Apr 06  |  Jon Wesick

Eager for witty putdowns or even a Hitch slap, spectators, smelling of coconut oil and holding dripping ice-cream bars, surround the enclosure but there will be no show, today. The July sun has made the endangered critical thinker listless. Wearing Bermuda shorts and a straw hat, she lounges on a deck chair. The only action comes when she puts down a book to floss her teeth with a eucalyptus leaf. A bored teen shoves a post-truth manifesto through the bars as a provocation. Baring her fangs, the thinker charges. A zookeeper pulls the teen away just in time.

“Careful! She’ll cut you off at the knees!” the zookeeper says before evicting the troublemaker.

Conservationists estimate there are fewer than a hundred critical thinkers left in the wild. Monocultures of group think have replaced the diversity of ideas that make up a critical thinker’s diet, 120-decibel screams from partisan echo chambers damage their delicate hearing, and the steel jaws of ideological litmus tests ensnare any critical thinker who makes a careless step. The strong chew their legs off and escape but most perish due to starvation and neglect.

Armed with healthy skepticism, a few brave teachers struggle to protect wild critical thinkers but poachers carrying bandoleers of book bans and sawed-off parents screaming at schoolboard meetings outnumber them.

Captive breeding has been unsuccessful. The number of critical thinkers is too small to ensure genetic diversity. Conservationists attempt hybrid breeding but those of childbearing age prefer mating with the rich, trendy, and beautiful instead of critical thinkers who express unpopular opinions. Barring urgent action, critical thinking will go extinct in our lifetimes.