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Whistleblowing Is an Act Representative of Critical Thinkers Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Dec 27th, 2021

Defining the term of “whistleblowing”, an individual should consider a complex character of this concept. Generally speaking, deciding to blow the whistle, a person is going to tell the truth. Still, mere honesty would be insufficient for becoming a whistleblower. For example, an individual unveiling certain personal secrets to a close friend cannot be defined with this term. These are the significance of information, circumstances under which it is released and following aftermath that need to be taken into consideration while defining a certain act as whistleblowing. A whistleblower is a person with a certain set of personal qualities and intellectual skills. On the one hand, standing for truth and justice, this individual is able to express one’s protest against the existing state of affairs even being aware of possible reprisal or even physical harassment following the act. Their altruism prevails, and weighing all pros and cons, whistleblowers decide to put at risk their own well-being and to release the truth. On the other hand, they can conduct a research and collect evidence before proceeding to actions. Thus, whistleblowing is an act representative of critical thinkers.

Deciding to blow the whistle, individuals are conscious of risk they expose on their well-being. A strong will power is required for putting one’s life at stake while standing for truth and justice. Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, for instance, is nationally known for blowing the whistle on Brown & Williamson due to illegal choice of ingredients for enhancing the smokers’ nicotine addictiveness. Another famous whistleblower is Peter Buxtun, who released the truth concerning the crimes committed during the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. He blew the wind on the Public Health Service in 1965. Reviewing the materials of the study, he learned that the researchers did not treat the Afro-American participants of the experiment, though penicillin was validated as an effective cure for the illness in 1940. There were no limits to his indignation when he got to know that the aim of the study was to observe the natural progression of the disease, sacrificing the lives of human beings, while the patients could be cured.One more famous whistleblower is Karen Silkwood who was killed after investigating wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plant and going public with the collected evidence. These people acted like investigators collecting the necessary evidence, analyzing the materials and making the appropriate conclusions. It should be noted that conducting the research they demonstrated their developed skills of critical thinking.

According to the above-mentioned definition, whistleblowers need to become critical thinkers during the research process. After Wigand was fired from his job, he has to decide between acting on behalf of society or protecting his wife and children from possible harassment. His confidentiality agreement might have become a hindrance for releasing the truth in case if Wigand were afraid of following punishment. The inner struggle of the main character is shown in The Insider, Wigand expresses his doubts speaking with journalist Bergman. Still, Wigand managed to make a choice after evaluating his personal risk and benefits of the society after releasing the truth. Collecting evidence and considering all possible consequences before making the final decision, Wigand acted as a critical thinker.

Similar to Wigand, Peter Buxtun decided to violate his confidentiality agreement after investigating the crimes contradictory to his life views and professional ethics. It was hard for him to believe that the crimes took place at the Public Health Service sector. During the investigation process, Buxtun was shocked with the mess in the Study’s science over time and how the men were “persuaded” to join with the free meals, promise of treatment, examinations, and burial insurance (Reverby, p. 79).His two official protests were rejected and the experiment with human beings continued. He was assured that the study was to be continued until its completion, in other words, until all the participants were dead. Demonstrating the strength of his character, Buxtun was not going to give up and went to the press. In 1972 his testimony became front page of the New York Times. Finally, the US government agreed to pay 9 million and to save the surviving participants. In the process of investigation and following blowing the whistle, Buxtun demonstrated his skills of critical thinking, while neither public opinion nor threats could influence his decision to stand for justice.

Karen Silkwood, an American labour union activist, decided to go public and blow the whistle on the Kerr-McGee plant. The young woman got to know that she and other employees of the plant were contaminated with plutonium. The hypothesis was that the level of contamination was sufficient for causing cancer. She managed to conduct a research, collect evidence to support this statement and found several witnesses who were former employees of Kerr-McGee. The fact is that after testifying, Karen and her family died under mysterious circumstances, though the car crash was defined as an accident. She is considered one of outstanding environmentalists and her research was influential. “Karen Silkwood is the personification of thousands of people who work every day in these difficult jobs in high-risk industries, trying to improve conditions for their co-workers” (Mongillo, p. 262). Conducting the research and collecting the evidence, Karen demonstrated her skills of critical thinking.

Each of these whistleblowers contributed to their spheres conducting the investigation, analyzing the retrieved information and taking measures with the aim of releasing the truth and influencing the existing state of affairs. It is obvious that all of them proceeded to actions only after collecting all necessary materials and critical evaluation of the situation. It demonstrates their critical thinking.

Analyzing the definitions of “whistleblowing” and “critical thinking”, it is possible to make a conclusion that these concepts have similar meanings. At least critical thinking is an essential component of whistleblowing. Thoreau in Civil Disobedience admitted that “Truth is always in harmony with herself, and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing” (McFaul, p. 327). In other words, discrepancies between the truth and the generally accustomed norms might occur rather often, and this is critical thinking that might help to see the difference and stand for the truth. Emerson in Self-Reliance noted that it is terribly difficult to take the stand, when the rest of the society is against the person: “The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude” (McFaul, p. 292). Still, these people had to couple their critical thinking with belief in universal values for becoming the whistleblowers in their trouble times. Plato in Allegory of the Cave admitted that “In the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort” (McFaul, p.179). It is often not that easy to tell good from bad, whistleblowing always requires efforts and critical thinking.

Analyzing these examples of whistleblowers, it is possible to make a conclusion that critical thinking is of crucial importance for whistleblowing, while whistleblowing is always an act representative of critical thinkers. Before blowing the whistle, an individual has to investigate the case, collect evidence and try to predict the aftermath. Whistleblowers are critical thinkers because they are able to tell the truth from a lie and to fight for justice.

Works Cited

  1. Giles, Robert, Robert Snyder, Lisa DeLisle. Profiles in Journalistic Courage. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2001. Print.
  2. McFaul, Jason. Critical Thinking – A Shepherd’s Guide to Tending Sheep. New Hampshire: Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2010. Print.
  3. Mongillo, John, Bibi Booth. Environmental Activists. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001. Print.
  4. Reverby, Susan. The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy: Examining Tuskegee. The University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Print.
  5. The Insider. Dir. Michael Mann. Perf. Al Pacino, Russel Crow, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, And Roger Bart. Touchstone Pictures, 1999. Film.
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