The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


I picked up this book by Michael LeGault because, on the surface of it, it would seem to be one of the few books arguing for genuine independence of thought and an increase in willingness to engage that thought critically. It is hard to disagree with assessments such as:
More troubling in the long term, perhaps, is the effect that a decline in critical thinking is apparently having on public debate, discourse, and democracy in this country. The net result is an increasingly radical political partisanship that seems to preclude meaningful discussion and debate from public and private life.
He speaks of his own nation, the United States, but this has been a much broader trend through the past three decades and perhaps longer.

Set aside, for the moment, that LeGault's idea of critical thinking completely negates the value of intuition except insofar as it is grounded in critical thinking. I personally might have suggested that intuition provides a signpost and a direction, critical thinking some of the tools to get there: but independence of thought also allows differences of thought.

But then LeGault offers this interesting example of what is, and is not, critical thinking:
Even in Canada, a country dependent on trade with the United States for 50 percent of its gross domestic product, over two-thirds of the people say the United States is a negative influence in the world. Two-thirds! This is the same nation that has a love affair with Cuba, a country that has not held a democratic election in fifty years. The opinion of Canadians is not based on critical thinking or research, but on myth and balderdash dished out by the country's legions of left-leaning scholars and pundits, as well as, ironically, by Hollywood and the U.S. media.
Note that critical thinking skills cannot have been engaged unless the conclusion reached is the same as the author's: who, ironically, self-identifies as a libertarian. Any other conclusion is clearly the result of a flawed ability to think. In other words, the only purpose of critical thinking is to agree.

(It is curious that democracy is held out as it is, in a book that extols reading the classics. I wonder what LeGault would have made of Plato's Republic.)

And here is the real kicker: LeGault sets this ideal as the best of what the United States has to offer the world, and in fact should be promoting in the world.

Based solely upon LeGault's own argument: what is your conclusion about the influence of the United States in the world?


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