Unexamined Consequences: Ideology, Critical Thinking, and the Reagan Revolution

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

John R. Murray


In the winter of 1992-93, the United States is suffering an economic and political paralysis which is the direct result of the policies of the Reagan Revolution. Hugh deficits and debts have limited the flexibility of Americans to cope with the serious problems of today's world. How did this happen and what can we do about it? What kind of thinking brought about the policies of the Reagan Presidency? The terminology and theories of Richard Paul, found in his book Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World, provide a vehicle for examining the thinking used in the formulation of the Reagan policies. The first part of this thesis develops the premise that the ideology leading to the policies of the Reagan Revolution resulted from thinking dominated by both uncritical and sophistic (weak sense) critical thinking. The second part of the thesis states that it will require will, strength, and communicative power equal to that which established the Reagan Revolution to bring fair minded (strong sense) critical thinking to bear on the country's current situation, in order to mold a strong, stable economy. Chapter l examines Paul's definitions of strong and weak sense critical thinking, along with uncritical thinking in order to analyze the development of President Reagan's ideology. Paul's theories on prejudice, including both positive (for something), as well as negative (against something), provide a frame of reference for viewing Reagan's ideology and actions. Chapter II considers Reagan's ideas in his own words, along with his background. Chapter III examines Reagan's ideology, actions, and policies. Chapter IV, "What Might Have Been," includes the thoughts of Robert N Bellah and his associates in The Good Society and David Halberstam in The Next Century. Their ideas help to portray what might have been, along with a vision of the discipline needed to develop a future American society based on strong sense critical thinking.


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