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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

My Renaissance

I graduated from high school almost 7 years ago. Since then I have not taken any further classes that have used critical thinking. The classes I took have consisted of the more fun, lighthearted, social classes. This was then followed by a period of 6 years without any formal education. By the time I started school up again this last fall semester I had not been required, or even desired, to do work past that which was required of my job. This class, combined with other classes, such as English 1010, have retaught me how to critically think and present ideas.

This class has been an adventure I did not think it would be. The course description for this class did not do a good job of accurately reflecting what was to be taught. Going into this class I expected to learn about the ancient civilizations, like the Romans and Chinese, who are renowned for their economy. What was it they did? How did they do it? Why did they do it? This is what I believed the foundations of business would revolve around. Instead this class focused on changing some of the beliefs held by the typical Utahan. This class seemed dedicated to proving why some of the beliefs of my fathers were wrong and what can be done to not fall into that so-called trap.

The first time I came across this attack on religion was in the reading Critical Thinking, by Edward Engh, I shrugged it off as an effort to distinguish between type I and type II errors and how these are errors, mistakes, misinformation, or inaccurate information. The concept of type I and type II errors has always made sense to me but was never described and named. In the next reading assignment, Physics of Business, by Edward Engh the focus of the class was made clear in one of the assignments questions. The assignment question was “Are there any modern examples of dark age thinking in our time?” The accompanying note is what really brought the picture into focus. The note says “In answering this question, many students jump to North Korea as an answer.  It is always better to look INWARD at your own community–your own religion–or state, not outward whenever answering questions like this.  I.e., look at your own society and answer the question.  For example: Many scientists and educators feel that Utah is a perfect example of “dark age thinking”, and so is small town America.  Is there a difference between the “dark ages” of North Korea and that “dark age thinking” of Utahns? The scientific term for this phenomenon is provincialism: people in places like Utah are extremely sheltered from the facts, from anything that might contradict the local faith or local political view, and even from their own history. This has an enormous impact on Business.  Business is what we call “urbane”, it must be open to the facts, no matter how upsetting they are. Several years ago, American Stores began moving their corporate headquarters to Salt Lake, because they thought it was a good place to run a world class global business. Six months after moving to Salt Lake they suddenly packed up and left. I interviewed the president of the company at the time, and she told me why. “Salt Lake has been pitching itself as a great place for business, because of what they call ‘a good work ethic’, but the truth is simply they are so sheltered from real world business that they are naive. Naivety is not good for business, ever.”  Now, try to answer this question by using examples around you.  Who around you uses Dark Age thinking?  Fully explain yourself, and be prepared to defend your answer.” This note is there for a good reason as the problems in my own community, and not the problems surrounding North Korea, are what I can have an impact on and help improve. This note helped me think of the assignment, and all other assignments, on a more personal level.

Throughout the rest of the semester all of the readings, except for 10, obviously mentioned religion. Some of the readings did not have religion mentioned at all in the actual reading but in the assignment questions religion was thrown in, sometimes for no logical reason. Of the 10 readings that did not obviously mention religion at least half of those indirectly mentioned religion and hinted towards its effect on critical thinking and business as a whole.

Throughout this class all of the readings had the ethos of a writer developed by who the writer was and what sort of impact they had on society, but the assignment questions had absolutely no, or very little, credibility because of their biased approach to religion, specifically the predominant religion in Utah.

While I understand the impact that religion can have on critical thinking I believe it is not necessary to repeatedly bash a religion, or religious beliefs, in the name of empirical evidence. This class singled out and repeatedly attacked Christianity, mostly directed towards the Mormon sect. I was surprised when I saw a pattern emerging of these attacks. While our readings were primarily from European writers there were some written by Asians, one about Ancient America, and other parts of the world, yet the only mention of a religion that was not a Christian religion was about the Aztec’s and their religious beliefs and buildings which Bernal Diaz of Castile described as the house of Satan.

Religion is an important part of society and will not ever be fully separated from a society. In fact some of the biggest businesses have become what they are due to respecting religions and being religiously tolerant themselves. In some cases, as with Chick Fil A, businesses take a hard approach to an issue, such as gay marriage, and make a decision to stand by their own personal values, which the ethics surrounding such a decision could be debated endlessly. These decisions will obviously affect the company either negatively or positively. Sometimes that decision is what is needed to help the business achieve its goal.

From a business viewpoint one needs to be sensitive to the beliefs of the consumers and sometimes make “poor” business decisions based on the fact that there will be a benefit from it in the long run. One example could be building on sacred Indian land in America. While the oil pipeline that can be built would bring in millions of dollars of profits it would also bring a bad image to the company that could result is losses equal to the gains the pipeline brings. If instead the pipeline is built somewhere else, or goes around the sacred land the costs may be greater but the bad image and losses would be avoided.

Another aspect of this class the influenced me were the tests that were presented. This class is intended to engage critical thinking but the tests were presented in multiple choice format, which is not wrong or bad at all, and provided as the multiple choices the real answer and then three obviously wrong answers that talk about Victoria’s Secret and other such options. This made the tests extremely easy to do, so easy in fact that my wife, or anyone with a basic high school education, could easily get at least 80% on the tests without reading the assignments. For comparison a monkey, guessing randomly, can get a score of 13, out of 36, on the ACT. In a class that is promoting the use of critical thinking a test, such as the ones we were given, should not be so easy and obvious. They should require the use of knowledge we have gained from the readings, actual critical thinking skills and not the simple “skill” of realizing that three of the possible answers are talking about aliens while only one answer is referring to what the question is asking about.

Despite all the flaws surrounding this class I know that I have learned more about critical thinking than I previously did. While I believe this class did not accomplish what it set out to do this class has succeeded in pointing out things to watch out for. In regard to this class I agree with Thomas Edison when he said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


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