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Critical Thinking

  1. Jun 27, 2004 #1
    Few adults realize that they do not know anything about critical thinking. The words sound familiar but the reality is that they know nothing about critical thinking.

    Learning critical thinking is equivalent to two or three 3-hour college credit courses for a total of 6 to 9 hours of college credit. The reason adults know nothing about critical thinking is because it has been taught in our schools and colleges only in the last twenty years.

    Our schools are having a difficult time teaching critical thinking. Part of the reason for this difficulty is because adults know nothing about critical thinking. Critical thinking is the science of reason. It is a combination of Logic 101 plus ‘epistemology for dummies’ plus a significant attitude adjustment.

    If adults do not take it upon themselves to learn critical thinking and thus recognize the importance of the subject our schools may be forced to discontinue the curriculum. Critical thinking is difficult for the schools because teachers must learn from scratch because they did not receive any education in the subject when they were younger.

    Reading is fundamental but so is critical thinking. If we adults fail our children in this matter we should be ashamed.

    See www.criticalthinking.org
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2004 #2


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    I can say one thing for damn sure: my parents know nothing about critical thinking.
  4. Jun 27, 2004 #3
    Neither did mine nor did my siblings nor did anyone in the twon I grew up in and neather did I until five years ago. I suspect Bush does not either.
  5. Jun 27, 2004 #4
    Although this is a shameless plug, I agree very much. I've said before that adding critical thinking courses is one of the most important changes that we can make to education. However, I don't think that the lack of critical thinking is monopolized by older generations. I see plenty of it in mine. (I am college student of typical age.)

    I don't remember any courses in critical thinking, except for a little bit on it in some "gifted" classes I had in middle school, but those aren't exactly accessible to everyone.
  6. Jun 28, 2004 #5
    I focus on adults over the age of 40 because these people have never been taught anything about critical thinking and they are old enough to be less focused on family and career and to have the time and inclination to search for purpose of another kind. Our educational system is strugling in an effort to introduce critical thinking in our schools. They have a difficult time partly because the adult population are ignorant of the nature of critical thinking and thus do not support our schools in this effort.
    See www.criticalthinking.org
  7. Jun 28, 2004 #6


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    It has to be a shock to kids to be taught to think critically. It isn't just that they have not been taught that way before, but that they have been taught the exact opposite. Accept without question was always the rule. That is not just in the classroom either. At home, the rules are usually enforced with, "Because I said so."

    I can imagine some poor third grader coming home from his critical thinking class and trying to argue why he should be allowed to stay up later with an authoritarian parent.

  8. Jun 28, 2004 #7


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    Or hang out with your peer group on the playground and try applying critical thinking to the urban myths they love to discuss and believe in.
  9. Jun 28, 2004 #8
    I know the opposite is a shock. My daughter was born and raised on a commune. All the commune kids had to be taught things like, "Outsiders don't like commune people, atheists, or anyone who thinks different from them. It is best not to tell them who you are or question their beliefs unless you know them well."

    Ancient Chinese saying, "Don't listern to what people say, watch what they do." Schools and teachers may spout all kinds of nonsense about the need for critical thinking, but they do not teach the simple gift of a question much less seriously teach or otherwise promote critical thinking. Shut up and memorize, memorize, memorize. Whatever you do, don't discuss the political bias of history books and alternative views of what we teach.
  10. Jun 29, 2004 #9


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  11. Jun 29, 2004 #10
    Learning critical thinking does not take a lifetime. I developed the ability quite highly before I exited high school.

    I do not have empirical evidence for the lack of critical thinking skills, and I think that it might be hard to come up with a test that many would accept as proper. I only know that, in my life, I have come across countless people who have demonstrated lack of reasoning ability both explicitly in their arguments and implicitly in statements that they make.
  12. Jun 29, 2004 #11


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    By now, Dissident Dan, you must be an absolute virtuouso of critical thinking. So, how do you determine the criteria by which you judge someone's ability to think critically?

    Reilly Atkinson
  13. Jun 29, 2004 #12
    My original post reflects my judgement based upon my experience. I do not know reilly or his/her sons and so my experience did not encompass 100 % of the worlds population. I forgot to mention in my original posting that I did not know 100 % of the worlds population but I assumed that readers would assume that to be the case.
  14. Jun 29, 2004 #13
    I detect your sarcasm, but I will answer anyway.

    Firstly, conclusions must logically follow according to deductive logic or seem plausible and be supported by evidence and not contradicted by evidence a la inductive reasoning.

    I look for emotional prejudices in attempts at reasoning (negative points for critical thinking skills). I look for ability to discard old axioms and beliefs (positive). I see if people can actually follow the line of thought and not conduct straw man attacks (positive). I'm surprised by how often I've come across people who were straw-manning without even realizing it, apparently.
    I also see if people can even form an argument. I look for abilities to differtiate where appropriate (postive).
  15. Jun 30, 2004 #14
    One of the old guys.

    Well, I didn't want to comment on something that I wasn"t sure I fully understood. So, I had to look up a general description of the subject matter. I included some of the material here in case there might some other old folks around like me that needed a little refresher course.

    Attributes of a critical thinker:
    * asks pertinent questions
    * assesses statements and arguments
    * is able to admit a lack of understanding or information
    * has a sense of curiosity
    * is interested in finding new solutions
    * is able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas
    * is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh them against facts
    * listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback
    * sees that critical thinking is a lifelong process of self-assessment
    * suspends judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered
    * looks for evidence to support assumption and beliefs
    * is able to adjust opinions when new facts are found
    * looks for proof
    * examines problems closely
    * is able to reject information that is incorrect or irrelevant

    Critical readers are:
    * willing to spend time reflecting on the ideas presented in their reading assignments
    * able to evaluate and solve problems while reading rather than merely compile a set of facts to be memorized
    * logical thinkers
    * diligent in seeking out the truth
    * eager to express their thoughts on a topic
    * seekers of alternative views on a topic
    * open to new ideas that may not necessarily agree with their previous thought on a topic
    * able to base their judgments on ideas and evidence
    * able to recognize errors in thought and persuasion as well as to recognize good arguments
    * willing to take a critical stance on issues
    * able to ask penetrating and thought-provoking questions to evaluate ideas
    * in touch with their personal thoughts and ideas about a topic
    * willing to reassess their views when new or discordant evidence is introduced and evaluated
    * able to identify arguments and issues
    * able to see connections between topics and use knowledge from other disciplines to enhance their reading and learning experiences

    Schumm, J. S. and Post, S. A. (1997). Executive Learning, 282.
    You are 100 percent right in my case. I got no "book learning" in critical thinking.
    But, almost all of these items were pre-requisites to me performing at a high level of efficiency in my work. My questions are as follows;

    1. Is it reasonable to assume one can develop these skills if the situation requires that you do so in order to succeed?
    2. Is is reasonable to assume that some individuals are more likely than others to reach an acceptable level of proficiency utilizing these skills?

    Obviously, everyone could greatly enhance their potential with a properly structured course and qualified instructors.
  16. Jun 30, 2004 #15
    Force 5, you make my point more clearly than I can. You detail why most adults have never studied Critical Thinking--the science of reason. They never study CT because they think that they alredy know everything about CT because the words critical and thinking are knowledgeable to every one.
  17. Jul 1, 2004 #16
    My own experience with formal schooling is mostly I learned how to forget things.
    Just what is "critical thinking", where does this word come from?
    Is it good to challenge and find the flaws in all things or does one more often come to understand things by challenging them instead of passive acceptance? Wouldn't a critical thinker be more inclined to a life of making many more mistakes? If everyone were a critical thinker wouldn't most people get off on the wrong paths and make things worse, and would in making things worse things change to correct that delineation? And how can one find the flaws in something they don't yet understand, or come to understand something they never try to test against their own powers or lack of reasoning?
  18. Jul 1, 2004 #17

    People make decisions all the time. Often, these are a result of herd mentality. Better critical thinking skills applied will yield better decisions and reduce herd mentality. These better decisions will lead to better outcomes. My critically thinking, you are making fewer mistakes and recognize your mistakes more readily, in order to improve. If you can understand part of something, then you can understand the mistakes in the part that you do understand.

    If more people were critical thinkers, we wouldn't be so gullible: we wouldn't see chiropractors, buy magnet therapy items, call "psychics", or believe that Iraq had anything to do with the events of 9/11.
  19. Jul 1, 2004 #18
    Best CT on www

    If you do a google on critical thinking you will find 5 million Web sites. You will also discover the massive effort being made by education to teach Critical Thinking in our schools.

    The best of these 5 million sites is said to be contained at http://writing.borngraphics.com/. I have read only a small bit of this site but what I have read leads me to believe that it is a good place to start.
  20. Jul 1, 2004 #19


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    There are advantages to herd mentality - especially if you like beef. I wouldn't recommend being part of the herd though.

  21. Jul 1, 2004 #20
    Critical Thinking is a course of study equivalent to 6-hours of college credit. It is a combination of Logic 101 and 'epistemology for dummies' plus a significant attitude adjustment. Do a google of critical thinking and find more than 5 million sites. It is being taught in our schools. I am trying to introduce adults to the concept. Pass it on.

    I do not think CT will cause worse thinking. Flaws in thinking are learned I guess just like arithmatic and geography. It is however best learned by a self- learner because independent thought is a vital part of the mix.
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