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Is (insert activity here) For Everyone?

As Education Director for an alternative education program, I am frequently asked some version of the following two questions:

1) Is College for everyone?

2) Is Praxis for everyone?

Besides food, water, air, shelter, and love (and I’m sure there are some people who would even debate the necessity of the aforementioned elements), there aren’t many things that are for everyone.

This is true of going to college and this is true of skipping college. This is true of starting your own business and this is true of working for someone else. This is true of making a lot of money and this is true of taking a vow of poverty. This is true of being very ambitious about your career and this is true of not caring all that much about your professional life.

This is true of getting married young, getting married old, and not getting married at all. This is true of having a lot of children, having a few children, and not having children at all. This is true of having a very active social life and this is true of being an introvert. This is true of being a Lady Gaga fan and this is true of being a Miles Davis fan. This is true of almost everything.

There are no cookie cutter answers to the question “what path should I take?”

We’re all capable of helping each other evaluate pros and cons, but none of us have the final answer for anybody else.

No matter what the subject, it will always be necessary that we think for ourselves.

If you can find an easy answer whose application requires zero creativity, zero critical thinking, and zero personal risk, it’s probably not an answer worth having.

Think it through

If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson

Be more interested in people’s thoughts than in their titles.

Pay closer attention to what they have to say than to where they studied.

Actively analyze their concepts instead of passively praising their credentials.

Check their premises regardless of their pedigree.

Weigh the arguments and be wary of all appeals to authority.

“Who’s who?” has nothing to do with “What’s true?”

So, no matter who says it, think it through.

Whose mind is it anyway?

It makes no sense to ridicule those who place blind faith in Pseudoscience, only to become someone who places blind faith in Science, Politics, Philosophy, or any other kind of external Authority.

Blind faith is blind faith even if one’s dogmatic commitments are anointed by Academia.

To invoke the words of Herbert V. Guenther, “There is not the slightest difference whether one is fettered by a chain of gold or a rope of straw.”

There are some who think “skepticism” means “the refusal to uncritically accept paranormal claims.”

Skepticism actually means “the refusal to uncritically accept ANY claims INCLUDING so-called ‘normal’ ones.”

There are some who think “free-thinking” means freedom from religious authority.

Free-thinking actually means “freedom from ANY kind of authority which discourages a person from thinking for themselves and conducting their own research.”

The pursuit of Truth is not a quest to figure out whose words we should uncritically believe; it’s a journey that involves learning how to use our own logic, our own intuition, our own investigative efforts, and our own experience as a means of understanding the universe.

So, here’s my Independence Day message:

Always, always, always think for yourself.

It’s not only your most reliable safeguard against manipulation, deceit, and regret, but it also offers you the greatest chance at forming perceptions that are consistent with YOUR convictions and YOUR experiences.

I don’t know where freedom ends, but it almost certainly begins at the moment when we assert our right to be unbound by any form of ideological coercion.

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