
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