Dare to Disagree through Critical Thinking

7 thoughts on “Dare to Disagree through Critical Thinking”

  1. Good topic Luis and I cannot agree more that critical thinking is something everyone should learn and that we would all benefit from it in all parts of our lives. The first thing to realize is that most of us don’t know how to do it.

    Now, I am of a certain age and can tell you there was no class in critical thinking when I went to school. The same is true for my children and grandchildren. Yes, you can find courses in critical thinking but they are mostly at the post secondary education level and only available if you take particular education streams.

    If you had asked me about my critical thinking abilities when I was still working I would have said I had good skills. Since becoming interested in the topic and reading much about it in the last seven years I reached a point just a few months ago where I now believe I understand what critical thinking is. I am working now on learning and improving those skills. Much of it has to do with learning how to question your conclusions realistically. I don’t think it’s a hard topic and I now firmly believe that critical thinking should be taught as soon as a child enters school. Sooner if the parents have the skill. It should be included with reading, writing and math as a basic skill all people should have. The problem is that so few people have these skills that there is no one below university level who is comfortable teaching it. Actually in some places it is worse than that. The Republican party in Texas has suggested that their schools explicitly not teach critical thinking to children. Their reasoning is that the children shouldn’t challenge their parents.

    However, Margaret has good advice. In the beginning of her talk she describes two people using the scientific method to test hypothesis. It’s the best method mankind has come up with to search for truth. Embrace the method, learn about it, read up on logical fallacies and learn why we are prone to believe things without enough examination and it will be most beneficial all round.

    All this involves that other critical skill, listening.

  2. Spotn on Luis. I think it is dishonest to claim that openness in itself improves things, though clearly it is a big step forward, and that dealing with difference and dissent is the real challenge. In fact there is a real risk that we revert back to our comfort zones and familiar structures when things get tough. It takes real balls to stay open when the shit starts flying!

  3. Wonderful post and call to action Luis – thank you! A few months back, I was discussing with my husband something I had read along the lines of, “The problem of our age is not lack of information. We are now inundated with information. The problem is now, what do we *do* with the information?” I realize this comment could go on a side track about filter, filter failure etc. But I remember saying that a key solution to this problem is critical thinking. We have access to so much more information now, but how do we choose to consume, process, question, apply, act on it?

    And it made me wonder – how does one learn, or teach, critical thinking in the first place? I believe I employ some critical thinking in the sense that I can discern between relevant and irrelevant information (given the situational context). I believe I can spot a ‘right’ question vs a ‘not so useful’ question. But I struggle to explain *how* I do this. One of my favorite Einstein quotes is, “If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.” So, I find it a bit troubling that I cannot explain something that I think I can do.

    Also – thank you to Tony for his comments on teaching and learning these skills. I am inspired to do more research!

  4. Luis, your call to action reminds me of a course I took a couple of summers ago during my Masters @ Teachers College in NYC on Cultural Intelligence. Our professor had us divide ourselves by groups around identity during the final class and I joined the three other Jews who were in the course. He had all of our groups create flip-charts on: what we thought others thought of us (in our case, of Jews) and one thing we wish everyone understood about us (in our case, Jews). Unanimously, the four of us agreed that the one thing we wished that others understood about Jews/our culture is that we will stand up and say the thing that needs to be said (that few others are prepared or willing to say).

  5. I had to look it up to believe it, Tony: “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

    In Germany, critical thinking is one of the most important skills being taught at school, some reading material (sorry, in German): http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/german_concepts_tools.pdf

    I’ve helped explain critical thinking through a simple analogy. You can look at things from one angle, one direction only, but, as you begin looking at an object from different sides and perspectives, you being to realize the thing has many hidden aspects that you simply couldn’t see if you only looked at it from one direction (it stays 2-dimensional for you). There’s so much more to discover about its true nature.

    1. Marvellous! Joachim you provided an excellent example of critical thinking. You did not take what I said as a given but went looking for evidence to verify my claim. We all need to do that all the time.

      We all, in this group at least, have some concept of critical thinking and that probably puts us above average. Unfortunately being above average in this area still leaves a long, long way to go.

      I find the topic exciting and expect to spend the rest of my life improving these skills. I regret that I did not start when I was 3 or 4 and realize that if I had I’d now still have more to learn. It’s a great journey.

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