By July 31, 2016 Uncategorized 5 Comments

​Have you heard that athletes competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil have been warned by doctors, engineers, and scientists to keep their mouths shut while participating in activities in the water?

I’m sure these world-class athletes would have no occasion to actually breathe through their mouth while trying to win a medal!

However, this does sound like sage advice given this recent picture from Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay. Believe it or not, this is one of the less disturbing ones.

In addition to bloated human and animal remains, scientists and researchers have found a wide array of disease-causing viruses and bacteria that can cause ailments such as diarrhea, vomiting, and death in people will poor immune systems.

One Rio pediatrician, Dr. Daniel Becker, went so far as to say that “foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap, and they risk getting sick from all those microorganisms.

And then in an odd afterthought, Becker added: “It’s sad but also worrisome.

Ya think?

Speaking about things that are also sad but also worrisome, how about the current state of American politics?

Before I spent hours watching the recent Republican and Democratic Conventions (and the associated political ‘analysis’), I wish someone had warned me to keep my ears shut!

There was a lot of what could be referred to as political fecal material entering my brain over the past few weeks. I’m just hoping my immune system can withstand it for another hundred days. I’m honestly not sure it can.

Call me a cynic, but I found much of what was paraded to America over the past two weeks made me feel like I was swimming in a bay of vapid blather, replete with mounds of discarded ideals and foamy ignorance.

In addition to bloated human egos and tired political rhetoric, there was a wide array of partisan attacks, diatribes, and false promises that will undoubtedly cause profound apathy, frustration, and disillusionment in millions of people with fragile immunity to political discourse.

But, hey, that’s just one man’s opinion.

When each presidential candidate’s strongest argument for voters to elect them to the single most powerful position in the world appears to be, “I’m not the other person,” I think we have a problem.

It is at least a symptom of a larger problem in America – an epidemic of shallow thinking.

In an interview two years before becoming our 44th President, Barack Obama, made this insightful comment:

I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.

Shallow thinkers are incapable , or too lazy, to look at all sides of an issue or to explore the “middle ground” or possible compromises. They are often led willingly by ideology or other opinions.

Remind you of anyone?

Amazingly, these people usually strongly believe they are right.

Therefore, it seems like we are constantly bombarded with simple, often conflicting solutions to complicated problems, from both sides of political spectrum.

Sadly, this seems to be what many Americans want. Give it to me straight and give it to me simple. I fear this mindset is harming our country.

Build a wall and deport them all. Decriminalize illegal immigration. Cut taxes. Raise taxes. Reduce the number of guns in America. Increase the number of guns in America. Give parents more school choice. Support public schools. Hold teachers accountable for test scores. Give teachers more autonomy. More federal government. Less federal government.

Make America great again. America is already great.

As someone wise once said: “A shallow thinker solves one problem with one solution.  A deep thinker solves multiple problems with a single solution.”

It seems like we are in a place where there are only two ways to solve any problem and the gap between the two approaches is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Trying to find middle ground is often seen as capitulation, indecisiveness, or some kind of a character flaw.

As you know, I have never been afraid of sharing my opinions about education policies or reform. I also recognize that on a wide range of issues, I may be wrong, or at least not entirely right.

As a result, I strive to keep my mind open to opposing points of view. Like many of you, I read, study, listen, and debate. One of the primary reasons I have kept up this blog for the past three years is because it helps me learn. And, I have learned a lot over these years.

In short, I am willing to be reflective and actually give some thought to the possible veracity of another person’s claim or argument. And through this process, my perspective sometimes evolves or is made stronger.

I would like to believe that the thoughts and ideas on which I choose to opine have some level of depth and critical thought. If they didn’t, I suspect many of you would find other things to do with your time.

That being said, I can guarantee you that shallow thinkers also believe they have depth behind their opinion, because they believe their opinion is also based on the truth and indisputable facts.

But, I have learned that truths are truly hard to find.

And herein lies the trouble in dealing with shallow thinkers. They confuse truth with what they are actually using to support their opinion.

Often they will contort numbers to support a narrow narrative and extract single boards from houses of information to challenge the entire foundation.

Along these lines, a concern I have about our culture’s growing reliance on social media is a focus on simple, shallow thinking.

A 140-character tweet is barely enough to make a cogent thought. It’s certainly not adequate as a means of articulating meaningful ideas, arguments, policies, and vision.

It’s difficult enough to do in a 1,000 word blog post. I often fall short.

We know that words are often used as weapons. Moreover, as we witness every day, shallow opinions and thoughts tend to have really sharp edges that can tear apart even the best thoughts.

Again, remind you of anyone?

I say this in combination with the above quote because I believe far too often we offer opinions without a sufficient level of critical thought or reflection.

We may not truly be lazy but we may not be working hard enough before we speak…or write…or judge another. I include myself in this admonition.

So, how do we clean up the filthy bay of American politics?

We work together to clean it up. We spend more time with our mouths shut and our ears open. We then take care to not inadvertently add our own shallow thinking to the litter of mindless opinions and misguided dogma already adrift. We keep the political environment clean by rewarding candidates who are willing to listen, think, study, and collaborate.

Failing that–like the Olympic athletes in Rio next week–we had better become accustomed to swimming with our mouths shut.

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