It was always a nervous day, when it was report card day. OK, maybe I should speak in first person, it was for me anyway. Not always, but for a time in my life, very much so for reasons that will need a different article. I remember one time coming home with my Hebrew school report card, which was very good, except that C in conduct . My mom was not pleased. My dad happened to be over to visit that day and exclaimed, “Oh leave him alone, everything else is fine!”
I guess I’m feeling a little different about it now. If you were grading America’s conduct right now, what would it be? I don’t think it’s that C that I barely avoided getting in trouble for. Or am I falling in the trap we all fall prey to, letting a few people and the disruption they make make me think they whole thing is going to hell?
I don’t think that’s the case. When you regularly see white supremacists and neo-Nazis in America, that is a problem. Tell me a time, before the despicable Trump, that in your lifetime, you’ve seen this all across America? Remember when we worried most about terrorism from abroad? Rarely talked about anymore because anyone and everyone can see the biggest threat to American Democracy comes from within.
But to understand the problem with conduct you also have to see that we fail in basic critical thinking. Start with this — questioning everything is NOT critical thinking, it’s being contrary for the sake of being contrary. Second, it is also not using false equivalencies like, if I can't believe or trust X, then hell, I don’t believe the rest of the alphabet. Cynicism and skepticism of everything is simply lazy.
Actual critical thinking takes some perspective and willingness to judge something on its own merits or lack thereof. If I look at your science grade America, uh oh, not so good. Not understanding that science is an output of data, using the best available techniques and knowledge we have at the moment, leads to that bad grade. That’s the key thing, is what we know, at this moment, as best we can determine. It changes! We learn more, we find better techniques. It does not mean you were lied to, so I can never believe it.
Now sometimes science is used poorly, but don’t blame science for that. For instance Canada says, you cannot come in unless you have received 2 COVID vaccinations at least 14 days before entering the country. OK, my 2nd dose was in May 2021 (I have 2 boosters since), and simply based on that, I can enter Canada. Science actually tells me, yeah you were vaccinated for the original virus, we’re at BA-5 right now and you have little and probably no protection based on what you did over a year ago. I can offer the opinion, this is a policy that I do not think the science supports, I am not blaming or inventing science.
Don’t get jumpy, I’m not saying don’t get vaccinated. I am saying ask and be sure that policy is doing what it aims to do, based on what we know. It’s back to critical thinking, what are we trying to achieve and what’s the best information we have on how to get there? I also want to acknowledge that when it comes to COVID, that is very much a moving target.
My message here is that there is always opportunity to do better. What emboldens “bad conduct”? People turning their heads, not saying anything, thinking it’s not my business. What happens to your community, friends and family is your business. Simply ask, if hate was aimed at me, what I would want others to do?
And take the time to be better informed about what is happening around you. For instance, I was having a discussion with a friend about how many people skip voting on some statewide offices. And I am sure there are maby more who are low information voters. Democracy does not do well when people do not actively participate and get involved with their community, state and country. Yeah I’m being judgemental that it matters more who is on your school boards, your state rep, Congress, etc than binge watching something on Hulu 😎.
Well the good thing about report cards, is there is always another one coming. When you are at our best as a citizen, it is good for everyone.