Posted by: michelle2005 | January 27, 2009

“We’ve Been Played!”


I have spoken many times of the need for reflective judgment, the key to critical reasoning (King 2000).  I am surprised how many times people will inform me that such talk is a concoction of liberal thinking.  Sometimes the writers couch their arguments with descriptive language such a “flowery words” evoking the sixties let it all hangout movement.  They must believe that labeling an idea, somehow discredits well-reasoned scholarly thought.



Social scientists and educators have thought a great deal about ill-structured problems.  In politics, the majority of issues are very ill structured. These issues are opposed to well-structured problems in that they do not have a definitive answer. Gallagher, 1992 explained that: “Problems encountered in adult life are often referred to as “ill structured. Ill-structured problems have the following characteristics: (a) more information than is initially available is needed to understand the problem, (b) the problem definition changes as new information is added to the situation.  (c) many perspectives can be used to interpret information, and(d) no absolute; answer exists (Barrows, 1990)  Problems which students are asked to solve in school are often well-structured:   they are clearly defined. Self-contained and have a single right answer”.



The last characteristic that no absolute answer exists continues to vex our population.  People need to form a worldview that neatly answers all of their questions.  They will vote for a certain party candidate because he/she is for x, y, and z, or sometimes just a single issue.  Knowing how people think about issues, the respective political parties have honed their message to “inform” people of the benefits of their party or conversely of the dangers of voting for the other candidate.  They hit people with symbols that provoke tremendous emotional responses with resultant anxiety.



These campaigns so play off our fears so well that it becomes hard to support the opposing candidate when they win an election.  Hence, we have Rush Limbaugh proclaiming that he hopes Barack Obama our president fails. We have already watched what happens when a president fails, look at the state of our country today. Why would we expect the current president to fail given the consequences for America?



Mezirow 1997, discussed transformative learning extensively. He noted that “we have a strong tendency to reject ideas that fail to fit our preconceptions, labeling those ideas as unworthy of consideration—aberrations, nonsense, irrelevant, weird, or mistaken. When circumstances permit, transformative learners move toward a frame of reference that is more inclusive…self reflective”.




How do we arrive at a frame of reference that is more inclusive and self-reflective?  This careful process takes experience out of one’s personal sphere of influence.  Mezirow found: ”We do not make transformative changes in the way we learn as long as what we learn fits comfortably in our existing frames of reference.”  Even when information appears to challenge one’s mindset or existing frame of reference powerfully prevent a critical examination.



As I have said before I was a fervent supporter of the Republican Party.  The GOP dominated the mindset of voters in my district.  Even when faced with numerous apparent contradictions such as a right to life for the unborn while arguing for an indiscriminant endless war on terror and destroys tens of thousands of people not involved in the act of terrorism.  Note I am not arguing the relative merits of each position but rather the simple way that one can ignore the facts in favor of the prevailing belief of the party representatives.  Meanwhile other issues were occurring and no one was paying much attention because money was being made. 



Look how easy it is now to blame both parties for the collapse of the economy,   Republicans are quick to assert that the community reinvestment act forced lenders to make risky loans, Democrats point out the lack of regulation effectively allowed such risky investments as credit default swaps and other mathematically chicanery.  Oh, Republicans counter with we cannot solve a problem with government solutions.  The free market must be allowed to run its course. While all this bickering is going on labels are being slung back and forth and scapegoats are all the rage: It is the fat cats on Wall Street… it is the consumers who took on more than they could afford, and it is because lenders were forced to give mortgages to poor people who did not deserve consideration.



Considering how once developed a frame of reference is not easily changed, it is not too hard to envision the selling of this frame of reference to Americans in the form of advertising.  Advertising that we have been exposed to since childhood.



I have spoken before about how we as consumers tend to be easily led to whatever conclusion those in power wish.  Advertising dollars are not spent without regard for a favorable outcome for businesses.  Do you know how many commercials were devoted to pick-up trucks and vehicles with truck chassis in the 60’s and 70’s?  Very few, there was little market outside of the workforce; trucks were bare bones necessity vehicles desired to haul loads.  Growing up during this time one would not look kindly on picking up a date in a truck.  But a generation has now been raised hearing Bob Seger’s song  “Like A Rock” as a Chevy truck acrobatically maneuvers across the television screen.  People did not create the market for Sport Utility Vehicles as much as they were sold as the auto industry noted the greater profits that could be realized over cars.  People have now purchased so many SUVs that they are now referred to as cars, they are trucks.



Now we have big screen televisions that cost more than most bring home in two or three months being hawked to the public.   Cannot afford it but “want it all” just text your bank to check on you credit allowance.  When the market burst the same people that were arguing for an ownership society, now chastise those who purchased homes and big ticket items. You cannot have this both ways relentless selling using credit that drives the economy and expecting people to save. If they save they will not make purchases, and business will not thrive, but it they spend they run the risk of a credit collapse and possible foreclosure.



While both sides have valid points of view; if one is to be transformative, we should strive for the solutions, not appeals to our emotions.  We can no longer afford to fall victim to our fears, remember in similar times our leaders have told us that the only thing to fear was fear itself.  Over the past eight years, we have been told that we should be so fearful if the opposition party got into power.  This prevented real questions from being answered, we simply voted based on fears.  Last November the fear mongering did not work, the time for change has arrived.   The old labels of the past need to be put to rest!





The effects of problem-based learning on problem solving.By: Gallagher, Shelagh A.; Stepien, William J.. Gifted Child Quarterly, Fall92, Vol. 36 Issue 4, p195, 7p, 1 chart; (AN 9403310030)



Learning to Make Reflective Judgments.PreviewBy: King, Patricia M.. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, Summer2000 Issue 82, p15, 12p; (AN 9178958)



How do we know? Why do we believe?By: King, Patricia M.. Liberal Education, Jan/Feb92, Vol. 78 Issue 1, p2, 8p, 4 bw; (AN 9608042120)



Transformative learning: Theory to practice.By: Mezirow, Jack. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, Summer97 Issue 74, p5, 8p; (AN 9712154860)





  1. Interesting post … and well thought out. Two things I really like: 1) You stated your political preference, but didn’t center your point around it … and two, the last paragraph says a lot.

    You may be interested in Peggy Noonan’s latest book: Patriotic Grace.

  2. […] has a great essay about how our learning styles affect our thinking as liberals and […]

  3. Hey Michelle,

    Welcome to the fold of confused politics. It’s time lots of people realize they have been mislead by both, and need to vote once again like our founders laid out. It’s time we act like our rhetoric, and vote with our heart and not ideology. There were choices this time, but everyone was caught up in the “change”. I just hope soon that folks realize and read stories like this one to figure out that “change” smells. Great Post!

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