There has been a great deal of talk about world views after the recent Forbes magazine article, How Obama Thinks. In it writer Dinesh D’Souza attempts to explain Obama’s thinking process by trying to understand what makes up his world view. He asserts that, “the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States.” Former Speaker Newt Gingrich drew major criticism for even discussing the article.
I found the topic most interesting because I encourage my students to examine their world views and that of the authors they read as a means for better understanding how to be critical thinkers. The controversy confuses me because this discussion of Obama’s world view seems relevant. After all, he is our president.
First responses to the anticolonial comment included, “That’s outrageous!” or “What was he thinking?” While D’Souza’s assertions are controversial, it’s true that we don’t all see the world the same way. It could be simple or complex, but it impacts everything and we never can truly walk in someone else’s shoes.
Our world view is shaped by a variety of factors including: race, gender, health, socioeconomic status, religion, travel and work experience. When we understand which factors shape how someone views the world, we can better understand why people think and act the way they do.
Why then do so many condemn D’Souza for writing about it or Gingrich from speaking about it? The discussion of world views is an important one because critical thinking requires us to think further and consider both our position and try to see the other side.
Obama, like the majority of Americans, is a descendent of immigrants. His father was Kenyan and while the influence this has had on his worldview is debatable, it is a factor. So why not discuss it?
We will never develop a level of understanding unless we investigate the factors which make up our worldviews. People are fascinated about what makes people’s life experiences so different. The popular “Who Do You Think You Are?” investigates the ancestry of celebrities in an effort to discover how their roots shape their current lives.
One thing most Americans share is a curiosity to know where we came from, how our ancestors led their lives and looking for commonalities in our experiences.
Discussing our various world views strikes me as something truly American.
I think it is a trap to think that we can determine a persons thought process by the external influences of a persons life ( “race, gender, health, socioeconomic status, religion, travel and work experience”). It is the mistake that criminologists fall into and is best illustrated by the instances of someone who enters into criminal activity after a so called normal upbringing in a “normal” middle class family or the great artist/playwright etc. who achieves potent output when coming from an uneducated family and austere environment.
This failure to understand stems from a lack of understanding as to the constitution of man. What makes a human is a far more complex thing that psychologists, sociologists and geneticists currently understand. It is as though they are shining a a torch in to the corner of a darkened room, the room is only partially illuminated. In addition to the constitution of man is the point of evolution that the person is at (evolution of consciousness).
When we get a precocious child, a prodigy, we call them a genius and attempt to explain the genius through genetics, family influence etc. but this would not explain Leonardo DaVinci or Carravagio who was the son of a shepherd. He drew remarkable images on pebbles by scratching on them with a sharp stone (it may not have been Carravagio, I forget the artist). These people where born with a greater level of conciousness that most others and especially those around them.
It is a fascinating subject which this comment cannot do justice to because of time and space.