The death of Logic and Critical Thinking
A few years ago, we woke up to a SMS warning us not to pick calls from certain numbers. The result of picking a call from these numbers is certain death! The unfortunate soul would cough blood and die, according to the SMS. Just after the Ebola crisis started – we all got SMS, tweets, Facebook posts and calls from concerned relatives asking us to bath with salt water. That was apparently the best protection against Ebola! The unfortunate thing is that many so-called Nigerian graduates forwarded these messages. There are many more instances similar to the examples that make me shake my head in disbelieve. I am worried that educated folks could fall for such ignoble nonsense and spread undue fear all around.
In places where education is less than stellar, we understand how easy it is to brainwash people. The Boko Haram problem is correlated to the level of exposure and critical thinking skills of the members. Or how can someone convince me to start killing innocent people in exchange for a heavenly harem and a happiness that comes from serving “God”. It is more disturbing to see that educated folks have also fallen into the trap of religious bigotry that stems from not asking the right questions and applying logic to situations. How can we explain the “pant bomber” who was British educated and should have some better grey matter upstairs? I have also seen Christians who have perfected religious bigotry in places like Central African Republic and Uganda. In Nigeria, it is a concern that one of the early efforts to discredit Buhari was painting him as someone who would convert all Nigerians to Islam. I would expect an articulate person to sit down and map out how that is even possible in a logical manner.
Let us step back to the way we were raised in a typical African setting. Most parents perfected the art of subduing their children’s curiosity from a very early age. When you ask questions, you are labelled a rebel and “too forward”. Most kids start losing their curious edge at that age and mostly never regain it. Kids that were raised in more liberal homes tend to be more confident and generally perform better than the suppressed ones. We still wonder why we don’t do much of inventions in Africa – the reason is clear. In those days, when you ask your parents for the logic behind a particular family tradition, you might get a slap. This is where we lost out in giving children the real education needed for life. The skill that is lost at that point would have helped kids in their formal education such that instead of just reading to pass, they read to understand and push the limit by discovering new things.
Why is the typical Nigerian graduate hard to recruit? S/He struggles to apply logic and is lazy to ask relevant questions. Or how easy is it to employ from the twitter generation that will re-tweet anything if it provides some level of sensationalism? I think it is time to start inculcating some strong academic writing skills in students from high school level. If you make any big assertion in your homework, you must back it up with the source. This should even be more stringent at the Bachelor Degree level with every assignment submitted and not only for the final thesis. This will force us to research before accepting any hypothesis.
The present political climate in Nigeria as well as rising religious extremism has accentuated the need for a re-think of our educational system – both formal and informal. I am particularly happy about the launch of a website factchecki.ng –that gives factual answers to the many lies concocted about Major-General Muhammad Buhari. The answers to the questions contain links to newspaper articles and books to dispel the rumors. They also have links to videos that cannot be contended but some people will choose not to watch those videos or read the articles/books but rather believe what they have heard. I call on the other parties to start using facts, instead of giving beer parlor statements without any empirical stand. If you are also a Buhari supporter that is not using facts, it is a shame and I have seen some of those too.
As we get into the last stages of the Presidential campaigns; it is time to discuss issues and use facts. Thanks for the work of www.yourbudgit.com – a Nigerian social enterprise initiative by some of the finest young men I know. Check their website and see how your money is spent from State to Federal level and sometimes they analyse up to LG level. That is fact. Check the way the Presidency has handled the Chibok girls issue from denial to accepting when a teenager from another country visited us. And some Nigerians were tweeting Asari’s claim that no girl was missing without checking the facts. Check the whole handling of the Boko Haram issue. Check our economy and understand the meaning of GDP. Google “how GDP is calculated” before rejoicing that we are the Number 1 economy in Africa. Ask questions and you might realize that the GDP is not a good way of measuring the wealth of a nation – just wait for the impact of the Oil gloom on our GDP.
As Nigerians and Africans, it is time to stop accepting all banters as the truth. The Internet has provided us so many tools to have a better understanding of the way the world really works. We must stop being lazy and start using logic and critical thinking skills before accepting their “truths”. This goes beyond elections but affects every facet of our lives. Let us start now so we can start Nigeria on the road to recovery.