Critical Theory or Critical Thinking?

23 November 2022

5.2 MINS

These two terms sound very similar, don’t they? Nothing could be further from the truth. Today I would like to explore their differences, as well as the danger of one and the importance of the other.

Critical Theory

Critical theory (CT) can be traced back to the Marxist-inspired movement in social and political philosophy known as the Frankfurt School in the 1920s. Since the 1970s, CT has become immensely influential in the study of history, law, literature, and the social sciences.

From the 1980s, it has gained an even bigger following on the back of ‘critical race theory’ (CRT), which has proven to be the central backbone of the CT movement. Recently, CRT came to the fore in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. He was a black man, killed in the US city of Minneapolis by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, the tragedy igniting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the globe.

CT focuses on the twin dynamics of ‘power’ and ‘submission’. It challenges the assumptions of power and seeks to liberate those in slavery. That sounds good, doesn’t it? However, in contrast to the traditional concept of a ‘theory’ that relies on evidence and data to prove or disprove, CT simply relies on ‘perspective’ and a ‘person’s lived experience’ alone. That’s where it gets dangerous.

A theory is, by definition, a cold hard, unemotional objective ‘theory’, until proven to be true. Then it can become a cold hard, unemotional objective ‘fact’. But CT and CRT are ‘right’ only because someone says so. There is no debate, questioning or discussion. What is more, so many in society are following it, not even aware that they are.

CT has its roots firmly in Marxism, a left-wing social and political movement that favours communism and socialism over capitalism. As such, it is at pains to stand up for the underdog, the minority, and those perceived to be discriminated against. That’s good, yes?

Yes, laudable goals, I agree. But with the goal to demolish capitalism and the abolition of the need to provide objective evidence, the outcomes of CT can be tragic for the individual and for civilisation as a whole. I will give a few examples of the effects of CT from the state of Victoria, Australia, under the leadership of Daniel Andrews. You may say I am being extreme. Well, this short piece does not have the space to explore the full chain from CT to the premier of Victoria, but it is quite clear that his regime is firmly rooted in far-left socialism, Marxism without the name:

  1. So as not to discriminate, Victoria became the first state in Australia to adopt same-sex adoption laws.
  2. Again, supportive of minorities, the establishment of the Pride Centre in St Kilda to encourage LGBTIQA+ activism.
  3. The introduction of Hate Speech laws.
  4. In 2008, Victoria was the first state in Australia to introduce abortion on demand right up to birth.
  5. The introduction of a criminal offence for offering alternatives to those seeking abortion.
  6. The “conversion therapy” laws prohibit parents from being able to object to a child wishing to change their gender.
  7. The abolition of Special Religious Education in schools and its replacement with ideological classes which have resulted in an explosion in the number of children with gender dysphoria.
  8. The banning of Christmas Carols in schools.
  9. The funding and promotion of the compulsory Safe Schools Program for children with its overt emphasis on anti-Christian views on morality.
  10. Employment laws are making it extremely difficult for Christian schools to employ teachers who can support their own ethos.
  11. The introduction of doctors into schools so children can consult a doctor without their parent’s knowledge or support.
  12. The politicisation of the police force, that no longer supports the keeping of law and order around Christian events.

These are just some of the legacies of the Daniel Andrews government in Victoria that I have collated from a piece by Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

Critical Thinking

In a study on critical thinking and education in 1941, Edward Glaser defined critical thinking as the ability to think critically, involving three elements:

  1. an attitude of being disposed to consider, in a thoughtful way, the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experiences
  2. knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and
  3. some skill in applying those methods

Critical thinking expects a persistent effort to examine any belief or form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it. It also generally requires an ability to recognise problems, find workable solutions for those problems, gather and marshal pertinent information, recognise unstated assumptions and values, comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discrimination, interpret data, appraise evidence and evaluate arguments, recognise the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions, and draw warranted conclusions and generalisations. (Glaser, 1941, An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking, Teacher’s College, Columbia University)

critical thinking

This figure is from a modern take on critical thinking by Jennifer Herrity (2022). It always starts with careful observation of the facts; it is never sidetracked by a subjective perspective or individual lived experiences alone. The second step returns to the first observation and seeks to collect a deeper understanding of the issue or circumstance.

The third stage is very exciting — it is an exercise in lateral thinking. Namely, an examination of the implications for others and apparently unrelated situations if we progress along this line of thinking. In essence, it is being careful and thoughtful about the impact of our thinking on those around us and society at large.

The fourth stage can be described as testing out our thinking with trusted others, a safeguard against self-deception. And finally, at stage five, the problem is solved, or the situation is understood.

Further, I would like to add an additional dimension to critical thinking, namely the ‘scientific method’ (I wrote about this in the Daily Declaration, 22 December 2021). It seems to me that the rationality, and objectivity of the scientific method of enquiry is a natural partner with critical thinking. At the heart of this method is the assumption that something is ‘not true’ until it can be ‘proven’ by the evidence.

It seems to me that as a society and as individuals, we have lost our appetite for the scientific method and for critical thinking and as a result, we have become prey to the onslaught of critical theory (CT).

I would argue that if we have lived our own lives unaware of the advance of CT into our own lives, our families, and our communities, it is because we have neglected or ignored critical thinking and the scientific method. For me, critical thinking is the clear first line of defence against CT and the march of modern Marxism into every aspect of our lives.

Cosying Up to the CCP

Let me conclude with the story of the Belt and Road Initiative. This is an investment strategy developed nearly ten years ago by the Chinese. This initiative seeks to form a network of Chinese infrastructure and investment that covers the globe an empire in all but name. It has often focused on the takeover of key ports such as Haifa in Israel and Piraeus in Greece, to say nothing of Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia.

With great fanfare, the Victorian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese government on October 8, 2018, and later a ‘framework’ agreement on October 23, 2019, to develop one of the Belt and Road Initiatives for Victoria. This was done behind the then Prime Minister Morrison’s back; he swiftly wound it back. What does this say about Daniel Andrews’ agenda? Not just the concept of facilitating even greater Chinese investment/ownership in Australia, but his seeking to do this international trade deal without the federal government’s approval!

Let’s never give up on the importance of critical thinking and always be aware of the dangers inherent in critical theory (CT).


Photo by cottonbro.

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  1. Cai Grigsby 23 November 2022 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Point 13 to your above list….the removal of Discretionary Powers from Magistrates..under Vic Roads Law. And allowing the police to have full power….and removing the rights of citizens to appeal prosecution.

  2. Jim Twelves 23 November 2022 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Cai, thank you for the addition. I was not trying to be exhaustive, simply indicative. I think Martyn Iles suggested actions are truly brilliant. Please encourage folks to listen to the whole of his clip. Praying for Victoria and for the elections this weekend. Shalom, Jim

  3. Stephen Brinton 24 November 2022 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    An interesting piece Jim. CT and CRT are not ‘critical’ in the sense of being well-thought-through. As you say they are ‘right’ because someone says so. This thinking/attitude dominates tertiary institutions, infects schools and is promoted by all media outlets. There is no debate as those with conservative opinions are shouted down and those who hold such opinions are labelled bigots/racists etc.

  4. Jim Twelves 25 November 2022 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Stephen, thank you for your endorsement. What gets me is the complete vacuum in the media (and most of society) when it comes to any consideration, critical thinking, of where that ‘right’ comes from. Its simply treated as a ‘given’. So sad! What saddens me so much is to see schools ‘train out’ any genuine questioning of the status quo. What’s happened to education when we have lost the very element that education is for?

  5. Jim Twelves 10 December 2022 at 8:10 am - Reply

    The other day I caught the audio from a snipped of the latest Harry and Megan Netflix series. I was astonished (I guess I shouldn’t have been), the script was straight out of the Critical Race Theory (CRT) play book. There was the ‘surmising’ of racist attitudes and thinking. There was the advocacy for the highest calling of become an ‘anti-racist’. The whole British Empire, post-colonial independence, was being re told as a mega narrative of ‘exploitation’ and ‘subjugation’. The overarching message was that everything ‘white, male and western’ was painted as ‘shameful’ and to be replaced with Harry and Megan’s ‘pure view of the world’.
    For the first time, I was not seeing this as a Harry and Megan petulant tirade of hurt against the Royal Family. No, this was a cold hearted, hard, calculated narrative against everything in my civilization and values that I hold dear. It was so sad! And I feel most sad for those who, subconsciously, will come to believe it.

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