Sunday, March 26, 2017

Critical thinking

If there is one idea that many teachers and educators and professors approve, it is the value of critical thinking.  Go ahead: look up critical thinking in Google.  You will get this:*

The link leads to more than 91 million links.  Granted some of those links are probably ads for hot dogs or tennis rackets, but the general idea that schooling should lead to better thinking seems obvious and acceptable.  However, as St. Paul mentioned, we often reap what we sow.  Ask for critical thinking and then you may get critical thinking.

It's like many teachers.  You try to get an idea across to the kids but some don't get it.  You start to wish for bright kids.  Then, you get some bright kids and WHOA!  They start to get it!  Then, they get it.  Then they keep on thinking.  They ask questions.  They wonder.  They even doubt.  Doubt what you, the teacher, are telling them.  They doubt the textbook.  They wonder what evidence has been collected in favor of an important idea you are explaining.  They wonder what evidence was collected against the idea you are telling them.  They wonder why more evidence hasn't been collected and whether the evidence they can find is all there is or has it been slanted, modified, filtered.  They begin to imagine ways to collect their own evidence. OMG, they are thinking for themselves!!!

Critical thinking is a frequent subject of educational discussion these days.  I have written about it before.  Put this in your browser's address window and you can see what I wrote before.  Some of it is pretty good.

As with anything, teaching critical thinking, and practicing critical thinking can be overdone.  The most common criticism of too much doubt and investigation comes from those who want more obedience and unquestioning cooperation.  We often need or want those qualities in people but we have learned that too much leads to trouble.  The other difficulty I have run into it is so much doubting and criticism that there is nothing to be happy about or to believe it.  It is ok to believe in a friend or a partner or a guide, to just commit yourself to trusting and supporting as long as you can.

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