Fishing and Critical Thinking

Fishing and Critical Thinking September 25, 2013

This graphic, with its variation on the old “give someone a fish” saying, has been making the rounds on Facebook. It gets at a key aspect of liberal arts education, one that is endangered by those voices that suggest that students need little more than training in job skills. Learning how to pursue a profession in the narrowest sense may not prepare you to confront ethical conundrums, stand up for your rights, or see how systems are unjust, imagine ways they could be transformed, and work to bring about change.


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  • Yeah but it is way too optimistic. It ignore the fact that political education will always be tainted by non-neutral ideas and above else the Zeitgeist.

    In France and Germany we use the words “Abrutissement” and “Verblödung” (which in English could be translated as “Dumbering”) to designate the insidious and seamless indoctrination of people reading mainstream medias and thinking of themselves as cultivated or intellectuals.

    Friendly greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    • I wonder if we are all indoctrinated in some way. I have come to certain realisations over mainstream media over the last number of years, particularly since the start of the credit crunch. Harsh lessons need to be learned over how media will twist everything to suit their backers. In Ireland, for example, the national broadcaster will always favour whatever the government line is. People, therefore, accept that as the truth. However, social media, I believe, has become somewhat of an alternative and the tide is changing in regard to the mainstream media and opinions surrounding it. Well, at least in my perspective – and social media has its own set of pitfalls.

  • I am reminded of a similar phrase.

    Build a man a fire and he will be warm for the rest of the day. Set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life.

    • And the second sentence can be taken two ways, the more literal resulting in the rest of his life being very warm and very short! 🙂

      • That’s the one I was going for.

  • Jack Collins

    This is something I’ve been contemplating in my job search as I’m composing various cover letters and teaching statements, especially for liberal arts colleges. In an undergraduate setting, it’s likely many of my students will only ever take one religion class, and all the (precious, precious) facts I want to jam in their little brains aren’t going to be of much practical use to them in the long run. But if I can get them to think critically (and compassionately) about something as emotionally-charged and deeply-woven into our culture as religion, then they’ll be better equipped to handle the intellectual and ethical challenges they encounter. I hope.

    • I feel like shouting “Amen”! 🙂

      • Jack Collins

        Here’s hoping the search committees agree.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    To the usual formulation I usually add “and don’t forget to give him fish to eat while teaching him to fish or you’re just defeating the purpose.”

  • Karen

    Does anyone know who is the copyright holder on the image – of ‘Fishing and Critical Thinking’ ?