1/10/2021: The Importance Of Critical Thinking When It Comes To Mental Health

Didn’t realize it at the time, but perhaps the best teacher I had in my school yrs was a man named “Mr. Sullivan,” who taught 10th grade American History. 

Like most classes on this topic, we learned abt everything from Slavery to Civil War, Jim Crow Laws to the New Deal, the Cuban Missile Crisis & the Kennedy Assassination to the Cold War. Pretty standard, right?  But here’s the difference:

He made us learn abt each event in our country’s history from 3 unique perspectives. At the time I thought he was just being a pain in the butt who loved history & wanted us to have to study more, when test & essay times came arnd. Upon further review, w the extra work, he was actually gifting us something pretty special.

What were the 3 angles? 1) was how each event was taught in the school-issued history textbook, 2) was how each event was explained thru the eyes of a historian FROM the US, 3) was how each event was explain from a historian from OUTSIDE the US.

To further confuse things, when we were to take tests or hand in papers, our answers we chose, could be from any number of angles – any of the 3 aforementioned, any combination of 1,2, or 3, or an opinion we’d formed on our own, based on hearing all 3. Props to that guy for grading so many tests & papers that didn’t have “standard answers,” right?

Back then I thought: well this guy loves history, makes sense…he geeks out on it…he doesn’t mind the extra work. But it’s clear to me now (& friends I’ve discussed this w), he actually geeked out on teaching us to critically think, form opinions based on what we’d read – not just what the textbook says, & then convey it the way it came together in our minds.

Impt to note, from each of the 3 angles, the facts differed very little. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the fall of the Wall. What differed was how these events were perceived thru diff lenses.

So why talk abt this on a MH page? We’re living in a time of social media headlines…in a time of great change, happening faster than ever before. If our kids are influenced by each event, & each headline they read, there’s a rabbit hole they can go down. A rabbit hole of influence, from sources that prey on the limited time we have, on the fear we can develop, to convince us what IS, rather than to critically think & form our own opinions.  

There’s a standard line that goes: “There’s his version, her version, & then the truth.”  I don’t know that there is one “truth”…but I did learn then, & see now, there are many takes on most any topic we come across. Learning the skill to critically think is not only important for our ability to process, it’s important to our ability for us  to stay the healthiest possible, & not fall victim to worst case scenarios or even biased opinions that are often confirmed in our social feeds of like minded folks.  

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