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CRITICAL THINKING

An Introduction by
Mark Heyne
The Beginnings

This is Socrates
 He was a teacher in Athens about 2500 years ago, and he
started a movement called Critical Inquiry, which is a
method of questioning and research that hopefully
uncovers or leads us to the truth.
The Wisest man?
 Socrates was actually a very annoying old man.
 He questioned people about their beliefs and about what
they thought they knew to be true.
 Some people thought him the wisest man in town.
 But he just said; “If I am wise, it is because I admit I know
nothing!
QUESTIONS
 Socrates made it his business to unmask the false wisdom
of his contemporaries.

 He asked simple but awkward questions like “What is


Right?”
Or “What is Good?” and “How do we know what we know?”

 Eventually the people of Athens got fed up with Socrates


questioning them and making them feel foolish. They
arrested him and charged him with corrupting the youth of
the city and denying the truths of religion.

 They found him guilty and voted to put him to death.

 Which just goes to show the dangers of Critical Inquiry!


Six Types of Question
1 Questions for Clarification
2 Questions about Assumptions
3 Questions about Reasons and Evidence
4 Questions about Viewpoints and
Perspectives
5 Questions about Implications and
Consequences
6 Questions about the question
1 Clarify Please!
 Questions for Clarification
 Sometimes statements are ambiguous: their
meaning is unclear.

 ASK:
 Could you define that please?
 What exactly do you mean by that?
 I’m not sure I understand, could you explain?
 How does this relate to what we are talking
about?
Assumptions
 If you assume something, you don’t know if it is
true or not.

 Let’s assume the weather will be good next week.

 It’s a fair assumption, but it may not be true:


there may be a storm or unusual weather.

 Assumptions come from what we are used to


seeing happen, but history does not always
repeat itself!
2 Don’t Assume !
 Questions that probe underlying
assumptions

 To test whether something is assumed by an


argument, you can use the negative test. Insert
the opposite of the alleged assumption into the
argument and see if it still makes sense.

 ASK:
 Aren’t you assuming that such-and-such is true?
 What could we assume instead?
 How can you verify or disapprove that
assumption?
3 Reasons and Evidence

 Questions that ask “ Why?”


and “ On what evidence ?”

 ASK:
 What criteria are we using here?
 What values are we assuming?
 What do you think caused this to happen?
 Might there be another explanation?
 How is this relevant?
4 Viewpoints and Perspectives

 ASK YOURSELF:
 Is the writer / speaker qualified? What is his expertise?
 Is the speaker objective or biased?
 Is he neutral or does he have a vested interest?
 Does the writer show a cultural bias?

 ASK:
 · Is there another way to look at it?
 · Why it is necessary, and who benefits?
 · What are the strengths and weaknesses ?
 · How are this and that similar?
 · What might be a counterargument?
5 Implications and
Consequences
 An implication is an unstated consequence. Try to
bring unstated arguments out into the open.

ASK:
 · What are you implying?
 · What are the consequences of that
assumption?
 · How does this affect the outcome...?
 · How does this tie in with what we learned
before?
 · Isn’t that a generalization?
6 Questions about the question

 ASK:

 What is the point of this question?


 What exactly does this mean?
 How does this apply to everyday life?
 Why is this important?
 Is this relevant to the problem?
Teachers’ Resources
 Critical Thinking blogspot
 Mission Critical
 Premises, Conclusions, Support
 Inductive and Deductive
 A-Level in Critical Thinking
 Problem Solving
 Inference exercises
Exercises from North Star
 We hope to encourage habits of critical thinking in our
students, and we can do so by showing them some simple
techniques by which to interrogate a text.

 Questioning the authority of the speaker, asking if he is


presenting facts or opinions, looking for evidence of bias,
are all useful methods of approaching texts critically.

 I have given two examples below of a critical approach,


with sample questions.However, these are only some
possible questions we can ask about each text.

 We hope that class teachers will familiarize themselves with


the Six Types of Question and the other materials on the
Critical Thinking Blogspot and that they will integrate
approaches from there into their teaching.
The Farming Life for Me

Level 1 R/W Unit 2 Text: p23

 Important statements by the speaker.

 “ Farm kids are too busy with farm work to get into trouble with
guns, drugs and alcohol like a lot of city kids do.”

 “ Farm kids understand at an early age what’s really important in


life”

 “ Farm Kids have a greater sense of responsibility than most city


kids”

 “ Farm Kids have a better understanding of nature than many cit


kids do.”

 “ I know why we raise these animals. They are going to be


hamburgers and fried chicken.”
Ask the right questions:
 Are these fair statements by Zachary, who lives on a farm in Colorado
USA?

 Is his view of city kids fair and objective?

 Is his opposition of city life / farm life the only one, or are there other
possibilities?

 Is Zachary blind to the possibilities of city life, and unaware of the limits
of farm life?

 What experience of city life does he have to base his views on?

 Zachary works on the farm after school. Is it a good thing for young
children to work?

 If he loves the animals on the farm, why does he let them be eaten?

 Is Zachary sincere or is he being defensive?


Ask Mr. Green

Level 1 R/W Unit 7 Text: p126

 Important statements by Mr Green:

 “ Farmers use pesticides to kill insects that eat their plants.”

 “ These chemicals are a great help to farmers…farmers can grow


more produce on the same amount of land.”

 “ Farmers use chemicals to artificially ripen fruits and vegetables.”

 “ When we eat produce, we’re also eating a little bit of the


chemicals”

 “ Some scientists believe this buildup of chemicals can cause


cancer.”

 “ Many shoppers…say organic fruits and vegetables taste better


and fresher.”
Ask the right questions:
 Who is Mr.Green and who does he work for?

 Do you think Mr.Green is his real name?

 Does Mr. Green give us facts or his own opinions?

 Who exactly are the scientists Mr. Green refers to?

 Has Mr. Green confused herbicides and fertilizers?

 Is there any scientific evidence that pesticides cause cancer?

 Who are the “many shoppers” he quotes?

 Does Mr. Green present both sides of the argument fairly?


The End
 Kindly follow up here:
 criticthink.blogspot

 By: Mark Heyne.