Presentation on theme: "Jennifer Caseldine-Bracht. Pre-thinking about a new subject is important because it immediately changes the role of student from passive listener to."— Presentation transcript:
Pre-thinking about a new subject is important because it immediately changes the role of student from passive listener to an active participant. Asking questions from the beginning is a good way to engage students. What is your concept of Critical Thinking? Write down a question you have about critical thinking. If you don’t have any questions, is there anything you conclude from that?
Critical thinking involves asking questions. When instructors give you problems to solve, they often have already done a major part of the questioning. When I ask you what your concept of critical thinking is, I am asking what I think is a good question. I think it is a good question because it will direct your attention to the pre-conceived ideas (both good and bad) that you already have about critical thinking.
Throughout this session, write down questions that occur to you throughout the lecture and discussions. Questions may be about the subject matter, or how you will use critical thinking in the future, or questions about the relevancy of the material, and so forth. What other types of activities would you want to be added? What activities do you consider to be a waste of time? Why? Do you think critical thinking is important outside of the classroom? If so, how so?
One approach to thinking is similar to the way in which a sponge reacts to water: by absorbing. The sponge approach emphasizes knowledge acquisition. Critical thinking stresses active interaction with knowledge as it is being acquired. An individual that takes the sponge approach to learning may underline or highlight key words and sentences. Her mission is to find and understand what the author has to say. She memorizes the reasoning, but does not evaluate it.
A critical thinking approach requires that the reader ask herself a number of questions to clarify logical steps in the material and to help identify important omissions.
There is no one definition of critical thinking. Moore and Parker: ◦ Critical thinking =df. The careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim – and of the degree of confidence with which we should accept or reject it.
What is critiqued is the ideas of people, not the people themselves who hold the ideas. If someone said, “ I don’t accept “x’s” theory on global warming because “x” is a liar, then how could you respond ? The goal of philosophy is knowledge through a disinterested search for truth, not winning or simply appearing to defeat another in argument. Critical thinking helps both ourselves and others when it helps us recognize that a “position, theory, or idea is incomplete or unclear, insufficiently supported, or in some other way unconvincing,” and thus helps us to arrive at the truth which is the goal of knowledge seekers. A critical thinker questions and analyzes the material.
Some students think critical thinking sounds off- putting. However, Critical Thinking is not negative. The word ‘critical’ has negative connotations. We hear people say, “She shouldn’t be so critical all of the time,” “I don’t like critical people,” and so forth. The word ‘critical’ is often associated with fault finding or nit picking. However, in this context, it is related to the word ‘criteria’ and means a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based.
Judgment is not negative. Unfortunately, the word ‘judgment’ has negative connotations attached to it. We hear people say, “Don’t be so judgmental,” or “I try not to be judgmental.” But being judgmental is not the same thing as being a critical thinker. Remember that critical thinkers make judgments about arguments and claims, not about people.
All of us make judgments all of the time, whether we know it or not. We could not exist without making judgments. What are some things we make judgments about? What are some good things about making judgments? What are some bad things about making judgments?
I often have students say to me, “Well, we all have our opinion.” Statements such as “You and I just feel differently about it” or “One person’s opinion is as good as another’s” evade the issue.. Can you think of some examples to convince someone that not all opinions are equal?
Moore and Parker: It is important to watch out for the words: “Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.” It is true, in some sense, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion on anything. The reason for this is that in anything except a complete dictatorship, people are not forced to hold a given set of opinions. It is hard to force someone to hold a certain opinion. But the fact that we do not force people to have this or that opinion on a subject does not mean that one opinion may not be more intelligent, much more practical, much more humane than some other opinion. Indeed, some opinions are so bad, stupid, or dangerous that it may be hazardous or even immoral to hold them.
To present a rational argument, you should offer reasons to back up their claims. What reasons do you have to back up your claim? Also, critical thinkers make sure that their concepts are clear. For example, if someonesays “The current administration is correct regarding its policies on the ‘war on terror’ because terrorism is wrong,” what are some questions we could ask?
Some basic questions we could begin with: ◦ What is a terrorist? ◦ What is something a terrorist would do? ◦ Is there any essential feature of a terrorist that differentiates them from other people? ◦ What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? What is the difference between terrorism and other acts of violence? For example, is domestic violence a form of terrorism? If so, should we can it terrorism? Should we call all acts of violence ‘terrorism’? If not, why not?
If someone advocates that America should fight a war on terrorism, then should they understand exactly what they mean by the concept of terrorism? If not, why not? Justify your answer. The United States has nuclear weapons. We call it “nuclear deterrence.” Some people claim this is really a euphemistic way to describe terrorism. The U.S. homeland security department defines terrorism as violence or threat of violence against civilians. Terrorism threatens innocent civilians if states don’t do certain things. Is this a form of terrorism? If not, what are the differences?
This approach is somewhat similar to the Socratic method. Who knows about the Socratic method of teaching? Some criticisms of the Socratic method: ◦ It is confrontational. ◦ Socrates already seems to know the problems in advance and tricks the people he is arguing with. ◦ It sometimes makes the person engaged in dialogue with Socrates feel humiliated. However, it does not have to be that way. The new and improved Socratic method engages in dialogue between student and instructor, without being deceptive.
Some people will say that we ask too many questions. Other people will think that critical thinking instructors don’t take feelings into proper account. Many people think (incorrectly) that critical thinking is opposed to emotions. I have heard students say that they thought of Spock in Star Trek when they first heard about critical thinking. However, critical thinkers are not devoid of emotion.
It is true that when we first encounter a conclusion, we do so with a history. We have all learned to care about certain things, to support particular interests, and to disregard some particular claims. We will be thinking critically in the midst of existing opinions. We have emotional commitments to these opinions. Sometimes it is good to put our feelings aside for a while. This will enable us to listen to other’s arguments openly. The danger of being emotionally involved in an issue is that we may fail to consider potential good reasons for other positions.
If someone is emotional, then are these emotions helpful to the argument? Are you able to think of times when emotions have clouded your judgments? Are you able to think of times when emotions have helped you make better judgments? How can you tell the difference?
What do you think are some impediments to critical thinking?
Where do we get our values and preferences? What is enculturation? Many of the values and preferences we now have regarding religion, food, sexual mores, and so forth were instilled in you since birth by your culture. For instance, if you were raised in India then you are probably of the Hindu faith. If you were raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana then you are probably of the Christian faith. If you are from Chicago, you probably think Chicago style pizza is superior to New York style pizza. Your ability to think critically about ideas that conflict with your basic attitudes depends on the extent you have been enculturated.
From “Thinking” by G. Kirby, ◦ An exercise in Enculturation Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions. The purpose of this exercise is to examine the foundations of some of your thinking, not your conclusions, so don’t be concerned about whether your answer is right or wrong. Just be honest. In most instances there is no general agreement on what the right answer should be.
1. Do you believe that the democratic form of government is the best kind of government in the world? A. Are you aware of the problems of democracy often cited by sociologists and people from non democratic countries? B. Can you express the basic philosophy of alternative forms of government? C. Can you cite any positive aspects of either communism or socialism?
2. Do you believe that capital punishment is justified for mass murderers? A. Do you know that capital punishment is a more expensive punishment than life imprisonment because of the numerous and very expensive judicial appeals involved in the former? B. Have you seen any statistics that clearly show capital punishment to inhibit murder?
3. Do you believe that it is moral to use animals for medical experiments that may make life better for human beings? A. Do you believe that it would be moral for beings on another planet with intelligence superior to ours to use human beings as guinea pigs for the advancement of their alien culture? B. Have you ever seen laboratory animals suffer in an experimental setting? C. Do you know that pigs are blowtorched under anesthesia, bunnies have their eyes sewed shut, and monkeys have their heads smashed to study the effects of burn treatment, cosmetics, and concussion respectively? D. Have you ever read any argument against the use of animals in a laboratory? E. Can you cite such an argument now?
If you answered “yes” to the numbered questions, but “no” to the lettered questions that follow, it could be that you have merely adopted your position through an enculturation process. You may have picked up ideas from television, friends, parents, your religious community, instead of through careful reflection and gathering of facts. A “yes” response to many of the questions is not necessarily wrong. A strong case can be made for either “yes” or “no” and could be made by sound reasoning and facts. How did you reach your conclusion?