What were they thinking? They’re not.

BRATTLEBORO — What are Trump's people thinking?

They hang in. And then some. Why?

A common explanation is the alienation of blue-collar white men - alienated by movement of jobs overseas, automation's assault on craft pride, weakening of private-sector unions, new status of women in family and workplace, and the shift of non-whites from safe-to-feel-superior-to, to threat to white status.

Still, the persistent strength of Trumpism is surprising. What of practical value did his candidacy offer his followers? What did his presidency do to serve their needs? And what does MAGA offer compared with Biden's efforts to help families, provide jobs, and level the playing field?

So what are Trump's followers thinking? A large part of the answer is: They're not.

They're not because their schooling failed them: critical thinking was little taught, especially in the years they were in school.

Voters now aged about 30 to 60 were in school during the period when women's liberation (thank countless women) stripped the schools of their often-best teachers. Of U.S. teachers entering the labor force in the mid-'60s, approximately 50 percent had college Scholastic Aptitude Test scores in the top fifth; by the mid-'80s, it was less than 20 percent.

Since the 1990s, that trend has turned, due to new standards for teacher preparation and certification and especially to significant improvement in teacher pay (sadly undercut by exploding college costs and student debt).

But other things about our schools - especially high schools - still make it hard for students to learn to think critically: too many courses at once and too many students per class. (Thinking is learned in class discussion and written work. But as a teacher, how do you engage students in thoughtful discussion or deal with essays in homework or on tests, as in the NYC school where I taught, five classes a day and 170 students?)

And then there's the lock the Texas Board of Education has had on what school texts are published. The world history text used in my high school was typical: reactionary and prettied up to not bother students with thinking.

So we've recovered some from women's liberation's injury to schools' teaching. But when it comes to critical thinking, most of us have a ways to go, regardless of political leaning.

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