Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Which we always thought was the safest place in America"

"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America."  Every time one of these incidences occur,  reporters always find someone who says, "We didn't think that could happen here."  My question when I hear that is , where is it supposed to happen? Why could it not happen "there."  This whole notion of anywhere being the safest place in America is absurd.  We must come out of denial and face the brutal truth that anything can happen anywhere at anytime.  Read between the lines or decode what the statement really says. It says it could happen somewhere else, but not here.  Why? Because it is quiet and has tree lined streets?  I truly wish the reporters would remove that line from the scripts. This also holds true for the phrase "Quiet tree lined streets" said in a hushed tone.  Does the fact that the community is quiet and have tree lined streets make them exempt from tragedy?  Take a listen to today's podcast at  It is The Reading Circle with Marc Medley in its entirety for December 15, 2012. The show is heard live on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. ET on WP88.7 FM and is web streamed around the world on  My prayers are with the people of Newtown, Connecticut and everywhere else these tragedies keep occurring. Something has got to give because enough is enough.  As always I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog and in the feedback tab to the right of your screen. Follow the Critical Thinker in Twitter @thinkcritical01 and follow The Critical Thinker podcast at  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Subliminal Racism or What's Wrong With These Pictures? - Part 2

This post is part two of What's Wrong With These Pictures? Does anything strike you?”  I intentionally wrote "What's Wrong With These Pictures?" to be a two-part post because I wanted to see how many people would take me up on my challenge and really critically think about what was occurring in the advertisements before I rendered my views. Not surprisingly, no one really took me up on my challenge, or if they did, they did not respond in the comment or feedback section of  The Critical Thinker. So in this post I will provide further hints and clues as to what I think is wrong with these pictures while still not giving you my complete hypothesis because I do not want to be accused of telling you what to think.

In many instances when I share my thoughts I am told that I think too deeply or look too deeply into things and that what I am thinking really is not the case. For example in 2002, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington both received history breaking Oscar Awards. Halle Berry became the first African-American female to win the best actress Oscar and Denzel Washington followed Sidney Poitier as only the second African American male to win the best actor award. While I was happy for both, Mr. Washington and Ms. Berry, I was also saddened because of the roles in which they had won the Oscar. Both Denzel and Halle had played much stronger and more positive roles prior to winning his/her Oscar yet did not win; however, when Halle stripped fully nude in Monster’s Ball and Denzel played a rogue cop in Training Day, they were both awarded an Oscar for his/her respective roles. I found it interesting because in each of their roles of which they won the Oscar, the roles were stereotypical African-American roles; portrayal of an African American either being loose and promiscuous or being crooked and corrupt. People told me at that time that I was thinking too deep; maybe…….maybe not?

A few days ago The Daily Caller, a news and opinion website based in Washington DC that focuses on politics, original reporting and breaking news reported that United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice who is currently being nominated for Secretary of State had argued for the aggressive inclusion of a black history curriculum in American schools in a paper written in 1986. According to The Daily Caller, Ambassador Rice stated at that time that “American history cannot be understood fully or evaluated critically without ample study of black history.” My thoughts on whether or not Ambassador Rice should become Secretary of State or not is neither here nor there (that's a separate blog post altogether) and in my mind she is no better or no worse than anyone else who has held the position; however, I do agree with her in terms of the inclusion of not just black history but of everyone's history in our school system to teach our children about everyone and not just one group. This lack of historical knowledge and wherewithal is what in my view allows us not to truly see the message that is being sent when a Halle Barry and Denzel Washington wins Hollywood’s highest achievement for portraying stereotypical roles. It’s this same lack of historical knowledge that blinds and deafens us as to what is really going on in some of our current advertising, hence the four commercials I shared with you in “What's Wrong With These Pictures?” 

I will once again invite you to go back and review the four advertising videos in "What's Wrong With These Pictures?" and look and listen carefully. As a hint, in the NFL Play60 ad with the little boy and Cam Newton, listen and give some thought to what the little boy is telling Mr. Newton. In the video with Eli Manning and the lawnmower, listen and think about what the wife says to her husband at the end of the commercial as Mr. Manning leaves. In the video with Ray Lewis and Tom Brady, take a look at what the mother and Mr. Brady refers to Mr. Lewis as and lastly when you look at the video with the senior citizen and the cat in the tree, listen to what she does not say when Mr. Manning leaves compared with what the wife says in the other version in the Toyota campaign(that’s all the hints and clues I'm going to give you in terms of what I see wrong with these pictures).

In 1974, PhD and author Wilson Bryan Key wrote a popular book at the time titled Subliminal Seduction. It was a book that had as its subtitle “Here Are the Secret Ways Ad Men Arouse Your Desires - To Sell Their Products.” For the most part, Dr. Key was dealing with subliminal sexual messages, as his theory was as we are aroused sexually by the subliminal sexual messages embedded in the ads, we will subconsciously make a connection with the products and ultimately purchase them. On page one of Chapter One titled “The Mass Media's Illusion of Reality,” he says

“This story is about subliminal perception and about the ways we think we think. In the concept of subliminal phenomena are included all those techniques now known to the mass media by which tens of millions of humans are daily massaged and manipulated without their conscious awareness. Key goes on the further state that “Every person reading this book has been victimized and manipulated by the use of subliminal stimuli directed into his unconscious mind by the mass merchandisers of media. The techniques are in widespread use by media, advertising and public relations agencies, industrial and commercial corporations and by the Federal government itself.” 

One reason knowing history is so important is because anyone who is familiar with history would be able to see in these ads the historically racially charged scenarios and dialogue that has been intentionally created subliminally in these ads. Again, I am not looking for you to think as I think; I am asking you to check each ad out for yourself. Each of the scenarios and dialogue in the four videos contain historically racially charged subliminal messages. Talk show hosts are constantly talking about the use of the “Race Card” and yet the race card is around us every day. Perhaps if Wilson Bryan Key were alive today he could write a book called Subliminal Racism; something to critically think about. As always I welcome your comments in the commentary section of the blog as well as your feedback by clicking on the red feedback box on the right side of your screen. I also invite you to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's Wrong With These Pictures? Anything Strike You?

What's wrong with these pictures? Anything interesting strike you? It did me. Take The Critical Thinker Challenge and see if you can find a common pattern, theme or trend. Something to critically think about. After your viewing of these ads I would love to read your thoughts on what you see (or maybe don't see) going on in them. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section of the blog and you are also welcome to leave feedback in the Feedback tab on the right side of your screen and lastly you are invited to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When Friday Became Thursday Night


Every year about this time the “Make-Sense-O-Meter” needle drops so far to the left in the meter that it cannot be seen. Picture a sound monitor in a music or radio studio that has a little needle that moves to the left and to the right depending on the volume of the music. This monitor also is equipped with a red light that appears when you are running “hot” as we say in the business or too loud. It is this monitor that I am using as an analogy for the “Make-Sense-O-Meter.” As I said, it is at this time of year that the needle just falls dead on that meter and if it were able to fall out of the monitor, it would.  I am sure by now you are either wondering what is he talking about or what has dropped the needle so far below zero or both. I am thrilled that your critically thinking minds are asking. The opening of stores as early at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night is what has dropped the “Make-Sense-O-Meter” indicator needle dead and oddly enough it is not necessarily because of the decision to open at that time (though I will address that too), but that too many of us as consumers will be at the doors on November 22 at or before 8:00 p.m. with the proverbial “bells on.” I have never shopped on “Black Friday” because for me personally, there is not that much shopping or gift buying in the world that would cause me to leave my home at  8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night (opening time was at one time somewhere between 3:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. Friday morning) to stand on some line; to wait to enter some store; to buy some items that ought not have been as expensive as they were to begin with because those expensive prices have been so called “slashed.”  That’s what has knocked the needle in the “Make-Sense-O-Meter” dead. 

As a marketing major with a degree in Business Administration, I totally understand from the retailer's point of view, (though I don’t agree with it) their trying every trick in the book”(Black Friday is one of those tricks) to make that “Almighty Dollar." I don’t agree with it from the standpoint of the employee. You now have employees who for the most part won’t be able to really relax and enjoy their Thanksgiving because they are going to have to leave whatever celebrations they are attending and go to work.  Yes, some could argue that they had the day portion of the holiday off and that it is no big deal to have to come to work Thanksgiving evening. It is a big deal however because now the employee will have to cut short his/her visits either to try to get some rest before work, or leave their location of celebration to go directly to work. Either way, their holiday is cut short
It has been reported that one of the reasons for the earlier store openings is the increase of customers who are shopping online. So let me get this straight….. People who choose to make purchases online and stay in the comfort of their homes are causing other people (store employees) to now have to leave the comfort of their homes on a holiday and another set of people who will voluntarily be standing on lines and in large crowds beginning earlier in their holiday waiting for the doors to open. The needle on the Make-Sense-O-Meter has fallen out of the monitor.
Retail advertising and gimmicks such as opening at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Night has become the shepherd to far too many consumer sheep. I use this analogy because as long as sheep have a leader, they are absolved of thinking for themselves, they can just merrily follow along with the flock. Retailers have become that leader. Retailers (Shepherds) every year around Thanksgiving bank on these sheep to merrily follow along and flock to their doors. They are banking on these sheep to not really be thinking, but to be caught up and mesmerized by the barrage of radio and television commercials advertising sale prices(Even Lay-Away is now fashionable). They are banking on the flock so much now that they are opening their doors even earlier hence Black Friday now being extended into Thanksgiving Thursday Night.  And guess what, the shepherds will most likely be smiling all the way to the bank because nearly 135 million shoppers go out to shop on Black Friday every year. Reports show that in 2010, 212 million shoppers spent $39 billion for an average spending amount of $365.34.   Every now and then the retail shepherd even has to deal with the valley of the shadow of death because who can forget the Walmart employee who was trampled to death a few years ago by the flock trying to get to those sales. But that’s not enough to stop the madness. All of this in the name of shopping; buying more stuff. All of this just to say I went shopping on “Black Friday” and I was there.

One commentary I received from a reader was I was trying to get readers to think what I think. That is not my objective. It really does not matter to me if you see things like I see them or think like I am thinking or not. What matters is your taking the time to really look at an issue and giving some thought to what we are doing and why. Always ask yourself, does that make sense? What doesn't make sense to me may make sense to you and vice versa. The bottom line is we really need to think before we act. We get what we allow. Greed is leading us more and more. Something to critically think about.  You are invited to follow The Critical Thinker now via our podcast at, and on Twitter @thinkcritical01.  I also invite your feedback (whether you agree with me or not) by clicking on the red “feedback” tab on the right side of your screen and in the commentary section below in the blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gee.....What Went Wrong? Let's See.......

I think we can guess which way Big Bird voted.

One of the great things about being the host of TheReading Circle talk radio show is the people who I have met since the inception of the show. I have developed wonderful relationships with many of the authors who have appeared on the show and such is the case with author DenriquePreudhomme, author of The Undisguised Truth: Thought-Provoking Social and Political Commentary, Stranger Than Fiction and Reflections of Realism. Ms. Preudhomme is always fascinated by how when something goes obviously wrong the question always comes up “What Went Wrong?” Every time either one of us would see that question in the press, we would email, text or call each other about it and it became a running inside joke between us. We always had a good laugh about the asking of "What Went Wrong" about a situation when it was abundantly clear what went wrong. The 2012 presidential election is yet another example of this. It was very clear to me concerning what went wrong for Mitt Romney. 

When Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost the presidential election on Tuesday night, Denrique was one of the people who popped in my mind because I knew on Wednesday someone would indubitably ask the question “What Went Wrong?” I knew with so many people (including the candidate) expecting Mitt Romney to win, that the re-election of President Obama would be viewed as an upset and the pundits would have to ask “What Went Wrong?”  Well sure enough they did.  Well this post to The Critical Thinker is here to address what I see is an obvious answer to what went wrong.
 I don’t understand how Mitt Romney could expect the very groups that he pissed off to then in turn vote for him on Election Day.  What went wrong is Mitt and some of his other Republican colleagues did a fantastic job of alienating just about every group from whom they sought votes.  If you look at the voter turnout for President Obama by group, you will see a relationship between the percentages of the groups who voted for President Obama in droves compared with Mitt Romney and the commentary made about each group by him (Mitt Romney) or one of the Republicans running for office.
 Let’s take a look and see if you can figure out “What Went Wrong?” Let’s look by group and commentary made about each group by Mitt Romney or one of his party members.

WOMEN (60% voted for President Obama)

Commentary by Romney or Republicans:
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare,” he replied. “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  Todd Akin 
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."  Richard Mourdock
 “I have no abortion-related legislation on my platform but I would reinstate a policy banning nongovernmental organizations from using federal funds to provide abortions.” Mitt Romney

ASIANS (73% Voted for President Obama)

Commentary by Romney or Republicans:
Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan on Saturday tagged China as "cheaters" in the global economy and accused President Obama of being soft on a country whose trade and currency policies are hurting the U.S. manufacturing sector and the middle class.
"Let me tell you, on Day One of my administration I will label China a currency manipulator. We have got to get those jobs back and get trade to be fair." Mitt Romney

Commentary by Romney or Republicans:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. And he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like. I mean, when you ask those people…we do all these polls—I find it amazing—we poll all these people, see where you stand on the polls, but 45 percent of the people will go with a Republican, and 48 or 4…” Mitt Romney

"We're not going to round people up" but rather, financially struggling undocumented immigrants would choose to return to their home countries of their own volition. The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," he said. "And so we're not going to round people up." Mitt Romney 
Romney suggested his administration would make it harder for illegal immigrants to get jobs, which would in turn lead them to seek work elsewhere.
Romney told the contributors that "women are open to supporting me," but that "we are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation." 
BIG BIRD(100% Voted for President Obama)

Commentary by Romney or Republicans:
“I’m sorry Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney told debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who is executive editor for PBS NewsHour. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not gonna keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.” 

I think when you put it all together, one can figure out what went wrong. People are not going to vote for someone who is degrading them or putting them down. People who are called “cheats,” and “manipulators,” or told to “self-deport are not going to vote for you. People who are told that they will never take personal responsibility and care for their lives, or who must have a baby after they have been raped are not going to vote for you.   So when you ask “what went wrong” we can only come to the conclusion that you can’t piss folks off and then expect them to vote for you.  That expectation is what went wrong. Mitt felt that he and his colleagues could say any old thing , any old kind of way and then expected these same voters to vote for them. That’s what went wrong. Congratulations President Barack Obama on your re-election. What went wrong for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party is something to critically think about. I invite your feedback by clicking the red feedback box to the right of your screen and in the commentary section of the blog. I also invite you to follow the Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not Now

Example of an Avatar

Hello my fellow critical thinkers. Today’s post concerns our selection of avatars for our various social media sites. The thought for this post came from the various friend requests I receive on Facebook, the extremely popular social networking service launched in February 2004 [upd that now has over one billion active users.
In most cases I am not very finicky about who I confirm as a part of my Facebook network, however, every now and again (and the reason for this post) I receive friend requests with some of the strangest and weirdest avatars imaginable. For those of you unfamiliar with the term avatar, it is according to, a small picture that represents a computer user in a game, on the Internet, etc.(shown above).  Therein is my problem in many cases when I choose to ignore or "Not Now" a friend request……the small picture that is selected to represent whoever is making the request. For example if someone sent me a friend request using the avatar that I am using in this post, he/she would quickly receive a Not Now or be ignored. I don’t know about you, but the selected avatar tells me a lot about the person making the request. Anytime I see something representing evil or something satanic, or something destructive, you can rest assured that that request will be a "not now." The same holds true for anything that has a racial or ethnic slur in the screen name. 

I write this to make those of us who utilize the social media aware that I am sure that I am not the only one who bases his/her decision on who to Confirm or Not Now based on the avatar or screen name. We must be very selective in what we select to represent ourselves. Nowadays prospective employers, schools, banks and other institutions are actually checking out our social media services to see what we post and use to represent ourselves. It’s that serious. So my advice is to select an avatar and screen name that positively reflects who you are because not being befriended or receiving a "Not Now" is nothing compared with getting turned down for a job, loan, or educational institution acceptance. Something to critically think about. I welcome your thoughts by clicking on the red feedback box on the right side of your screen, and in the commentary section of the blog. You are also invited to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.  Be mindful of those avatars and screen names.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pinky, Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? (Quote From "Pinky and the Brain")

Well I had been looking for something to blog about because I had hit a dry spell (Writer's Block). I wanted to do something around the storm Sandy (and I probably still will) however, all of my thoughts have not come to me about it yet. There are a few angles to write about concerning what occurred as a result of Sandy. As I was looking to come up with something to blog about in The Critical Thinker, one of my email accounts was hacked and a SPAM message went out to my address book and contact list.  Thankfully not too many of my contacts took the message seriously, however, a few did and called out of concern because it did look legit. I am grateful to know that I have friends and family who would think to call even if they thought the message had an infinitesimally small chance of being real. I am also thankful for those who knew right off of the bat that the message was a fraud.  The message appears below and I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons. First to make everyone aware of the message and what to look out for and secondly to talk a little bit about the ingenuity of the criminal minds out there and how if that intellect were put towards something positive, what a contribution these people could make to the world. 

So my first objective is to put them on blast. Since the hackers felt as if they could compromise my email address, I feel that I can expose their verbiage so that no one will pay attention to the message if they see it again. It’s kind of the “If you can’t beat them, join them” strategy. Upon review of the message, a reader with any modicum of sense would see that the message does not make sense. Ironically most of my contacts knew it was not me because the message was grammatically incorrect and many have shared that observation with me. We had a good laugh about it.

Secondly, think what good these minds could bring to the world, if their ability to create was used in a positive manner. That has even perplexed me with many of our criminals behind bars. Many of them had elaborate master plans and were able to carry these plans out for some time until they were finally caught. Think about how there are some intelligent folks out there plotting evil and mayhem. It takes just as much energy to figure out how to get what someone else has (steal) as it does to figure out how to get what you want or need for yourself.

Thanks to my hackers, I have now changed my password as I am not looking to shut down that email account. I have had it for too long and there is too much associated with it for me to just shut it down because of some idiot low lives who are trying to scam people. Read through the message to make yourself aware of what it says because the likelihood is high that you will see it again under someone else’s email address (this was not the first time that I have seen this message). Do not respond to it no matter how legit or real it looks. Read through it and critically think about it and the other options someone in that situation would really have. I’m sure the person would have been able to make at least one telephone call from the hotel phone to let someone in the states know what was happening to them and to let other loved ones know. Enjoy the hoax message below and know that it is something to critically think about. I welcome your commentary in the comment section and/or your feedback by clicking the red "feedback" button/tab to your right in the blog or on your screen. I also invite you  to follow the Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Sent: Monday, November 5, 2012 6:54 AMSubject: My Terrible Trip......Marc A. MedleyI really hope you get this fast. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in London UK for a program. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now, our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.  I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a loan of $1,800 from you. this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest. Thanks so much.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

How Dare You Look Down Your Nose Upon Someone Because of His/Her Job

As I am not a fan of television and do not have cable in my house, I do subscribe to Netflix to watch a movie every now again. In fact, most of my viewing selections from Netflix since I subscribed to the service have been documentaries (the documentaries alone are worth the $7.99 per month). Last night I watched a documentary by filmmaker Doug Pray chronicling life on the road with America’s long-haul truck drivers.
I have always been fascinated by vehicles such as trucks, buses, and airplanes and the men and women who operate them. As a child and teenager I built models of trucks, cars and planes and even when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would respond that I wanted to be a Greyhound bus driver. When I would give this response I had no clue or idea concerning the difference between a “blue collar” and “white collar” worker. I had no idea as a child how people would choose to respect or disrespect you based on what career or occupation you chose.

I’m sure by now you are wondering why I am sharing all of this with you as a result of watching a documentary called BIG RIG last night. Good question and I will help you connect the dots and point you to where I am going with this post. While watching the film, there was a resounding commentary that each trucker expressed and it had to do with how he or she was routinely looked down upon or disrespected because of he or she being a truck driver. At one point in the film, one of the truckers actually said he just wished that people understood that he was a human being too. That’s a sad statement. In the beginning of the film, one of the drivers was asked what would happen if the drivers all came together and decided not to drive? His response was “The country would shut down in a week.” His colleague chimed in and said that it would not take a week, but as little as three days.  If you think about it, he was right; which brings me to my point.  There is no such thing as a menial or unimportant job. Every job is critical to the overall success of us all. Why do you think the sanitation workers always conduct their strikes at the hottest point of the summer?

Critically think about this…imagine if all of the people who perform the jobs that those of us with the high and mighty titles think we are too good to perform, stopped doing their jobs.  You know…. the jobs that folks with fancy and executive titles look their nose down upon. The folks who feel that you are “Just a……..” so you don’t really matter. Let me help you.  Custodians, sanitation workers, security guards, secretaries, truck drivers, bus drivers, instructional assistant, teacher’s aide, nurse’s aide, lunch monitor, receptionist, and on and on and on with the jobs that we label as “blue collar” compared with what we consider a “respectable” job.  How dare we look our nose down upon anyone? I say again, let any of the people who perform the jobs that I named and many more decide in mass that they will not do their jobs. Watch the havoc and chaos that would occur. A prime example is the referees who went on strike in the NFL. For the most part, no one pays much attention to the referees in a football game, yet when the professional referees were on strike and the replacement referees were assigned to the games, a difference was felt. The difference that was felt in the NFL is nothing compared to what the country would feel if our truck drivers stopped driving.  There is not one product that you touch that has not been in a truck. Not one product that has not been transported by some truck driver before it reached you. So the next time you are tempted to look down your nose at someone because of what he or she does, you really need to think again. Every job and service is connected to the overall good. There is no such thing as a menial or unimportant job. Something to critically think about. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section of the blog and I also invite you to follow me on Twitter  @thinkcritical01.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Whisper of a Serpent

On Friday I tuned into the Sean Hannity talk radio show on my way home from work as I usually do because for one I get a kick out of hearing the rhetoric and two I always like to hear what the other side is thinking and saying. I also listen to Mark Levin and occasionally Rush Limbaugh for the same reason. My commute is short, so on Friday I only caught a couple of minutes from Mr. Hannity's show, however, the clip I did catch was a portion of "If I Were The Devil" by long time radio newsman/commentator Paul Harvey. Mr. Harvey created the original of this homily around 1965 as a warning to America about its own decay. I tuned in at the point where Mr. Harvey was saying "I'd begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve." Upon hearing that I thought to myself how that is a perfect analogy to what is going on in our world today. We(the world) is "Eve" and like Eve we are listening to what is being whispered to us by the serpent.Notice it said a whisper and not a shout or a yell.  Don't believe we are listening?  Look at our murder rates. Look at our crime rates. Look at our high school dropout rates. Look at our incarceration rates. Look at our rape and molestation rates. Look at our divorce rate. Look at our teen aged pregnancy rates. Do I need to list more?

The couple of minutes that I heard from that speech prompted me to come home and post on Facebook and Twitter how "The Whisper of a Serpent" would make a great sermon title. I hadn't even heard the entire homily, however, the little part I did hear stuck with me. There is no doubt that just as God is on His job, Satan is on his. As we read the book of Genesis in the Bible we see the consequences of Eve's listening to the serpent's whisper and if we pay close attention we can see that we are headed for similar if not worse repercussions. Take a look at the YouTube video in this post If I Were the Devil and give some critical thought to it. As always, I look forward to your commentary in the comment section of this blog. Follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter at @thinkcritical01.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Sad State of Affairs; But We Must Still Have Hope

On yesterday while visiting my high school Alma mater, I had an interesting experience that prompted me to write this post. I had had a conversation with one of the most musically talented individuals I know and who now serve as the band director for the marching band at my Alma mater. As a result of our conversation, I needed to stop by the school to deliver an instrument that I had in my possession. As I walked into the band room, many memories flooded my mind as I thought back to the countless hours I spent in that very same room when I was a student at the high school and a member of its jazz band. The band director was about to begin a music theory lesson for the band members when I walked in. While the band director was about to interrupt his lesson on my account, I asked him to continue with the lesson because as a musician myself, I would be happy to sit in and listen.
 As I looked around the room, I noticed the lack luster looks as well as body language on the student’s faces as the band director attempted to teach music theory. He drew a staff on the whiteboard; he then proceeded to draw music notes. He explained the lines on the musical staff and even gave the mnemonic of Every Good Boy Does Fine to explain and to help them remember that the music notes that appeared on the lines were E, G, B, D, and F.  He continued explaining how the mnemonic for the spaces on the musical staff was FACE for the notes F, A, C, and E, and all the while he was doing this, the reactions of the students did not change. He would ask a question and then say “Come on, talk to me!” as he was looking for responses to his questions. Some of the students would give a halfhearted response that could hardly be heard as a result of him or her being unsure of his or her ability to render the correct answer after having just heard what was said. As the students reluctantly participated in the lesson, the bandleader shared with them how he understood that they were excited about being able to go out and shake their tails, however he wanted them to be equally as excited about the music theory in the event that if they were performing in a neighboring community and was asked what did you learn about music when you were in the band room, the student would be able to respond in musical language. They would be able to explain what a music staff is. They would be able to explain what a scale is. They would be able to explain what musical key they were playing in. They would be able to explain the difference between a Middle C and a B-flat. He further shared with the students that he knew they knew how to shake their tails and so did the rest of the world, as the ability to shake our [African American] tails is a stereotype that is continuously perpetuated. In fact, many think that shaking our tails, is all that we can do.  I shook my head in agreement, as I know having taught a diversity course some years ago that it is a very well known stereotype that African American youngsters can bounce a ball and shake their tails.  I stood there and observed the interaction between the bandleader and the students and thought back to how different it was in that same room nearly 40 years (36 years to be exact) ago.

As I continued standing there observing the music theory lesson, a security guard knocked on the door and said he needed to speak with the band director. As the band director stopped his lesson to speak with the security guard, he asked me to say a few words to the students as a former band member and now a school principal. As I began speaking with the students, I noticed the same tired looking unenthusiastic body language and facial expressions they were giving the band director were now being given to me. In spite of this I went on to explain to them how in this very same room the passion that we students had for what was at that time the number one marching band in the state of New Jersey. I explained to them how this very same band who practiced in this very same room, gave halftime performances for the New Jersey Nets professional basketball team and New York Giants football teams at the Meadowlands. I further went on to explain that when that band was named the Marching 100, that we truly had 100 to 200 members in the band and that it was not 25 people being called the Marching 100. I went on to share with the students how we would be in that same room at 6:00 a.m. in the morning practicing with another practice to be held immediately after school. You could see the mumbling and grumbling and their facial expressions of how they couldn't believe that someone would actually be up at six o'clock in the morning and attending band practice. 

As I spoke I shared with them about the pride we took in just being able to be a part of either the jazz band, marching band, concert choir, jazz ensemble, boys glee, or girls glee. I even shared with them how there were boys who quit the football team to become  members of the marching band, as most people in the audience did not attend the football games to see the football team, but to see the marching band in action during halftime. I could see for some of the students the light bulb going on; however, for far too many, they were just sitting there and receiving the talk as either blah blah blah, or the sounds made by Charlie Brown's teacher. It really was a sad state of affairs; however, as the title suggests, we must still have hope.

I used the word “but” in the title of this post intentionally because the word “but” is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned, so I  titled the post indicating that it was a sad state of affairs, however to negate that sad state of affairs, we must have hope. We must have hope that these children will indeed one day get it. We must have hope that what we are seeing is not what or who they are going to be. We must have hope that one day they will come back to that band director and say thank you for teaching us music theory. We must have hope that the lessons and discipline learned in being a part of something such as a marching band will one day give the students the transferable skills needed to succeed. 

As I concluded my remarks to the band members sitting there, I encouraged them to strive to be the best. There were former band members in that room as well who could attest to the fact that 36 years ago in that same band room, nothing but the best musicians in the state was produced and that these children could be that if not more. Yes as I spoke to them, the thought kept crossing my mind that we are indeed in a sad state of affairs but we must still have hope. I came home after that conversation with the students and pulled out my old jazz band and concert choir jackets and thought of how proud we were to not only wear the jackets, but to have earned a spot in what was at that time the best high school musical program in the state. Not just any old body could be in the band or choir doing things just any old kind of way. There was discipline and practice that was involved in being a part of this band which ultimately lead to us being recognized as the best. I am truly thankful that I came along during the time that I did. I would not trade my childhood and teenage years for these children’s years for all of the tea in China. In 2012, there is no reason for our children/students not to be the best.......... Yes, as I conclude, it does seem like a sad state of affairs, but in the end we must still have hope. Something to critically think about. I welcome your thoughts in the comment section of this blog. Feel free to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Too Many of Us Have Become Mental and Spiritual Garbage Trucks

It has been a little while since I posted to The Critical Thinker, however in light of this Kate Middleton mess I could not help but to write a post. Critical thinkers it has taken me a while to put this post together because I really could not decide what approach to take because there were so many different angles and approaches swirling in my head. So many things came to mind such as the notions of being star struck with celebrities, the ridiculousness of most (if not all) “reality” TV shows, how we continuously feed into and give power to the “paparazzi” by purchasing the magazines and newspapers who publish their intrusive photos to why are we so interested in bad news and what goes on in other people’s lives? All of the concepts swirled for a few days.

I even gave some serious thought in terms of what this post would be titled and because most of what I've described above in my opinion is mental and spiritual trash, I came up with the title Too Many of Us Have Become Mental and Spiritual Garbage Trucks. Now I'm sure for many of you critical thinkers reading this, the thought of being compared with a garbage truck is not a flattering thought, however, upon doing the research for this post I came across a YouTube video that is actually titled Types of “Garbage Truck” and in that video it shows various types of garbage trucks such as the Automatic Side Loader (ASL), Container Delivery (CD) and Front Loader (FL).  After viewing this clip, it dawned on me that too many of us have allowed ourselves to become mental garbage trucks. In my opinion, being star struck with celebrities, reality TV shows and the power given to the paparazzi by us fall into the category of mental garbage.  Trash is always placed into something whether it is a can, a truck, or a dump; trash is always put into something hence the simile of us being mental garbage trucks.  Why does a magazine publisher feel the need to publish photos of Kate Middleton’s breasts? Why do we care? Why are we even caught up with breasts to begin with? Yet, every day we load mental trash like this into our minds, bodies, and spirits like our sanitation workers load trash into a garbage truck. If we would stop supporting the magazines and newspapers that purchase pictures from the paparazzi, the paparazzi would cease to exist. The same holds true for the constant bombardment of bad/negative news in newspapers and on television; good/positive news would be reported if that is what we as a world truly wanted reported. Noted author Marianne Williamson says “Today's newspaper is just a reflection of yesterday's thoughts.” In other words we keep getting what we are getting because that is what we collectively think about…. bad news.  Blogger Joel Gascoigne in a recent post titled The Power of Ignoring Mainstream News hits upon this same point when he states:  

“Around 2 years ago I stopped reading and watching mainstream news. I don’t read a single newspaper, offline or online, and I don’t watch any TV at all. I recently mentioned this on Twitter and Facebook and it created a lot of discussion, so I wanted to expand on my thoughts and experiences. When I first started ignoring news, I felt that I was simply making an excuse, that if I had more time I should read the news. Today, however, it is a very deliberate choice and I feel consistently happier every single day due to ignoring the mainstream news. It just so happens that the last 2 years have also been the most enjoyable and productive of my entire life, and have contained some of my greatest achievements.”

Why are we constantly looking for something negative to read about, hear about, or say about someone else? It is beyond me why we are so determined to focus on what is going wrong in someone else's life compared with being focused on what is happening in our own lives. Maybe that's the problem. Too many of us feel the need to have someone else's life be crappier than ours in order to make us feel good about ourselves. First we fawn all over them [celebrities], “Oh I can’t believe he/she shook my hand,” “ he/she gave me an autograph,”  “ he/she took a picture with me,” or “I’ll never wash this hand again,”  and then we look to read all of the dirt (trash) about them that we can find. Newsflash!! Celebrities are human beings just like the rest of us, and yes, Kate Middleton has breasts just like any other woman and in the European countries women sunbathe topless. When is the madness going to end? Speaking of madness; this whole notion of “reality" TV (which I also consider garbage) mystifies me. Is there anyone on the planet who does not have enough reality of their own?  Yet, the website Reality TV World lists over one thousand reality TV shows in alphabetical order on its site Again, I guess we have to escape our own reality and be lost in someone else's. Ridiculous. 

There is an old saying “Garbage In – Garbage Out.” In other words what you put in is what you get out. Could that be the reason that we are constantly besieged by all of the negative things that we are constantly besieged with during our newscasts and in our newspapers? Could all of the negativity be a result or manifestation of us allowing too much garbage into our minds, bodies and spirits thereby causing this same garbage to come back out? Think about the garbage we take in on a collective basis and how much garbage that must be going out on that same collective basis. Maybe author Marianne Williamson is onto to something when she said “Today’s newspaper is just a reflection of yesterday’s thoughts.” Something to critically think about……..  As always, I welcome your response in the commentary section of this blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

You'd Think They Would Get To Know The Rest Of The Story

The philosopher John Stuart Mill said that to understand an issue it is necessary to learn the arguments on both sides equally well. His statement gets to the heart of the issue that there are two sides to every story and to truly make an informed judgment requires knowledge of all points of view. I start this extremely short post with John Stuart Mill's quote to ask a critical thinking question and that question will be it for this post. Isn't it amazing how so much gossip is started with folks only knowing one side of a story? Rumors are spread; stories are told; and conversations are held with the parties knowing only one side of the story.  Something to critically think about. I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog and feel free to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

When you think of child abuse, what immediately comes to your mind? For each one reading this post I am sure a different scenario or act popped into your mind. This is because there are so many different forms of child abuse that very few outside of the obvious acts of child abuse are discussed or thought about. The purpose of this Critical Thinker post is to make us aware of one form of child abuse that is rarely heard of yet is extremely common. In fact, it is so common that it flies under the radar for most of us and is in many cases unrecognized by the courts in separation or divorce cases. To the frustration of many, the fact that the court may not recognize this form of abuse does not mean that it does not exist. Psychologists and therapists term this form of abuse as Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is what Dr. Richard A. Warshak describes as a systematic process of psychological manipulation in his book Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex., one of two books that I found fascinating and informative about PAS with the other being Brainwashing Children: Exposing and Combating the Most Common Form of Child Abuse by John T. Steinbeck.

Both Warshak and Steinbeck unpack for the reader the definition of PAS along with the ugly and dangerous impacts of being a child or children subjected to PAS. Both also describe in great detail the roles of each person who engages and who is affected by this very common form of child abuse. According to Wikipedia the free encyclopedia Parental Alienation Syndrome is term coined by Richard A. Gardner in the early 1980s to refer to what he describes as a disorder in which a child, on an ongoing basis, belittles and insults one parent without justification, due to a combination of factors, including indoctrination by the other parent and the child's own attempts to denigrate the target parent. Gardner introduced the term in a 1985 paper, describing a cluster of symptoms he had observed during the early 1980s. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each State provides its own definitions of child abuse and neglect based on minimum standards set by Federal law. While PAS is still being debated as to whether it is a syndrome or psychological disorder, one cannot dismiss the facts after reading the major types of abuse and neglect below (see below) that the tenets of PAS intersect many of the major types defined.

According to Mr. Steinbeck in his book Brainwashing Children, children that are kept away from a parent without just cause or reason are more likely to:
  • Use and abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Drop out of school prior to graduation
  • Get bad grades
  • Be incarcerated at some time in their life
  • Run away from home
  • Attempt suicide
  • Be diagnosed with depression
  • Have anxiety disorders
  • Have difficulties in their own relationships when they mature
  • Struggle with friendships and interpersonal interactions
  • Not trust people
  • Not have a good relationship with either parent
  • Not have healthy romantic relationships
  • Have issues of self-doubt
  • Become pregnant as teenager
  • Have anger issues
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Difficulties in trusting his or her own perceptions
  • Lying behaviors
  • Physical aggression
  • Other social problems

He goes on to say that each child will react differently, but they will be affected in ways that are harmful to their emotional and behavioral development.

Sadly for the children, the parent who is initiating or engaging in PAS behavior is usually in denial that he/she has any part in the creation of an alienating environment by partaking in any of the following activities that include but are not limited to:
  • Bad-Mouthing
  • Bashing
  • Brainwashing
  • Isolating
  • Instilling fear
  • Encroachment
  • Selective Memory

Dr. Warshak states in his book Divorce Poison that parents are not the only targets of bad-mouthing, bashing, and brainwashing. According to Dr. Warshak, grandparents, and sometimes an entire extended family, receive the same treatment. He further states that this problem cuts across gender lines. Women and men in their roles as parents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are all vulnerable. And, in ALL cases, the children suffer, hence the reason for this blog post – children are suffering and being abused as a result of the behavior of the adults they are supposed to trust most in their lives.

Until reading this post, you may not have been made aware of PAS (hence another reason for this blog post), however, as a result of reading this post, I encourage you to look out for the signs of PAS in children whose parents have separated or divorced. I encourage you to read Dr. Warshak’s and John T. Steinbeck’s books referenced in this post to make yourself even more aware of what too many of our children and adults for that matter are dealing with in their daily lives. I found both books to be extremely helpful to me and thought I would share them with you in this post. PAS is something to definitely critically think about. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the commentary section of the blog. You can follow the critical thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

How Is Child Abuse and Neglect Defined in Federal Law?Federal legislation lays the groundwork for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Most Federal and State child protection laws primarily refer to cases of harm to a child caused by parents or other caregivers; they generally do not include harm caused by other people, such as acquaintances or strangers.What Are the Major Types of Child Abuse and Neglect?Within the minimum standards set by CAPTA, each State is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect.1 Most States recognize four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they often occur in combination. In many States, abandonment and parental substance abuse are also defined as forms of child abuse or neglect.The examples provided below are for general informational purposes only. Not all States' definitions will include all of the examples listed below, and individual States' definitions may cover additional situations not mentioned here.Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child.2 Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:
  • Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)3
  • Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child's health or safety is at risk, then child welfare intervention may be required. In addition, many States provide an exception to the definition of neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs that may prohibit medical intervention.4Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
Sexual abuse is defined by CAPTA as "the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children."
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.
Abandonment is now defined in many States as a form of neglect. In general, a child is considered to be abandoned when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
Substance abuse is an element of the definition of child abuse or neglect in many States.5 Circumstances that are considered abuse or neglect in some States include:
  • Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother's use of an illegal drug or other substance
  • Manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child
  • Selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child

ResourcesChild Maltreatment This report summarizes child abuse statistics submitted by States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) during 2006. It includes information about child maltreatment reports, victims, fatalities, perpetrators, services, and additional research.

Resources on the Child Welfare Information Gateway WebsiteChild Abuse and Neglect 
Defining Child Abuse and Neglect

Laws and Policies 
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect