Cultural Literacy: Nepotism

This isn’t a political blog, but if you followed the news on the national convention (or the convention itself) of one of the major political parties in the United States last month, you’ll understand why I think it’s time to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on nepotism.

Incidentally, I doubt that there are many teachers in this country who haven’t attended a professional development day in which the importance of critical thinking was discussed. As Daniel Willingham asked in an article for the American Federation of Teachers’ magazine American Educator, “Critical Thinking: Why Is It So Hard to Teach?” The answer is complicated, but a summary would go something like this: critical thinking is a complicated cognitive act involving, among other things, using a rich fund of prior knowledge and conceptual vocabulary to think synthetically in order to understand new and unexpected circumstances and things.

Nepotism, I’ll argue here, is one of those conceptually rich terms that gives students the cognitive tools to evaluate and navigate a variety of situations in educational institutions, workplaces, governments, and bureaucracies. It can also equip them to understand why–and yes, develop a critical understanding of why–institutions, businesses and governments develop inertia and dysfunction. In a time when our periodicals and television news channels carry daily news about toxic workplaces characterized by cliquish incompetence, nepotism is a word students should know so they can understand its conceptual meaning and use it as a tool for assessment.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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