Return to Critical Thinking Reference
For each of the following arguments or essays, give a short reconstruction and then assess the argument by using the Critical Response strategies discussed in the third discipline.
- In “Americans Don’t Really Believe in the Ten Commandments,” Emrys Westacott argues as follows: “The overwhelming majority of people in our society … don’t actually believe that we should follow most of the commandments. The first commandment… says we should “have no other gods before” Yahweh, the God who helped the Israelites escape from Egypt. The precise meaning of the term before is unclear but has been interpreted almost universally to mean that we shouldn’t worship any other gods – we shouldn’t bring them “before the presence,” so to speak, of the one true God. But who nowadays believes that folk who practice other religions like Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, or one of the tribal religions indigenous to Africa or the Americas are doing something morally wrong? Enlightened opinion today is almost universally on the side of respect and tolerance for diverse religious beliefs. Indeed, an opinion poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that only 18 percent of American adults polled behaved their religion to be the “one true faith,” and 48 percent of white evangelical Protestants thought that many religions could “lead to eternal life.”
- The New York Times is so liberal that it can’t recognize that the left is running out of poor people to based their politics on. Average incomes in the bottom 1/5 of the income brackets are rising and people don’t stay at the bottom for very long any more. But the New York Times still wasted a lot of ink in their January 18th, 2004 Times Magazine writing about some atypical example of a poor person who had a series of low paying jobs. After telling her story, the article just asserted that she was like “millions at the bottom of the labor force” in the “hidden America.” Instead of writing about people like this, the Times should report income data in a way that shows how good the poor in this country have it. Adapted from Thomas Sowell, “Liberals Running out of Poor People,” The Spokesman-Review, January 25, 2004.
- Why do teachers give students so much homework these days? Students are getting homework on weekends and holidays now. They used to have more free time. Today’s students go to bed fatigued from all their homework. They are overstressed. I was a teacher and administrator for 38 years and I told teachers to give students time to do their work in class, so I know it can be done. Today’s teachers will give students homework on the weekend, but they won’t come to work on the weekend. Hypocrites! I tell you it’s child abuse. Adapted from “Letter to the Editor,” Spokesman-Review, January 27, 2004
- Smokers are angry about smoking bans, but they protect pubhc health. According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States each year secondhand smoke causes 35,000 to 40,000 deaths from heart disease among nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke also causes about 3,000 lungcancer deaths in nonsmoking adults, plus 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in children younger than 18 months of age. The opponents of smoking bans are groups with vested interests in maintaining the status quo, such as restaurant associations, but they are not taking the long view of their patron’s health. The tobacco industry’s predictions about the effects of smoking bans haven’t come true. California has had a smoking ban in restaurants and bars since 1998 and business has continued to grow.
- Fewer teenagers are being influenced by the suggestive messages of sex so increasingly pervasive in American media and culture. And that’s good news. The percentage of high school students who say they have had sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001, according to a recent government report. It’s a trend the Bush administration hopes won’t go away. In fact, the president proposes to boost spending on abstinence education to $135 milhon – up from $60 milhon in 1998. Abstinence programs do more than warn about risky sexual behavior. They also aim to help teens improve self-worth, set goals, discover values, and talk about personal relationships.
- Many abstinence groups, such as “True Love Waits,” sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, place a Christian influence behind reasons to delay sex until marriage. But teens also can benefit by hearing an abundance of true-life examples, such as those in Newsweek’s current cover story.
- With fearless openness, a group of young men and women willingly explain their diverse reasons for postponing sex. One Wellesley College sophomore explains how abstinence allows her to assert herself against social pressures to conform. Other students point to concerns about pregnancy, or becoming too emotionally committed at an early age.
- While parents and religious leaders can provide advice and counsehng. More teen voices like these can be a powerful force in helping young people reahze they can still be hip if they choose abstinence.
- Teens Who Choose to Wait:[ALL Edition], Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Mass. 12/5/02, p. 8.