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by Douglas Wilson Printed in PHS #3, 1993.
Source: http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/define_critic al_thinking.cfm
Douglas Wilson is a founder of Logos School in Moscow, Idaho one of the few American day schools founded on classical learning principles.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that reads
" .This bumper sticker provides an example of what modern educators call "critical thinking.
A logical answer to the bumper sticker (for those of us to talk back to bumper stickers) would be. "Says who?" .
.The person trained in logic questions the bumper sticker because he sees a logical problem with the position presented on the bumper sticker.
correct them.This questioner has been trained to recognize such problems. and arrive at the right answer. .
The Difference Between Critical Thinking and Logic .
.Those who seek to inculcate "critical thinking skills" give all authority to the questioner .
and so forth. before he settles upon "whatever works for him." The one with the questions has all the authority -.a totally subjective authority. questions.He examines. probes. .
Logical analysis presupposes that there is such a thing as absolute unchanging truth. and that this truth has authority over us. .
. Instead of teaching skepticism -.the belief that there are no unchanging answers --this approach teaches that we are looking for validly derived answers.We are not allowed to tinker with the truth.
What to Do about Critical Thinking .
. appearances can be deceiving.Nevertheless.
The rhetoric of "critical thinking skills" allows educators to make intelligent-sounding noises while wandering in a circle. .
Don't be fooled by it. .
.It is nothing more than sophisticated and witty chatter on the edge of the void.
So should we simply avoid anything and everything labeled "critical thinking"? .
Again. labels may be deceiving .
Although the "critical thinking skills" movement as a whole teaches skepticism and unbelief. not every product merely labeled "critical thinking" is bad .
What you want to avoid are: .
.Materials that encourage the student to challenge biblical authorities.
Materials that encourage general confusion and skepticism .
Materials that dwell at length on a particular view of the future .
Materials that introduce "closed" dilemmas .
Materials that stress "there are no right answers" .
Logic 101 .
of course. . want to teach their children to think. .Christian parents.
How do we do this? .
The parent instructing his children in logical analysis should start by learning certain basics of logic himself. .
Let s take a look at a few of these. .
.Truth and Validity.
the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. but if they were. A valid argument is one that is structurally sound -. The premises may not be true. . the conclusion would follow necessarily.One of the most important starting points when studying logic is the difference between truth and validity.
Look at this example: All dogs are brown .
This animal is a dog. .
Therefore this animal is brown. .
This is not true (all dogs are not brown). .
Even if it were true. the conclusion would necessarily be true. .
Truth answers the question. "Is it so?" Validity answers the question. "Does it follow?" .
.Fallacies of Form Another important distinction to be made is the difference between fallacies of form and fallacies of distraction.
A fallacy of form occurs when there is a structural problem in one's argument -. Look at this invalid argument: .it would never be valid no matter what the nouns in the argument were.
All cats have four legs. .
This animal has four legs.
Therefore, this animal is a cat.
Even though the premises are true (cats do have four legs and this animal does have four legs), this is a fallacy of form. The argument is structurally unsound.
to change the subject.Fallacies of Distraction A fallacy of distraction occurs when one is trapped and seeks. . by various and sundry means.
You've got me there. he says. "Look! A comet! .Instead of saying.
" The man is attacked instead of his argument.One example of a fallacy of distraction is the abusive ad hominem: "That can't be right because you're a jerk. .
. you've done it too!" But of course just because someone else has committed the fallacy does not rescue your argument.Another example is that of tuquoque: "Oh yeah? Well.
.The possibilities for real-life applications are enormous.
Deuteronomy tells us that we are to instruct our children when we rise. . when we walk along the way. and so forth. when we read letters to the editor.
Our society has graciously provided us with abundant fallacious grist for our children's logical mill .
I recall watching the news one time when my son suddenly pointed at the screen and gave the name of the fallacy. .
it is not long before your children will begin to see fallacies everywhere. .With any rigorous training at all.
. Christian books. Logical contradictions will often surface in sermons. etc.Be warned: unbelievers aren't the only ones who make errors in logic.
but how much better to rid it of the invalid millstones that are so often tied around its neck . just because good people make them? By no means! Truth is still true.Christians will often say things that are true. but still invalid. no matter how many invalid arguments are enlisted on its side. Are we obligated to defend such errors.
Even critical thinking professors do that! We should teach him to always ask these two questions: .It is no real help to a child to teach him to applaud when he hears something with which he agrees.
can he think of an argument that is? . and (2) Was the argument sound? If the argument was not sound.(1) Is the conclusion true.
"Wisdom is supreme. and true. This is what Solomon was talking about when he said. .We want to inculcate both love of truth and trust in God's Word -which is self-consistent. therefore get wisdom" (Proverbs 4:7). logical.
we are not Christians because "it works for us.After all." .
The Star Trek series portray an optimistic technological future. but one filled with constant conflicts as the crew travels on their odyssey through space. .
The show sometimes diminishes the role of human reason and the possibility of objective knowledge. .
The Voyager series includes a first officer who is a Native American. .
the greatest threat is not being lost in some distant quadrant of space. but it is the loss of a personal inner stability.He is a spirit guide that utilizes a combination of science and mysticism to help manage crisis situations. . Ironically.
knowledge. . ethics and intellectual trends.After sharing highlights from the Star Trek programs. teachers can discuss how the television series reflects different perspectives on truth.
What is the basic definition of the term? .Students might notice that human reason is less important and there is greater emphasis on relativism.
Barzun (2000) relates it means flexible. a sliding scale that gives a different reading in similar situations. adaptable. .
.Relativism appears to make a few distinctions between moral codes. cultures and religions.
They each reside in a certain time and place in history that should be respected and tolerated. .
Barzun argues that a civilized society often utilizes relative standards for applying the law to individual criminal cases.Yet. .
He maintains that the antirelativists who embrace moral absolutes cannot effectively answer the question whose absolute are we to adopt and impose? .
.The brief example reveals that popular culture can offer numerous instructional opportunities to help students refine their thinking skills through reading and reflective dialog.
Evaluating Critical Thinking Skills .
Contemporary testing methods often fail to provide teachers with information on how students arrive at their responses to test items. .
Quantitative and qualitative assessment procedures can be useful but it is vital that the assessment must be sensitive enough to identify changes that have occurred in students thinking skills. .
checklists. problem-solving scenarios or simulations. teacher made tests. . open-ended questions.Critical thinking assessment instruments can include commercially designed tests.
check lists can be used to evaluate a variety of student work such as gathering information on student online comments or portfolios. .For instance.
.Check lists are useful tools to document evidence of student problem solving and decision making skills (Sormunen & Chalupa. 1994).
.Teachers can integrate critical thinking into their classes by presenting information from a diversity of perspectives that involve both the cognitive and affective learning domains.
.The author has found that students really enjoy reading nonfiction short stories about individuals and their personal learning adventures.
Teachers can share interesting and informative stories that offer insights into concepts such as perseverance in problem solving. .
Short stories can be included in lectures and handouts that stress descriptive information on critical thinking. .
.The following chart is an effective way to help students understand the multidimensional aspects of critical thinking.
Essential Critical Thinking Skills (Wool folk. p. 1990.278) .
Defining and Clarifying the Problem .
.-Identify central issues or problems. -Determine which information is relevant. -Formulate appropriate questions. -Compare similarities and differences.
Judge Information Related to the Problem .
-Check consistency. -Recognize bias. -Recognize different value systems and ideologies. opinion and reasoned judgment. -Identify unstated assumptions. emotional factors. . propaganda and semantic slanting.-Distinguish between fact. -Recognize stereotypes and clichés.
Solving Problems/Drawing Conclusions .
-Predict probable consequences. .-Recognize the adequacy of data.
Online Instructional Strategies .
The affective and psychological dimensions of distance education are important aspects of the teaching and learning process. .
Distant educators face the dilemma of how to foster critical thinking with students who vary in their need for academic guidance.
Often, this problem is portrayed as teacher-directed versus self-directed learning models.
In reality, the online teacher will have to adapt his/her teaching style to meet the needs of their students.
Berge (1999) relates that interaction in education involves a continuum from teachercentered to student-centered approaches. .
Distant educators are challenged by using a textdriven form of education. .
.Today s online classes rely heavily on printed materials and teacher created lectures and handouts.
and acting. sensing. reasoning. feeling. . deciding persuading. remembering.Kirby & Goodpaster (2002) note language works intimately with all aspects of our thinking. creating. evaluating. organizing.
and as we increase and refine our own language. we will think better .As we become more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of language.
A major adult education goal is helping students become selfdirected learners who learn to monitor and improve their thinking skills. .
Distance educators need to integrate meaningful instructional activities into their classes that promote internalization of critical thinking skills and knowledge. .
It is one of the unique challenges of teaching online but it is essential to fostering classes and degree programs that prepare students for leadership roles in our society. .
Thank you« .
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