How incredible is it that half of the people in the U.S. think that the other half is brainwashed, with the other half convinced the exact same about the others? Most of our population really believes that vast swathes of the people with whom they share a country are delusional about pretty much every important aspect of how they think that country should run. How did we get to this point? What can we, as educators, do?
Well, one thing is to get real about teaching critical thinking skills.
I can the imagine the immediate objections: “Critical thinking is already everywhere in education lately. From the benchmarks to the buzzwords, critical thinking is literally everywhere!” This objection does have a strong element of truth. But it’s missing so much of what critical thinking actually is.
Critical thinking skills are not just skills of Bloom-like discovery, analysis, and synthesis, as so eloquently described here or here. And it doesn’t just involve jamming buzz words, such as inference, problem solve, assessment, etc. into benchmarks, as has often happened following the national standards movement that began gathering steam in the 1980s, before steamrolling into the brick wall of the anti-core curriculum movement of late. And if you want to pay a lot of money to learn these segments of how to critically think, the professional development industry will certainly oblige.
So, with all of this critical thinking education out there, and now for so long, why does it seem as though so many of our citizens are still so delusional? I believe that the answer lies in what our critical thinking teaching has been missing. Critical thinking is logical thinking. Logical thinking involves a primary importance on truth above all else, even if it involves admitting mistakes. It also involves knowing logical argumentation, along with being able to identify mistakes, including bias and fallacies. It involves things like cross referencing, and citing sources. These things simply aren’t being taught today.
When somebody’s media source takes a quote out of context, everybody should be immediately pointing out that “That’s cherry picking!” When a Democrat argues with a Republican about just about anything, neither side should care as much about winning as about getting to the truth. There shouldn’t be a disdain for “statistics” or “numbers.” Everybody should know as much about confirmation bias as they do about Beyonce. They should know how to cross reference.
And so, my plan is to do my little part. In the upcoming weeks I will post some information, with some examples of common fallacies, as well as some information on bias and evidence, geared toward teens and adults who are either unfamiliar with these, or just need a brush up. My plan is also to post some accompanying worksheets on my Free Language Stuff website, and my Teachers Pay Teachers store that will be free or close to it. When the buzzwords finally become words like facts, evidence, statistics, fallacies, and logic, then hopefully the delusions will start to fade.