Critical Thinking. It’s a Joke

I just had a brain-fart. We’re always hearing about the number of people in the USA, and other countries, that define themselves as atheist. I wonder if the survey was modified from atheist to skeptic what the results would be?

I really have never thought about it much. I would hope that the percentage would be huge, but I doubt it. In fact, knowing from personal experience that most people have no idea what constitutes a skeptic, that number might be even smaller. Yeah, I know that’s called anecdotal evidence, but since I’ve never seen any hard data, right now that’s all any of us can use (if you’ve seen a survey, please let me know).

Scary isn’t it? There are probably a lot of reasons for this but I want to throw just one idea out here for your consideration: Critical thinking isn’t taught in schools anymore. So we’ve been raising at least the last 2 generations to make their way in the world without being able to stop and analyze anything.

It’s really up to the parents now to teach those skills and as we’ve read about for years, most parents don’t. It has nothing to do with class, gender, or race. It has to do with time. It takes time to teach these skills and most parents I speak with assume it’s happening in school. They’re too busy with jobs, taking Jane/John to soccer practice or music lessons, etc.

If you’re a parent, think about who’s raising your kid(s). Maybe start taking time to teach them something yourself. It’s never too late.

4 thoughts on “Critical Thinking. It’s a Joke

  1. Would it even be possible to teach skepticism in schools? Everyone claims to think critically, but in practice all that really means is that “agreeing with me”.

    Attempts to teach critical thinking would very soon be bogged down by disapproval from parents who object to a cherished belief being challenged in class.

    • All critical thinking is, is the ability to look, analyze information in an objective way. They never specifically “taught” it in schools, but it was part of the learning process.

  2. I have no doubt that critical thinking and skepticism could be effectively taught in schools. But I am convinced that to do so would require a stand-alone course specifically targeted to teaching critical thinking and skepticism. Trying to do so by embedding it in the coursework in a science class or any other content-specific class has not been effective.

    I think critical thinking is actually a little more complex than what you describe. From the Critical Thinking Web (http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php):

    Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

    understand the logical connections between ideas
    identify, construct and evaluate arguments
    detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
    solve problems systematically
    identify the relevance and importance of ideas
    reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values

    Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

    What is needed is a course in which students are exposed to the basics of logic, the various logical fallacies and cognitive biases, basic principles for evaluating evidence, how to construct an evidence-based argument, and basic principles in cognitive psychology.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying and all I was attempting, in my post, was to make people think about the lack of critical thinking today. When I was a kid,everything in the definition you provided (thanks) was in the curriculum. So, by default, we learned how to think critically. That was from elementary through high school and it served me well at university.
      My sister and brother in law are both university professors and what I hear most from them about their students is the inability to think critically. These students are taught rote to pass exams without having any understanding of what they’re doing.

      That is really the point and it would serve society better to focus less on passing tests and making A’s and to help them to understand what it is they are learning and evaluate the material.

Leave a Reply