Culture shapes the way we think, the way we make constructions from our environment, and our expectations. It brings people together through shared norms, values, customs, beliefs, and ideas and allows communication through a common language. Culture forms the background of people’s livelihood and influences the way they interact with others, as well as their habits, dreams, and tastes. Cultural myths help in defining people’s position in society as prescribed by the existing culture. The concept of critical thinking challenges the developing mind to explore beyond the cultural myths and embedded assumptions. Naomi Wolf writes a discussion on freedom suggesting that it comes in as an intended challenge. Wolf, a feminist and social critic, bases her arguments on the Declaration of Independence. She challenges the prevailing thought of freedom by asserting that it is a call to arms that challenges the Americans to make personal sacrifices to attain.
As young minds develop, they become codified into their thinking by cultural myths even before they are aware of it. Most of the things ingrained in people’s minds are learned at a deep and unconscious level. A classic example of cultural myths is gender roles that are acquired from families, schools, churches, and other important institutions (Colombo, para 10). In their daily lives, young minds interact with different cultures that culturally determine the roles of men and women. Most cultural myths shape up the way we perceive the world and somewhat blind us from viewing the world alternatively. If an action violates the expectations of a myth, it appears immoral, perverse, and unnatural. According to Wolf, the point of freedom invites critical thinking by challenging the notion perceived with the Declaration of Independence. Opposed to the general idea that freedom is attaining life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the Declaration of Independence is an American contract as a liberty warrior. Wolf writes that “you have a sacred obligation to take the most serious possible steps and undergo the most serious kinds of personal risks in defense of this freedom that is your natural right…” (Wolf, page 5)
Freedom is closely associated with individual happiness, but over time, it has gained different meanings. In previous generations, happiness would describe the fortunate state of enfranchisement in the context of a just and open society (Wolf, page 6). In another context, happiness meant the development of one’s full power as an individual. The Declaration of Independence is not of the common conception that one can enjoy his/her freedom because he/she is protected and covered from oppression and choice of domestic political decisions. The concept of liberty invites the notion of critical thinking. Cultural myths can be obstacles to critical thinking that are evident in different generations. After years of acculturation, young minds internalize cultural values with a set of rigid categories of good, bad, and narrow conceptions of things around them (Colombo, para 14). Freedom from cultural myths helps to reduce the inherent rigidity of people’s thinking, which can pose serious obstacles to success for young minds.
The achievement of freedom and detachment from cultural norms lies in critical thinking, which invites intellectual conflicts and questions, thus enabling the exploration of alternatives in life. The liberty of thoughts allows young minds to identify different perceptions and worldviews that contradict the cultural myths that mostly shape who we are. After re-reading the Declaration of Independence, one begins to challenge the notion of freedom as an achievement of the pursuit of happiness. Our liberty is embedded in how critically we can think about situations away from the ordinary views ingrained in us by cultural norms