Educators need help

To the Journal editor:

I was an unconventional student. I loved to learn, but loathed going to school. Despite getting A’s on most of my exams, I was in serious danger of not graduating high school due to abysmal attendance.

One Northern Michigan University course changed everything. The course was Comparative Government.

It involved reading excerpts from famous social and political theorists from Plato to the modern era. The subject matter was interesting, but what really got me excited was my professor, who, instead of asking us what each theorist was trying to tell us, asked us to pick each of them apart.

My professor wanted to know what we thought was “wrong” with each essay. Now here was something a rebellious kid could sink her teeth into! Instead of having to memorize the thoughts of others, I was encouraged to use my thoughts. Thus, I was first introduced to “critical thinking.”

One might be surprised that critical thinking wasn’t part of my education till NMU, but it hadn’t been. Given the state of current affairs, the rise of fake news, the persuasive power of advertising and misinformation, fear mongering and propaganda that makes us hate our fellow human beings. Too many American citizens go through life without this important skill.

Reactionary thinking takes so little effort compared to critical thinking. I feel genuinely blessed to have encountered this professor early in life.

When thinking about solutions to society’s ills, education is nearly always at the top of the list. We in the Upper Peninsula are isolated in many ways. Even with the advent of the internet, we may not have the worldly wisdom and experience to disseminate all this information critically.

We need our university and skilled professors to help us see through the haze of fear, confirmation bias and informational silos.

We need our NMU faculty members to be treated and compensated fairly and competitively to retain and recruit the best and brightest. Sadly, the administration refuses to keep NMU faculty on par with their peers. Upper Peninsula workers are underpaid in almost every profession, and all of them deserve more.

Our educators, in particular, are the guardians of civilization and good citizenship. We have all witnessed what a world without critical thought looks like and it is terrifying. I urge the administration to bargain in good faith with the AAUP and give our professors and our community the tools necessary to combat ignorance.


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