German “Critical Thinking” vs. American Debate Culture

Here is another interesting German commentary by American Eric T. Hansen in Die Zeit.

I’d like to translate it all, but I can’t, so I won’t (no time). Here are a few highlights, though:

Critical thinking does not allow for self-criticism. Where would we be then?

Critical thinking is not debating, it’s finding concensus, or, as I call it, harmony nagging (Harmonienörgeln): Two people criticize a third person so long until the two become friends.

If I want to hear a new or even a different perspective on something, I have to turn to the Anglo-American press. Regarding certain questions – for instance whether nuclear energy, genetically modified corn or having Mitt Romney as president might also have certain advantages – many of my German friends are not even aware that two sides to these arguments even exist.

I too understand Mitt Romney’s positions quite well and suspect that he would make just as good (or bad) a president as Obama. In America that makes me an intellectual. In Germany that makes me a right-winger.

Everything is so serious for the Germans, and they need to know immediately: “Who is my friend, who is my enemy?” For Americans and their debate clubs, however, there is always an element of playfulness involved.

Auch ich verstehe die Positionen eines Mitt Romney gut und ahne, dass er ein ebenso guter (oder schlechter) Präsident wie Obama wäre. In Amerika macht mich das zu einem Intellektuellen. In Deutschland macht mich das zu einem Rechten.