The Power of Critical Thinking(lll)

Posted: February 16, 2014 at 5:50 am

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Feature Article of Sunday, 16 February 2014

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis

The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less (Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright).

Havel sets the analytic tone for us. That brings us to the important work of the Brazilian thinker, Paulo Freire, a brilliant scholar whose influential theories on grassroots conscientization has enormously impacted the creative development of critical pedagogy. Granted, his theoretical formulations follow directly from Fanons provocative theories on grassroots conscientization, a radical orchestration meant to depose the hegemony of social injustice and classism, among other variables, in order to restore dignity and respect to the human person, these, via the psychological activation of a people. Admittedly, his powerful thesis, advanced in the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, must be used in every teacher training school in the African world. Besides, although his radical methodological approach to education is essentially Marxist, an ideological strain antithetical to Afrocentricity, yet, like other progressive ideas with immense transformative value, there exist important theoretical overlaps with Afrocentric pedagogy.

That is, his critique of the so-called banking model of education, a foundational philosophy of Eurocentric pedagogy, frees studentship from the hegemonic endometrium of cranial emptiness as well as from the intimidating guillotine of teacherhood, which, in theory, is considered superior to studentship. This poses a serious problem for us because a teacher, like a student, learns along as he or she impacts knowledge. This also implies simultaneous functionality between teacher and student. Technically, Freire believed, very strongly, that interpreting a learner in exclusive symbolic terms as empty vessel, a theoretical borehole demanding that a teacher, supposedly the more knowledgeable one, fills it up, made a learner a necessary object in a relationship of unequal dichotomy with his or her teacher. Certainly, this ideological confluence accommodates Afrocentric pedagogy and Freirean critical pedagogy in many respects. This makes more sense in another context.

Lets stress here that no unlettered individual walks around bearing the zero-weight of cranial emptiness, because, sensory perception, involving taste, smell, sight, touch, hearing, and umami, alone, could potentially flood the human brain with useful information without the instructional benefit of teacher-learner relationship. On the contrary, the tabula rasa of Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and Sigmund Freud has come under serious scientific revision (See Fiona Macraes article Babies Remember Music They Heard in the Wound up To Four Months after They Are Born, published on MailOnline, Jan 30, 2014). Still, the Eurocentric theory on empty vessel, is, essentially, antithetical to Afrocentricity, this, in another creative context. Which is that it also potentially distorts the ideological fulcrum of Allan Blooms influentially controversial work The Closing Of The American Mind, a book which sees relativism, or multiculturalism, as a didactic concept detrimental to the social health of intellectual openness and psychological development?

That is, Blooms theory makes no room for critical thinking in the American educational system! This is exactly what our newly-proposed educational system in Africa should strive to avoid, as stifling critical thinking spells disaster for growth and development. Then again, Prof. Arthur M. Schlesinger, advisor to and biographer of John F. Kennedy, one of the serious critics of Afrocentricity, alongside the classicist Prof. Mary Lefkowitz, writes: But the division of society into fixed ethnic ethnicities nourishes a culture of victimization and a contagion of inflammable sensitivities. And when a vocal and visible minority pledges primary allegiance to their groups, whether ethnic, sexual, religious, or, in rare cases, political, it presents a threat to the brittle bonds of national identity that hold this diverse and fractious society together (See The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multinational Society, p. 113). This observation is an important one though it represents one of those deceptively reductionist circumventions of broader sociological questions.

Put another way, no American ethnic, religious, or racial group willingly submits to social delimitation or declassed exclusivism if not actually pushed by combined forces of history, racism, minoritized conditionalities, politico-economic subjection, intellectual devaluation, and electoral ostracism. As we noted elsewhere, Afrocentricity is not about separatism. Summarily, its about psychological decolonization of the African mind, self-determination (political, economic), self-knowledge, victorious consciousness, self-respect, prioritizing Africas strategic interests above others, etc. The moral connotation is that the pursuit of self-autonomy by a minority constitutes a political prerequisite to social integration. Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Kwame Nkrumah preached this philosophy of self-reliance. Yet minority demographics are what American conservatives like Pat Buchannan dont want to hear. Neither do they approve of multiculturalism (See The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Culture and Civilization).

Buchannans theory unambiguously excludes non-Whites from partaking of the cake of Western civilization. Meanwhile, syndicated television host Tony Brown, author of Black Lies, White Lies, argues forcefully in this book that the blatant failure on the part of Black America to realize economic self-sufficiency before boarding the integrationist bandwagon may have contributed to some of the structural problems in Black America today. This situation is generally applicable to the African condition. In other words, Africa has joined the integrationist bandwagon of globalism without the moral benefits of full self-determination. Theoretically, its like forcing ones gangrenous toes into tight-fitting shoes, rather than through open-toe house slippers, when no prior attempts have been to secure their healing. Critical thinking favors this line of reasoning, in which self-autonomy affirmatively asserts precedence over facile integrationism. This does not mean Africas variegated ethnicities should not strive for integrationist nationalism. This is why Freirean critical pedagogy and Afrocentric didactics matter to the discourse on psychological and cultural independence (we shall later discuss Paulo Freire in some detail).

More importantly, majority status, in and of itself, does not always represent truth, righteousness, or collective wisdom, a conditionality which necessarily imposes the political gavel of dictatorial tendencies on the larger society, squeezing minorities through the birth canal of social and political tangentiality. In principle, moral totalitarianism is what majoritarian politics has chosen to become. That said, Schlesinger seems to also accept the moral paradox of ethnic individuation in the larger framework of integration as a psychological necessity, writing: Now there is a reasonable argument in the black case for a measure of regrouping and self-reliance as part of the preparation for entry into an integrated society on an equal basis.Affirmation of racial and cultural pride is thus essential to true integration (ibid., p. 102). Yet Schlesinger equivocates on the didactic and moral importance of multiculturalism in the American educational system as a critical perusal of his book evidently shows. In fact, there are serious questions his book does not raise, let alone address, if at all. For instance, he does not understand why African Americans should re-Africanize themselves after three hundred years of their Americanization,

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The Power of Critical Thinking(lll)

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February 16th, 2014 at 5:50 am