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Chris Rock’s Independence Day remark offensive or critical thinking?

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 07-08-2012 | in Political, Government, Ethics, Race, Democracy, Critical Thinking,

"Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks." A San Francisco Examiner article reported this remark by comedian Chris Rock in a tweet about the Independence Day celebration and negative reaction to it. Most responses I read were negative with many of them calling the remark racist.

Chris Rock gained national acclaim for his humor as a former cast member of "Saturday Night Live" television comedy. Remarks about society that defy social expectations of conformity to set values have been a characteristic of his humor. Let us analyze the basis for the controversy to see if the facts justify the objections to his remarks.

The Independence Day celebration on July 4 honors the goals of the Declaration of Independence of self-determination for Americans. In addition, it honors historic figures like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Hancock that helped write and helped gain approval for the declaration. Nobody can dispute this assertion based on fact. We do not hear people associating leaders of this era like President Barrack Obama, or former presidents George W. Bush and William J Clinton with the celebration.

Chris Rock is correct only white-labeled Americans had reasons to celebrate when Congress approved the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 and not black-labeled people still enslaved after its approval. The men that wrote and approved the Declaration of Independence mostly were enslavers of black-labeled people. Those enslavers did not intend to include the people they enslaved under the declaration's umbrella of freedom. Freedom day for black-labeled Americans was December 6, 1865 when the States approved and adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Chris Rock only reported an obvious fact. His enslaved ancestors did not gain freedom or self-determination from the Declaration of Independence. They did not find its approval a joyful occasion. Therefore, people did not have a rational reason to resent Chris Rock's statement of fact or to characterize it racist.

Someone could rightly criticize Rock for generalizing happiness about Independence Day to all white-labeled people. He could have reflected about women's feelings on Independence Day. "Happy white males' Independence Day, the women weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure the enjoyed the fireworks."

On the other hand, he could have reflected on the disenfranchised white-labeled males that did not own property. "Happy white male property owners' Independence Day, the white males without property weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure they enjoyed the fireworks."

Critics' attacks on Chris Rock's Independence Day remarks are attacks on Higher Order Thinking skills that challenge their fixed beliefs and values. Perhaps they do not see the connection. In contrast, the Texas Republican Party saw the connection between Higher Order Thinking Skills as reasoning that challenges fixed beliefs and values. It included the following plank in the 2012 to 2014 platform.

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

The Texas Republican Party is correct the inclination and ability to examine or challenge fixed beliefs and values are fundamental traits of Higher Order Thinking. Fixed beliefs and fixed values limit Americans' ability to reason about their government. This is why many political leaders oppose their constituents learning critical thinking skills.

Rock's remark challenges the common belief the nation's founders intended to secure self-determination for all people in America by approving the Declaration of Independence. In addition, he challenged the fixed belief of the founders as models of virtue above criticism and its extension that material wealth and position of power indicate someone's high moral standards.

Presidential candidates' campaign spending to confuse facts

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 06-20-2012 | in Political, Government, Ethics, Democracy, Critical Thinking, Economics,

Campaign spending for the 2012 presidential election moves past outrageous to corrupting our representative government. President Barrack Obama's record is there for voters to see. Romney published a 2011 campaign document titled "Believe in America" of his "Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth." Voters should be able to use those sources of information to evaluate the candidates.

Romney's "Believe in America" opening remarks show a strategy to enhance perceptions of his qualifications for office by unfairly tarnishing the record of Obama's administration. He wrote, "Back in the beginning of 2009, we were told by the incoming Obama administration that a massive federal spending package would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent. Eight percent is itself a shocking number, far above what was then the post-war average of 5.6 percent. If only President Obama had been right, for he proceeded to borrow nearly a trillion dollars for his "stimulus." And yet the unemployment rate blew right past 8 percent until it hit the high-water mark of 10.1 percent. At the moment that I am writing-three years into the President's four-year term."

Most of Romney's assertions are false. He does not directly claim the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent when Obama assumed office. He plants this number in the mind of voters by comparing instances of unemployment rates under Obama with this meaningless 5.6 percent average of unemployment over 63 years. He does assert the unemployment rate was less than 8 percent when Obama took office saying, "unemployment rate blew right past 8 percent until it hit the high-water mark of 10.1 percent" after Obama approved a trillion dollar stimulus pack.

Romney's remark, "Eight percent is itself a shocking number, far above what was then the post-war average of 5.6 percent" is itself shocking. It reveals mathematical illiteracy of a person that claims superior expertise to set national tax and economic policy. A mean average of 5.6 percent does not mark that rate as the highest or most common for the period. Yearly unemployment rates under President Reagan were 9.69 and 9.61 during this postwar period. An average reports only the balance of values above and below that number.

President George W. Bush signed a 168-billion-U.S.-dollar economic rescue package February 2008 to fend off a possible economic recession. After that, the unemployment rate increased each month from 4.8 percent in February 2008 to 8.2% before Obama took office February 20, 2009 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of unemployment increased to 8.6% in March 2009 a few weeks after Obama took office and before his policies could have affected them. Therefore, Romney's assertion is false that "the unemployment rate blew right past 8 percent" despite Obama's "nearly a trillion dollars for his "stimulus."

Romney likes to compare the status of the economy under Obama to previous times like the postwar era. However, comparing Obama's unemployment rates with a specific president like Reagan would be fairer although still not accurate. President Ronald Reagan faced an unemployment rate of 7.6 when he took office February 1981. His unemployment rate was 9.62 percent in 1982, 9.61 percent in 1983, and 7.52 percent in 1984. The rate had ballooned to over 10 percent during Reagan's first term. Unemployment rates were 7.20, 6.99, 6.19, and 5.51 percent during the respective years of Reagan's second term in office. Not surprisingly, Obama's record shows an identical trend of increasing unemployment rates during the first term before turning around.

Previously, Republicans projected Reagan as their economic authority and the model that all presidential administrations should follow. Why has Romney changed strategy during this presidential campaign to hide Reagan's unemployment rates in a meaningless six-decade national average of 5.6 percent? Perhaps, he acted this way to hide the obvious likenesses between Reagan and Obama's first term results that discredit his negative claims about Obama's first term performance. Similar employment results during Reagan and Obama's first term do not confirm that presidents face comparable economic environments curable by a magic formula. It does confirm that the complex forces of an economy have momentum that needs long reaction times for change. This realty of economic forces contradicts Romney's assertions the economy is immediately amenable to change so that Obama should have cured its problems during his short time in office.

I am disbelieving of someone who tries to convince me to appoint him or her in charge of my affairs with false accusation against my current agent. This is what Republicans and Romney do when they make assertions that conflict with history and fact. Perhaps, many voters do not care how much Republicans falsely disparage Obama's performance and cheer the effort. Nevertheless, they should care that they are the targets of the deception to confuse their ability to decide important personal and national issues. Someone that tells lies to you about another person disrespects you and the other person.


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