When I read certain conservative blogs, I get the impression that their rejection of things is based on a peculiar notion of critical thinking. The axiom seems to be when confronted with anything widely accepted– climate change, the existence of wide economic, gender, and racial inequalities, evolution, fluoride being good for teeth, and so on –we should immediately doubt it as a mystification. Part of the allure of Rush Limbaugh, for example, seems to be the idea of hearing a “truth” that no one else knows and that everyone else rejects.
This seems like critical thinking run amok. Conspiracy theory is another good example. The conspiracy theorist seems to assume that if something is widely accepted and uncontroversial– say Adam Lanza having shot all those children at Sandy Hook Elementary –it must be a cover up on behalf of the powerful. These things vaguely resemble “critical thinking” because they don’t take things at face value, but question them; but, in fact, they’re forms of uncritical dogmatism because they work from the rule that if something is widely accepted, it must be false.
I worry about this with the humanities classroom. Is there a chance that we might be creating “dogmatists of suspicion”? That is, are their pedagogical strategies that risk turning suspicion into an axiom, such that our students become critically immune to any facts or evidence?