[OPINION] How to sharpen your conscience and develop your critical thinking skills

‘We are extremely fortunate in our country because we have the freedom to choose our leaders…. If our country was a ship, we have the power to select our captain.’

My wife and I homeschool our kids using a classical curriculum. In one of their favorite subjects, History, we’re learning about Greek mythology and the famous men and women in Ancient Greece. What my kids and I have learned is that almost all of these figures – for example, Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus, Hippolyta, Draco, Solon, Pericles, Alexander the Great, among many others – were actually leaders. Some of them were good while others were not. Some of them had all the virtues while others had all the vices. Some were noble while others were tyrannical. And we also noticed that the quality of life of the Ancient Greeks rose and fell in relation to the quality of their leaders. When their rulers were virtuous, their cities enjoyed relative prosperity, peace, and security. When their rulers were wicked, they suffered all sorts of calamities and misfortunes. So the Ancient Greeks’ overall happiness and well-being depended on who they had as king or prince.

We also had one other observation. The Ancient Greeks did not have a say in who got to rule them. There was a time in their history when they had this freedom to choose, but eventually, their leaders clung to power and handed this power over to their heirs, usually their first-born sons. In other words, there was a period when they had a democratic form of government, but this evolved into a monarchy. They were lucky if their king was good and kind, and very unlucky when they had a cruel and weak one.

Given this context, we are extremely fortunate in our country because we have the freedom to choose our leaders. We have a say in our country’s future. Each of us has the power to influence the fate of our nation. If our country was a ship, we have the power to select our captain.

Therefore, democracy is a very precious gift. However, this gift can easily be misused and wasted. This is especially apparent during elections. When we don’t think carefully about our choices, or worse, when we sell our votes, we throw away this gift. We disempower ourselves and steer our country’s future in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, we have resources that can help us use our gift well, and these are our consciences and our critical thinking skills. By listening to our consciences, which of course is God’s voice in us, we will be able to discern faithfully who the best leaders really are. And by using critical thinking, we will be able to carefully analyze the pronouncements and platforms of those who wish to be our rulers and see whether they’re telling the truth or not.

In order to sharpen our consciences, or our ability to tell right from wrong, we must cultivate a habit of prayer. We must pray for ourselves and for others, that we may all be guided in our choices and that we may have charity toward one another, and we must pray for our country because it’s our home. A habit of prayer leads to piety and pious men and women are what our country needs.

[OPINION]  You get who you vote for: What type of political voter are you?

In order to develop our critical thinking skills, we need to learn the importance of arguments. By arguments, I don’t mean having a quarrel or emotional disagreement with someone. An argument is a technical term in Logic. Simply put, it is a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion, and the rest the premises given in support of the conclusion. All this may sound fancy, but logic is essential to learn because almost all forms of persuasion involve arguments. When a politician says, “Vote for me because I will bring about economic prosperity,” he is making a claim, and when he gives reasons for his claim, he is providing premises for his conclusion. In other words, the politician is trying to persuade you with an argument. Critical thinking means analyzing arguments, whether they’re good or bad, or whether they’re even arguments in the first place. And this is important because ideas have consequences. Not only is it non-rational to believe something we have no good reasons for believing, or to do something we have no good reasons for doing, it can also be harmful and disastrous, as history has shown us over and over again.

In a word, we need to learn how to assess arguments and make good arguments of our own. It’s healthy for ourselves and our democracy. Critical thinking helps us avoid bad arguments, but more than that, it helps us discover truths as well.

Our consciences and critical thinking skills will help us use our gift of democracy wisely. They can guide us in discerning who is best to vote for in the upcoming elections. Because our country deserves nothing less than the best, we should take care to choose only the best. – Rappler.com

Dante Cuals Jr. is a short story writer and works for a San Francisco-based startup. He lives in Cebu with his wife, Bel, and kids, Luke and Lizzy.

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