Blog: Thoughts on Critical Thinking

Welcome to the interactive blog of distinguished authorities on critical thinking, Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Gerald Nosich, Senior Fellows of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Join us here often – we will share personal readings we find helpful to our own development, instructional designs and processes we recommend, and strategies for applying critical thinking to everyday life situations.

Through this blog, we will also recommend videos and movies that can help you, your students, your colleagues, and your family internalize and contextualize critical thinking principles, or identify where and how critical thinking is missing. Look for our tips and questions connected with our recommendations.

We will also showcase in our blog articles by our scholars and by community members that are exemplary in advancing critical thinking. If you would like to recommend articles for showcasing here that you believe are exemplary, please forward them to us at
Linda Elder
May 24, 2020 • 2d ago
Wisdom of Seneca

{"ops":[{"insert":"Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4-65) apparently wrote extensively during his lifetime. But little remains of his writings. The best-known works that have made it to us through history are his 124 letters to Lucilius (circa 64), which are early essays on how to live according to Stoic principles. It is from these letters that the following excerpts are drawn. Seneca opens his second letter with a focus on the importance of reading and rereading the works of distinguished authors, in seeking wisdom. He says:\n\n “you should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind (p. 33)… so always read well – tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a change from a particular author, go back to the ones you have read before (p.34)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nWe need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything is if you saw what we were doing… misty are greatly diminished if a witness is always standing near in tending doers. The personality should be provided with somewhat it can root beer, someone whose influence can make even it’s private, inner life more pure. Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presents that even when he is in their thoughts!.. Choose someone whose way of life as well as words… have won your approval… there is a neat, in my view, for someone as a standard against which are characters can measure themselves (56)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n… no one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom,… the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings of wisdom makes life bearable. Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflections; making Noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already. You have to persevere and fortify your pertinent acid until the will to good becomes a disposition to good (p. 63)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca encourages people to think philosophically, and by that he means living the examined life in the way Socrates advised, and developing good character:\n\n“…you’ve no grounds for forming a ready, hasty belief in yourself. Carry out a searching analysis and close scrutiny of yourself in all sorts of different lights. Consider above all else whether you’ve advanced in philosophy or just in actual years… Philosophy is not an occupation of a popular nature… it moulds and builds the personality, orders one’s life, regulates one’s conduct, shows one what one should do and what one should leave undone, sits at the helm and keeps one on the correct course as one is tossed about in perilous seas. Without it no one can lead a life free of fear or worry (pp. 63-64)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nA good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nA sound mind can neither be bought nor borrowed. And if it were for sale, I doubt whether it would find a buyer. And yet unsound ones are being purchased every day (p. 75)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca stresses the importance of carefully choosing who one associates with, pointing out how the majority of people can lead you to wrong thinking and wrong living. (These points are perhaps particularly helpful now when we are told to stay away from large groups to avoid exposure to the COVID19 virus):\n\n“you asked me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. It is something to which you cannot entrust yourself yet without risk. I at any rate am ready to confess my own frailty in this respect. I never come back home with quite the same moral character I went out with; something or other becomes unsettled where I had achieved internal peace…Associating with people in large numbers is actually harmful: there is not one of them that will not make some vice or other attractive to us, or leave us carrying the imprint of it… and inevitably enough, the larger the size of the crowd we mingle with, the greater the danger… what do you take me to mean? That I go home more selfish, more self-seeking, and more self-indulgent? Yes, and what is more, a person crueler and less humane to having been in contact with human beings… A Socrates…might have been shaken in his principles by a multitude of people different from himself: such is the measure of the inability of any of us, even as we perfect our personality’s adjustment, to withstand the onset of devices when they come with such a mighty following… you should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who are capable of improving… The many speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand? (pp. 41-44)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAway with the world’s opinion of you–it’s always unsettled and divided (p. 71)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca speaks of developing the inner self:\n\nSuch is more or less the way of the wise man: he retires to his inner self, is his own company… Natural promptings (not thoughts of any advantage to himself) compel him towards friendship. We are born with a sense of the pleasantness of friendship just as of other things… The wise man, nevertheless, unequalled though he is in his devotion to his friends, though regarding them as being no less important and frequently more important than his own self, will still consider what is valuable in life to be something wholly confined to his inner self (p. 52)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSeneca points out the problem of seeking after wealth and he argues for simple, frugal living. He says:\n\nSet aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it… endure this for three or four days at a time, sometimes more, so that it is a genuine trial and not an amusement (67)... There is no reason, mind you, why you should suppose yourself to be performing a considerable feet in doing this–you will only be doing something done by thousands upon thousands of slaves and paupers (p. 68)…[Regarding possessions]… I am not, mind you, against you’re possessing them, but I want to ensure that you possess them without trimmers; and this you will only achieve in one way, by convincing yourself that you can live a happy life even without them, and by always regarding them as being on the point of vanishing (p 69)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nAll quotes are taken from:"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" Letters From a Stoic by Seneca. "},{"insert":"(NY: Penguin Books, 2004).\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
May 05, 2020 • 21d ago
Indoctrination is a Historic Problem Based in Sociocentrism

{"ops":[{"insert":"In every country in the world, students are indoctrinated into the ideologies of their culture through schooling. This is, at present, a natural phenomenon stemming from the fact that no human societies now advance or support fairminded critical thinking as a universal ideal. Accordingly, schooling is an agent of the state, of the status quo, and of the mainstream view. Fostering independence of thought in schooling is rare. Teachers who attempt it are often marginalized, removed from the classroom, or otherwise penalized. Consider the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, a legal case in which John Scopes, a high-school teacher in Tennessee, was indicted and convicted for teaching evolution (in violation of the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution). Though the verdict was overturned on a technicality, the trial illuminates the difficulties teachers face in swimming against the mainstream of the culture, even when the mainstream view is absurd.\n\tOr consider, again, our example of Socrates, going back to 399 BCE, when he was accused, indicted, and ultimately put to death for two reasons:\n\t \n1. Introducing and believing in gods other than those sanctioned by the state. (Although some accused Socrates of atheism, all evidence points in the opposite direction, including the fact that Socrates believed in life after death.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2. Corrupting the young (by fostering their intellectual development and"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"encouraging them to question the status quo)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n\tTo understand Socrates’ views in connection with education and the problem of sociocentric thought, consider the following passage from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Encyclopedia of Philosophy"},{"insert":" (1967):\n \nThere was reason for fearing Socrates as a social force. Where arete [excellence, in terms of how to make the best of oneself and live a rational life], education, and state were fused in one image, an educator critical of received assumptions was a revolutionary. Socrates not only publicly raised such fundamental questions as “What is arete?” and “Who are its teachers?” but also by discrediting through their own representatives the accepted educational channels and by creating a climate of questioning and doubt, he was suspected by conservative minds of the dangerous game of discomfiting all authority before a circle of impressionable youths and subtracting from the state the stability of tradition. It was also apparent that the values by which Socrates lived, his indifference to material wealth and prosperity, and his freedom from desire and ambition were themselves a living criticism of all institutions and of politicians who did not seem to know what they were doing or who were compromising their principles. (p. 482)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nSocrates was perhaps the most original, influential, and controversial figure in the history of Greek thought. … [H]e was obviously at home in the best society, but he had no respect for social status. … Tradition holds that by refusing to compromise his principles, he deliberately antagonized the court. (p. 480)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t \n\tProminent thinkers throughout history have commented on schooling as an agent of indoctrination. Comenius, a 16th- and 17th-century educator and scholar, said that he was only one of thousands whose youth was wasted in these “slaughterhouses” of the young.\n \n\tJohn Henry Newman, a leading 19th-century university president and theologian, who penned one of the most important and well-developed treatises on the educated mind and the educated person, lamented the wretched state of instruction at the university level during his time. Here is just a sampling of his work, taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Idea of a University"},{"insert":" (1852; 1996):\n \nI will tell you, Gentlemen, what has been the practical error of the last twenty years—not to load the memory of the student with a mass of undigested knowledge, but to force upon him so much that he has rejected all. It has been the error of distracting and enfeebling the mind by an unmeaning profusion of subjects; of implying that a smattering in a dozen branches of study is not shallowness, which it really is, but enlargement, which it is not; of considering an acquaintance with the learned names of things and persons, and the possession of the clever duodecimos, and attendance on eloquent lecturers, and membership with scientific institutions … that all this was not dissipation of mind, but progress. All things now are to be learned at once, not first one thing and then the other, not one well, but many badly. Learning is to be without exertion, without attention, without toil; without grounding, without advance, without finishing. There is to be nothing individual in it; and this, forsooth, is the wonder of the age. What the steam engine does with matter, the printing press is to do with the mind; it is to act mechanically, and the population is to be passively, almost unconsciously enlightened. (p. 103)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEmma Goldman (1869-1940) wrote extensively on oppressive governments and the consequences of their unethical behavior. She indicts not just governments, but all of society, for contributing to the problem. She says:\n \nHowever, it is not only government in the sense of the state which is destructive of every individual value and quality. It is the whole complex of authority and institutional domination which strangles life. It is the superstition, myth, pretense, evasions, and subservience which support authority and institutional domination. It is the reverence for these institutions instilled in the school, the Church, and the home in order that man may believe and obey without protest. Such a process of devitalizing and distorting personalities of the individual and of whole communities may have been a part of historical evolution; but it should be strenuously combated by every honest and independent mind in an age which has any pretense to enlightenment. (Goldman, 1996, pp. 434-435)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEinstein (Clark, 1979, p. 33) believed that most of his teaching colleagues did little more than encourage “the obedience of a corps.” Einstein speaks of the meaninglessness and hypocrisy with which most people plod through life, and of the crushing realization he experienced in seeing through dogmatism by his own self-education (Clark, 1979):\n \nWhen I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nAs the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. (pp. 3, 5)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nReferences:\nClark, A. (1984) Einstein: The life and times. NY: Avon Books.\nGoldman, E. (1996). Red Emma speaks: An Emma Goldman reader. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.\nNewman, J. (1852; 1996). The idea of a university. London: Yale University Press.\n \nThis section was taken from my newly release book: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Apr 22, 2020 • 34d ago
Smelling the Roses or Why won’t those people wear masks?

{"ops":[{"insert":"I was standing in a rose garden today, keeping my six or more feet distance from other people. I was enjoying the sun streaming down on my face while trying to take in the exquisite magnificence of this public garden that bursts out only a few weeks a year into all manner of colors, shapes and sizes of roses. I won’t try to describe it, because such beauty cannot be described in words.\n\nI noticed a woman walking alone, her face appearing somewhat worried. After a few minutes of circling the roses, she reservedly approached. She said, “Pardon me but do you mind if I ask you a question? I’ll make sure to keep my distance.” I said sure. She said “is it just me, or does it bother you that so many people are going against the rules and co-mingling, without masks, when we’re supposed to be keeping our distance?” (She threw a disappointing look at a few groups nearby standing close together and busily visiting).\n\nI could think of several responses. But the one that came immediately to mind was “well, I don’t expect much of humans. I don’t think of the human species as particularly sane. So although I recognize the problem you’re pointing out, I am basically ignoring those people. For one, I don’t think they would change their behavior if they were confronted, and likely everyone would get upset.” She said, “thank you for being honest and forthright with me.” I said, “there are many problems that deeply concern me, and which I would dearly love to solve, but which I seem able to do little or nothing about – problems like the violation of animal rights, and how in the world humans are going to pull off sustaining the earth resources for the long-term.”\n\nShe lit up when I mentioned my work in critical thinking, as people often do. “That’s what we’re lacking, critical thinking” she said (as they often say). Of course, when people say this, they typically mean that other people need critical thinking, or that other people need to be able to think as well as they themselves think. So I mentioned the problems of egocentric thinking, and sociocentric thinking, which manifest themselves in so many ways throughout human life, leading to such things as bias, bigotry, deception, and manipulation, and all manner of distortions, as well as the need to cluster together in groups even when it might kill us when we do so. As she continued to probe my thoughts, I tried not to leave out the important point that though the people she was concerned about, the people clustering to close together and not protecting us and them from the COVID19 virus, though they were making mistakes in thinking, we ourselves are really no different because each of us falls prey to mistakes in thinking, errors in judgment, our own self-delusions, and of course the deep seated need to be accepted by others.\n\nWhether either or both of us should have talked to these people to help them see reason is an open question; perhaps we should have done so; indeed we humans face an endless number of questions just such as these and we frequently are not that good at dealing with them.\n\nIn the end, though I didn’t think I answered this lady’s concerns, it was refreshing to be thrown a thoughtful question and given the opportunity to offer my reasoning to someone who seemed at least genuinely interested in my answer. We need more discussions like this, in public, about everyday mundane matters of importance.\n\nA few minutes after our farewell, she left the garden entirely. That was her answer to the people co-mingling – get away from them.\n\nBeing unwilling to relinquish the beauty of the garden quite yet, I took a more Stoic approach – though I can’t change many irrational, sad and disgusting things about humans, I can feast my eyes on these metaphysical flashes of red, yellow, orange and white. I will stop for just this moment and smell these roses, which will never come to us in quite the same way again.\n\nIf someone comes within 10 feet, I’ll go.      \n\n\n"}]}

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Gerald Nosich
Apr 14, 2020 • 42d ago
Critical Writing. Part 3.

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#010101"},"insert":"[To repeat the background of this blog: I am finishing a book on "},{"attributes":{"color":"#010101","italic":true},"insert":"Critical Writing: Using the Concepts and Processes of Critical Thinking to Write a Paper"},{"attributes":{"color":"#010101"},"insert":". It will be published by Rowman and Littlefield, probably in Fall, 2020.  The following is adapted from an earlier draft of the book.]"},{"insert":"\n \nI invite you to look back at the two previous blogs on critical writing.  I’ll begin here by recapping some of what was in those previous blogs, but re-reading them as a whole will give more context to the work of writing a paper using critical thinking.\n \nThere are many challenges in writing a paper, and critical thinking helps with all of them.  Of all those challenges, it probably helps least when it comes to writing mellifluous, beautifully phrased sentences, but it helps--not just a little, but dramatically--in everything else: in creating and developing a paper, one that is well-thought-out, well-organized, speaks to the audience, and communicates something that is worth communicating.\n \nTo write a paper (or to write virtually anything non-fictional) you need to have a main thing that you are trying to convey. (In my book, I use the traditional term “thesis statement.)  I say “a” main thing—as if it is singular—but in fact that “main thing” can contain multiple parts.  In addition to a thesis statement, or as parts of your thesis statement, you need to have other main points in your paper, ones that explain or support the thesis. Assembled all together, the thesis statement plus the other main points constitute the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"structure "},{"insert":"of the paper.  Of course, none of these is set in stone.  Any parts of the structure—any of the points—can be changed, or added to, or dropped entirely in the course of writing the paper.  The main topic of this blog is "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"structure"},{"insert":": finding the thesis and the main points the paper will be built around.\n \nIn the example from the first two blogs on critical writing, Alyssa starts out with an utterly unpromising topic: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"scientific thinking"},{"insert":".  As a topic, it is extremely general, unfocused, and amorphous.  You can’t even come close to writing a paper on a topic this general without focusing it.  How can you do that?\n \nIn my workshops, I ask instructors to choose a very general topic, one that lacks all the specificity you need to write a cogent paper. Participants have chosen topics as vague and unpromising as sexism, global warming, body image, or “Jane Austen.”  Unhelpful as those are, instructors in workshops choose them because they are the kind of unspecific topics students often start off with.\n \nSo again the question is now to focus it?  How to start with such a general topic and come up with specific, crisp, clear main points and thesis?  \n \nThe process begins by taking the unpromising topic and analyzing it around the circle of elements of reasoning.  Here, from the previous blog, is Alyssa’s analysis.\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Alyssa’s Analysis-around the Circle"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Topic: Scientific Thinking"},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"concept: "},{"insert":"The concept of scientific thinking is the kind of thinking that tries to establish what is true by means of precise observation (including exact measurement) and by careful testing of hypotheses.\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"question at issue"},{"insert":": the main questions at issue in scientific thinking are: “Can a belief or hypothesis actually be tested?” and “If it is tested, does the test confirm or disconfirm it?”\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"purpose"},{"insert":": the goal in scientific thinking is to find out what actually happens, and why.  The goal is not to make my beliefs win out over yours, but to find out what actually happens.\n·      "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"assumption"},{"insert":":  An assumption in science is that the best way to find out what happens, and why, is through observing things closely, by measuring them as precisely as possible, and then by carrying out tests of the hypotheses I come up with. (R: I could research howyou measure really small things, such as atoms?)\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Another assumption is that the tests have to be repeatable again and again, always giving the same results. (R: search for some good examples; plus some examples where the repeated tests don’t come out the same (an example I remember from class: cold fusion))"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"implications and consequences"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":": an implication of this is that we shouldn’t believe things on the basis of prejudice or preconceptions (R: find a preconception that has been disproved in the past), or even on a single highly unusual experience.  We shouldn’t simply believe everything we hear or are taught.  We should test it out for ourselves.  If that isn’t possible for us to do personally, we should read about the scientific tests that have been done by others (example: Scientific American)."},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":": the information used in scientific thinking is the kind that can be measured or at least carefully observed. It is not the kind of information that is based on uncorroborated testimony (example: ghosts).\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"point of view"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":": There are many valid points of view from which to look at the world: cultural, political, legal, and so forth.  The scientific point of view is different from the others because it puts careful observation and testing at the center of everything."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"conclusion"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":":  A main conclusion I draw from this is that there is nothing wrong in believing things on the basis of culture or politics, or the way you were brought up, but when those beliefs are contradicted by scientific findings, it is more reasonable to believe the scientific findings (example: Galileo). "},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"context"},{"insert":": Historically, scientific thinking has developed into a whole way of looking at the world.  It is very different from Galileo’s time.  (Honestly, I don’t know enough about the history of science to talk about the historical context very much.)  Today, scientific thinking takes place in a context where many people have an agenda they are trying to push.  They want society to go in a certain direction, and they put pressure on people to agree with them, even if the scientific evidence goes against them.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"[Note that “context” is not literally one of the elements of reasoning. Rather it supplies background to the topic.  It is often helpful to describe contextin a paper.]"},{"insert":"\n \nThe suggestion last time was to read Alyssa’s analysis slowly, to notice how the elements focus her thinking.  Instead of just a vague topic, instead of just random thoughts that happen to occur to her, she now has a set of specific sentences, each of them relevant to one of the essential parts of reasoning.  They are not perfect; they are not professionally accomplished; but they are solid, they are plausible, and they are at least moderately clear. Sometimes they contain insight.  All of them are the product of Alyssa’s own creativity and thought.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Before going on, set aside your expertise as a writer and put yourself in Alyssa’s place.  Use her analysis around the circle to come up with the thesis statement of your paper, and then also the other main points that constitute the structure of her paper."},{"insert":"\n \nThere are two methods you can use.  First you can just "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"see "},{"insert":"your thesis statement among the responses in the analysis.  If you do this yourself, there is a good chance that one of the responses you gave will just jump out at you.  It is the main thing you want to say in the paper.  (Among my students, about 60% just see their thesis statement in their analysis.)  If this method works for you, you would then again read your analysis and pick out other responses there that you believe best explain or support your thesis statement. These will then be the other main points of your paper. You will have in front of you the paper's structure.\n \nThe second method, plan B, is what you can use if no single statement pops out as the one main thing you want to say. For this method, you carefully re-read your analysis around the circle, and then choose the responses that, in your judgment, are most important.  There is no set number of these. You base your choice on the critical thinking standard of importance (significance). You then construct your paper by taking the set of these responses as the main points that, together, constitute the structure of your paper. In effect, they form a composite thesis statement.\n \n            Whichever method you use, the thesis and main points you choose from Alyssa's analysis will probably be different from the ones she herself would choose.  That’s because many different papers can come from the same analysis-around-the-circle.  The elements of reasoning don't impose one structure on you.  Rather, they allow you to continue to use your own best thinking in constructing it.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Alyssa chooses the second method. She constructs her composite thesis statement out of four of her responses: the ones she gave for "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"italic":true},"insert":"concept"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":", "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"italic":true},"insert":"purpose"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":", the first "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"italic":true},"insert":"assumption"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" and the first "},{"attributes":{"underline":true,"italic":true},"insert":"implication"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" she identified.  She chooses these in part because they seem very important aspects of scientific thinking, and because she sees them as fitting well with one another."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"1.  The concept of scientific thinking is the kind of thinking that tries to establish what is true by means of precise observation (including exact measurement) and by careful testing of hypotheses."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"2.  The goal in scientific thinking is to find out what actually happens, and why.  The goal is not to make my beliefs win out over yours, but to find out what actually happens."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"3.  An assumption in science is that the best way to find out what happens, and why, is through observing things closely, by measuring them as precisely as possible, and then by carrying out tests of the hypotheses I come up with."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"4.  An implication of this is that we shouldn’t believe things on the basis of prejudice or preconceptions, or even on a single highly unusual experience.  We shouldn’t simply believe everything we hear or are taught."},{"insert":"\n \n(You can see that Alyssa doesn’t distinguish a single thesis statement from the other main points in her paper.  She can do that if she chooses to, but she doesn’t have to.  Even without doing that, she has the structure of her paper.)\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Refining the thesis and main points"},{"insert":"\nOnce you have chosen the main points of your paper, however many of those there are, you will probably face the challenge of re-phrasing them and putting them together so that you (and your readers) can see how they fit coherently with one another.  A goal is for you to see them as a well-integrated whole, and for your readers to see them the same way.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Alyssa faces that challenge as well.  She has put a lot of thought into her analysis and into choosing the points she thinks are most important for her paper.  She thinks they make a good overall structure for her paper.  But when she looks at the points as she has written them out, the four points seem a little choppy and disjointed.  She is confident that they link together logically, but the way she has said them makes them sound awkward.  So she spends a little time putting them together and rearranging them to make them sound better and more interesting.  (She finds that this re-phrasing actually goes pretty quickly.) Here is what she comes up with:"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"            "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" In scientific thinking, scientists try to establish what is true by means of precise observation (including exact measurement) and by carefully testing their hypotheses.  They do this because the goal of science is to find out what actually happens, and why. It is not to make my beliefs win out over yours, but to find out what is really true.  An implication of scientific thinking is that we shouldn’t believe things on the basis of prejudice or preconceptions, or even on a single highly unusual experience.  We shouldn’t simply believe everything we hear or are taught. The best way to find out what happens, and why, is through observing things closely, by measuring them as precisely as possible, and then by carrying out tests of the hypotheses we come up with. That is an assumption scientists base their research on, but it is one that has worked out again and again. "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"For now at least, Alyssa is pleased with how she has written and integrated her main points.  She has also reminded herself of places in her analysis where she has already had ideas for examples and for further research."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"            Having re-written her thesis/structure/outline, Alyssa sees something that is even more pleasing for her: she realizes that she has written the introductory section of her actual paper.  “It may not be perfect,” she says, “and I may want to fill it in a little more later, but I have the introductory section.”"},{"insert":" (It seems almost a lucky accident to Alyssa, but it’s not.  Writing out the structure of your paper—the thesis plus your main points—in a coherent way will usually constitute a major part of the introductory section of your paper.  It may also constitute much of the concluding section of your paper as well (though you will want to add any additional insights you came up with when you actually wrote the paper).\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Apr 06, 2020 • 50d ago
Are You Commanding Your Thoughts, or Falling Prey to Negative Thoughts Due to Our Stay Home Orders?

{"ops":[{"insert":"As many of us are required to stay at home (due to the Corona pandemic) and are therefore not able to enjoy our usual ability to move about, doing the things we want to do outside our homes to keep ourselves occupied and amused, many people are becoming even more irrational than they may have been before. Domestic abuse rates are increasing, articles are being written on how to stay sane during this time. People seem largely without internal resources of critical thought to deal with the situation, even in the short run, much less the long term.\n\tOne of the important truths that Jean Piaget, the noted child psychologist, discovered about children is that they overgeneralize their immediate feelings. If something good happens to them, the whole world looks good to them. If something bad happens to them, the whole world looks bad to them. He called this phenomenon egocentric immediacy. What Piaget did not emphasize, however, is that the same reaction patterns are found in much adult thinking. It is fair to say that everyone has some difficulty putting the ups and downs of daily life into a long-range perspective. Given the strength of our immediate (emotional) reactions, it is not easy to keep things in proper perspective.\n\tOnce we begin to interpret situations or events in our life as negative, we also tend to generalize that negativity and even, on occasion, to allow it to cast a gloom over our whole life. A broad-based pessimism or a foolish optimism can come to permeate our thinking when negative or positive events happen to us. We move rapidly from thinking of one or two events in our lives as negative (or positive) to thinking of everything in our lives as negative (or positive). Egocentric negative thinking easily leads to indulgent self-pity, and egocentric positive thinking easily leads to an unrealistic state of complacent comfort.\n\tConsider an everyday problem for many people who tend to see the world in largely negative terms. They wake up in the morning and have to deal with a few unexpected minor problems. As the day progresses, and as they deal with more “problems,” everything in their lives appears negative. The snowball of bad things happening gets bigger and bigger as the day passes. By the end of the day, they are unable to see any positive things in their lives. Their thinking (usually tacit of course) is something like this:\n\n\t\tEverything looks bad. Life isn’t fair. Nothing good ever happens to me. I always have to deal with problems. Why does everything bad happen to me?\n\t\nControlled by these thoughts, they lack the ability to counteract unbridled negativity with rational thoughts. They can’t see the many good things in their lives. Their egocentric mind is shielding them from the full range of facts that would change their way of thinking so they could see things in a more realistic and, in this case, a more positive light.\n\nStrategic Thinking Using the Tools of Critical Thinking\nIf you intervene with rational thoughts at the point at which egocentric negativity begins, before it completely pervades the mind’s functioning, you have a better chance of reducing or overthrowing it. The first step requires you to become intimately familiar with the phenomenon of egocentric immediacy. Then you should begin to identify instances of it in your own life as well as in the lives of those around you.\n\tThe second step requires you to develop a rich and comprehensive list of the facts of your life. It is important to develop this list not when you are in the throes of an egocentric “fit” but, instead, when you are viewing the world from a rational perspective.\n\tYou also want to develop a long-range perspective to call upon when necessary to give the proper weight to individual events, whether positive or negative. You must establish in your mind what your most important values are. You must frame in your mind a long-range historical perspective. You must bring those values and this perspective strongly before your mind when less important values and the distortions of egocentric immediacy begin to dominate your thoughts and feelings. When you have a well-established “big picture” in our mind, what are in effect small events will remain small, not blown out of proportion.\n\tWhen you perceive that your thinking is tending toward egocentric immediacy, you can actively undermine it through comprehensive rational thinking. This involves reasoning with yourself, pointing out flaws in your thinking, identifying and presenting relevant information you are ignoring, pointing out information you are distorting, checking your assumptions, and tracking the implications of your thinking.\n\tIn short, by developing a deep and comprehensive “big picture” in your mind, by keeping this comprehensive view as much as possible in the foreground of your thinking in daily life, you can minimize your own tendency toward egocentric immediacy. You can become skilled in recognizing what is truly small and large in our life. You can chart our course more effectively, navigating through passing storms and deceptively quiet seas alike.\n\tTry this activity to get better command of negative, snow-ball type thinking in which your thinking races to overgeneralize:\n\t \n\tThink of a situation you were in recently in which you felt and intense negative emotion that generated a chain reaction of further negative states in your mind, leading to a generalized feeling of depression. At that moment, your life looked bleak and unforgiving. Figure out the “big picture” thinking that was missing from your mind as you fell prey to egocentric immediacy.\n \nComplete these statements:\n\n1.     The objective situation was as follows:\n2.     I responded irrationally to the situation by . . .\n3.     I felt these negative emotions:\n4.     The “big picture” thinking that I needed but didn’t develop is something like the following:\n5.     The information I was failing to consider in my thinking was . . .\n6.     I can best avoid this situation in the future by . . .\n7.     I now realize . . .\n \nAdapted from: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, 3rd ed"},{"insert":", by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, 2012, Rowman & Littlefield.\n \n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 25, 2020 • 62d ago
How Fallacies Pervade Politics, the News and Yes Even Your Thinking

{"ops":[{"insert":"March 25, 2020\n\nIn editing our textbook: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Critical Thinking Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, 3"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"script":"super"},"insert":"rd"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" ed"},{"insert":", (2012, Paul and Elder), for an upcoming fourth edition, I pulled for you the brief conclusion from our chapter on fallacies. I think you will see immediate application between these thoughts and what we see in the words of politicians and news outlets. \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":" \"In a world of fairminded critical thinkers, the list of those who reasoned best and the list of those with the most influence in the world would be one and the same. But we don’t exist in an ideal world of intellectually disciplined,"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"empathic thinkers. We live in fundamentally uncritical societies, societies in which skilled manipulators, masters of intellectual tricks and stratagems, are the ones who tend to achieve position, status, and advantage."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t   "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"A continual struggle for power and control exists in the everyday world, and in that struggle, truth and insight have little chance of competing with big money driving big media. Big money routinely uses the resources of media logic, polished rhetoric, and mass propaganda techniques to gain its ends. Most people, being intellectually unsophisticated, respond to and, even unknowingly, use fallacious thinking. As we hope you realize by now, most of what are traditionally called fallacies are actually highly effective strategies for shaping the opinions and beliefs of others. Fallacies are best understood as “counterfeits” of good reasoning, devices often successful in manipulating the intellectual “sheep” of the world. It is important to realize that those who manipulate others typically deceive themselves in the process. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to live with themselves. People want to view themselves as decent and fairminded, not as manipulators of unsophisticated others. The result is that when people use bad reasoning to manipulate others, they must at the same time “deceive” themselves into believing their thinking to be justified."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"    In an ideal world, children would be taught to recognize fallacies at an early age. They would learn how common fallacies are in everyday discourse. They"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"would practice identifying fallacies in every dimension of their lives. They would come to understand the frailties and weaknesses of the human mind. They would learn to recognize their own frailties and weaknesses—their own egocentrism and sociocentrism. They would become familiar with the differences between uncritical thinking, sophistic thinking, and fairminded thinking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"And they would become adept at identifying and distinguishing their uncritical, sophistic, and fairminded thinking. They would continually catch themselves about to slip, slipping, or having slipped into egocentric or sociocentric thought. They would have no trouble admitting mistakes. They would be eminently moveable by sound reasoning."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"But we do not live in an ideal world. Fallacies are indeed “foul ways” to win arguments, yet they are winning arguments and manipulating people every day. The news media’s representations of reality are filled with fallacies. Their stories and spins are the bread and butter of mass political discourse, public relations, and advertising. We all fall prey to them at times, and many people live and breathe fallacies as if they were the vehicles of sacred truth."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"Your goal should be to recognize fallacies for what they are—the dirty tricks of those who want to gain advantage. They are stratagems for gaining influence and power. You will withstand their impact more effectively when you know these fallacies inside and out. When you come to see how counterfeits of good reasoning pervade everyday life (and are the lifeblood of the news media), you are better able to resist their influence."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#231f20"},"insert":"When you are inoculated against fallacies, your response to them is transformed. You ask key questions. You probe behind the masks, the fronts, the doctored images, the impressive pomp and ceremony. You take charge of your own mind and emotions. You become (increasingly) your own person. And perhaps most important, as you pursue your own goals, you diligently work to avoid using fallacies yourself (p. 343-344).\""},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"insert":"To learn more about fallacies, see our "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Thinkers Guide to Fallacies"},{"insert":" excerpts in the Library for Everyone. \n\nYou can find the textbook here: - or email us at\n"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n\n\n"},{"insert":"\n\n\n"}]}

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Gerald Nosich
Mar 24, 2020 • 63d ago

{"ops":[{"insert":"Take any one of the elements of reasoning, dwell on it, and you can discover ideas and truths you were unaware of.  To consider just three of the elements: there are often deeper-rooted "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"purposes"},{"insert":"behind the purposes we explicitly avow; there are more profound "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"questions at issue"},{"insert":"that lurk behind virtually any of the questions we ask; in even our most mundane "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"concepts"},{"insert":", there are other concepts—un-explored, un-understood, misunderstood, completely un-noticed concepts—that can radically change the way we think and act.\n \nHere, I would like briefly to explore some of the implications of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"implications"},{"insert":".\n \nWe say and believe things, but we often do so without being aware of the implications of what we say or believe.  (I write “we”: I explicitly include myself among the “we.”)\n \nHere is a personal vignette: I remember reading my 8-year-old son stories from Greek mythology, and telling him that the gods were immortal. That had always seemed to make sense to me.  Of course, both my son and I knew there were in fact no Greek gods, but I at least thought I understood full well what it meant to say that they were “immortal.” Not so the 8-year-old.\nHe asked: “Does that mean they can’t die?”\nYes.\n“They can’t die no matter what?”\nRight. They are immortal. \n“Can they be wounded?”\nI had previously read him the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Iliad"},{"insert":", where both Ares and Aphrodite are wounded.  So I said, “Yes, they can be wounded.”\nSo far, we were saying just what ancient Greeks believed.  \nThen he asked, “So if they can be wounded, can they be cut up into little tiny pieces?”\nI said that that did seem to follow (“follow”—an implication.) Another implication is that if a god—Ares, say—could be cut into little tiny pieces, it seemed certain that he would then be dead.  So how could he be immortal?\n \nYou can see where this vignette is going.  There are implications to saying that someone is immortal, and those implications can get you rationally in trouble.  Though several ancient Greeks doubted or denied the existence of the gods, as far as I know none of them saw the paradoxical implications of calling them immortal.\n \nOne of the most fundamental aspects of critical thinking is actively searching for implications. A willingness to explore the implications of what we say and believe is one of the most important habits we can cultivate, in our students, in our children, in ourselves.  It affects our lives in far more profound ways than the one in the vignette.\n \nA failure to reckon with implications is something that besets both thugs and profound reformers. Deirdre Bair begins her biography of Al Capone by saying:\nThis is the story of a ruthless killer, a scofflaw, a keeper of brothels and bordellos, a tax cheat and perpetrator of \t\t frauds….  This is also the story of a loving son, husband, and father."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nShe is perplexed by what she calls the “conundrum” of how a person could embody such divergent traits.  She says that trying to understand it is like “trying to solve the most complicated puzzle imaginable.”\n \nOn a far higher plane, in the introduction to her biography of Martin Luther, Lyndal Roper says: \nI am interested in Luther’s contradictions. Here was a man who made some of the most misogynistic remarks of any thinker, yet who was in favor not only of sex within marriage but crucially that it should also give bodily pleasure to both men and women. Trying to understand this apparent paradox is a challenge I have not been able to resist."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nBoth of these authors believe there is something intrinsically interesting and difficult to understand about someone who could engage in such seemingly incompatible behaviors or who could hold such contradictory beliefs. I think that almost all of us feel something similar.  We too find this interesting and difficult to understand.\n \nBut there is another sense in which it is not difficult to understand at all.  Al Capone’s behavior is a “puzzle” only if we assume Capone is a coherent whole.  That is, only if we assume he actually explored how the implications of his actions were incompatible with one another.  Similarly, the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"specifics "},{"insert":"of how Luther believed this “apparent paradox” may be interesting, but the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"general "},{"insert":"way this happens for anyone is simple and ordinary: Believe A, and also believe B, but never explore how the implications of A and B fit together.\n \nA failure to explore the implications of our actions and our beliefs is what makes it easy to do and believe paradoxical things.  It enables hypocrisy. \n \nIt’s not just hypocrisy.  Not paying attention to implications enables a stunning amount of insensitivity to others.  Back in 2003, President Bush famously said:"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":"“There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there [in Iraq]. My answer is, bring 'em on.\" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"background":"white"},"insert":"It is likely that what he meant to do was to deter such attacks by saying that there would be retaliation. Nevertheless, saying “Bring ‘em on” carries the implication that he doesn’t mind such attacks, that he almost enthusiastically welcomes them.  A further implication (unintended, but still there) is that the attendant deaths of Iraqis and Americans is of no great consequence compared to the response it will bring. "},{"insert":"\n \nMore saliently for educators, when it comes to learning, in or outside of school, seeing implications plays an essential role. Exploring implications is a major way we come to learn and understand things.  In fact, it may be true that you can’t understand something unless you see many of its implications. You can’t understand genetically modified foods unless you see the implications (both positive and negative) inherent in them and their use: without seeing the implications, all you have is a label. You can’t understand Holden Caulfield or Charlotte in her web unless you understand the implications of what they believe and do. We say that humans are social animals, but unless you explore the implications of what that means, it is just a vague and mostly empty concept. The same holds for understanding any major idea, in the social or natural sciences, in the arts or humanities or professions.  More broadly still, there is a very real sense in which reading "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"is "},{"insert":"understanding implications. \n \nIt holds for pre-K as well as for the highest reaches of understanding.  One way of describing what Einstein discovered in the special theory of relativity is that he followed out the implications of saying that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant.  If that speed is unchanging, he realized, then it follows that time, distance, and mass are all changeable. \n \n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 14, 2020 • 73d ago
How Do We Deal With a Worldwide Pandemic?

{"ops":[{"insert":"In the 1980’s a number of important theoreticians, education leaders, and scholars, including Richard Paul and Robert Reich, warned us about the interwoven problems we were to face in the future given increasing interdependence, accelerating change, and intensifying complexity. We were also warned then about the importance of cultivating critical thinking across the populace if we were to survive into our future.\n\nThat future is here and now. The pandemic we are facing, the corona virus, exemplifies one of the many highly complex and difficult problems humans must now routinely deal with. We likely face further, perhaps significant spread of this virus, and it is clear that in many ways we are failing the test of critical thinking. People are disseminating and believing disinformation they read through social media. The mainstream media is as usual, sensationalizing. Hysteria is setting in as all manner of food, supplies and even alcohol fly off the store shelves.\n\nWhen we use the tools of critical thinking, we can more effectively deal with the problems we face, of course. But how do we apply them in complex cases such as this? How do we work through these cases, which requires reasoned judgment all along the way, and the consideration of many, sometimes conflicting variables and viewpoints.\n\nFirst, it behooves us to consider all the important questions in the question cluster we are dealing with. Our primary question, from which all other questions emerge is:\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"How should we best deal with the Corona Virus now, to have the fewest number of cases overall in the longer run, and the lowest mortality rate from the virus?"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\nHere are some of the many questions we would need to answer to answer the broader question above, in categories (many more questions emanate from these questions):\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Biological/Scientific/Medical"},{"insert":"\n1.    What do the most reliable facts tell us about this virus and how dangerous it is, or is likely to be? (make sure the sources you rely on are authoritative)\n2.    How many people have died from the virus?\n3.    How many people do we know tested positive for the virus, but did not die?\n4.    How can we find the most up-to-date facts coming from disinterested scientists, researchers, scholars and medical professionals?\n5.    What is the best method of treatment for people with this virus?\n6.    Are some methods of treatment superior to other methods, according to, for example, age group, or medical background?\n7.    What best methods have been shown to lead to the highest containment and elimination results (with regard to the virus)?\n8.    What support does the medical community need to deal with this pandemic?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Ethical"},{"insert":"\n1.    How are animals being used in testing for the virus? Is this use of animals justifiable given ethical codes of responsible treatment toward animals?\n2.    Are wealthy people affected differently from the poor, in terms of, for instance, how they are treated by the medical community when getting the virus?\n3.    Is the government giving the people hurt by this virus the support that a responsible and ethical government would provide?\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Psychological"},{"insert":"\n1.    How likely are people to stay home and voluntarily isolate themselves through self –quarantine, and how will they deal with their overall mental well-being while doing so?\n2.    What types of people are able to better deal with the psychological hardships that come with a quarantine situation, than those who have greater difficulty dealing with hardships?\n3.    Why do people tend to panic in situations like this, and how can people keep from panicking?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Sociological"},{"insert":"\n1.    What are the important social implications embedded in the cluster of problems we’re facing?\n2.    How will people effectively deal with their innate needs for social interaction and social connection while being self-quarantined or quarantined?\n3.    What positive social characteristics and implications emerge, if any, during a crisis such as the one we’re going through?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Political"},{"insert":"\n1.    How is the political establishment dealing with the problem overall in terms of effectiveness in combatting the virus across the country?\n2.    To what degree are politicians acting in their own interests, rather than the interests of the public?\n3.    Are politicians hiding anything behind the words they say?\n4.    What political barriers do we face in dealing with this complex problem?\n5.    What role should the government play during a crisis such as this, in terms of responsibilities, to the people?\n6.    What economic responsibilities does the government have to the people at a time like this?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Economic"},{"insert":"\n1.    How can we make sure that people who are sick with this virus are able to stay home without being penalized economically? (how can we do this over the long run for any illness employees have?)\n2.    How will people deal with the economic implications they face as result of this crisis (such as loss of a business, home, etc.)?\n3.    Will some people gain from this crisis, financially? If so, who?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Legal"},{"insert":"\n1.    What legal barriers do we face in dealing with this complex problem?\n2.    What laws are getting in the way of combatting the spread of the virus? How can we cut through the red tape that stands in the way of dealing with the problem?\n\nYou will note, in reading through these questions, that many of them are general, and can be applied to other, complex problems. People typically don’t realize that thinking is driven by questions. The better your questions, the better your thinking will be, if you have the skills to think responsibly through the questions, once they are articulated.\n\nWhen dealing with difficult problems, worst case scenarios usually occur when thinking is allowed to run in all manner of directions, without focus on the most significant information, and the most likely scenarios. These problems are exacerbated when efforts are not coordinated and vest-interest rears its ugly head (as is per usual when politics hovers).\n\nHow many of these questions are we explicitly addressing now, and which are we ignoring? This is the question that likely determines how soon we escape from this most recent pandemic.\n\nWhat questions and domains of thought would you add to this list?\n\nIn terms of answering these questions, each of us must do so for ourselves, given the best information available – focusing on the questions relevant to us, including those we have some control over or influence within. Many of these questions must be answered by medical experts, some by politicians, others by psychologists, and so forth. It is up to professionals to develop the questions within their domains relevant to the main question, as well as to be aware of the other domain-specific questions in order to take into account their interrelationships. Only then will the best thinking, the highest level critical thinking, be done.\n\nHere are two reliable sources of information for understanding the virus:\n\nThe World Health Organization:\  \n\n\nCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"purple","link":""},"insert":""},{"insert":"\n\nWhat other sources of information can you add?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"}]}

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Linda Elder
Mar 01, 2020 • 86d ago
Think Critically in the Moment...Wherever You May Be

{"ops":[{"insert":"There are so many ways to enter critical thinking and benefit from it. We can take any part of the theory and apply it to everyday life situations. In fact, until we do so, any theory we learn will be inert in the mind, rather than activated. It is when we apply critical thinking that it comes to life. For instance, I was recently in a drugstore, and began noticing some of the unhealthy things in the store ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":"). What hit me first was the toxic fluorescent lighting ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":") (read into the many health problems potentially caused by fluorescents).* I couldn’t help but notice the irony between the fact that a pharmacy should be advancing health when those florescent lights certainly do not ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"my inference based on the information"},{"insert":"). Then I began to analyze and assess, from the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"point of view"},{"insert":" of critical thinking, many of the things surrounding me in that drug store - the rows of candy filled with processed sugar, rows of processed potato chips and other snack foods, toxic chemicals on the cleaning aisle, make up and skincare products containing who knows how many perhaps toxic chemicals and perfumes as well ("},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"all information"},{"insert":").\n           So critical thinking begins when you apply criticality anywhere at any time (in this case to the information surrounding me that I was noticing for the first time from a given viewpoint, focused on the question “How many things in the store, which should be advancing health, are actually unhealthy for people? Of course I was assuming that a pharmaceutical store should contain things healthy, rather than unhealthy, for people, which is perhaps a faulty assumption”). And we can practice critical thinking, well, even in a drug store. If more people did, perhaps these stores would at least get rid of those florescent lights that do potentially affect the health of shoppers even when they don’t add the candy and chips.\n\tCritical thinking entails an awareness and state of mind to be carried with you as you enter into situations, an awareness based in concepts and principles of skilled, ethical reasoning. The key is to take the time to step back and analyze and assess the situation using your higher order mind. Ask yourself, “what is wrong in this situation? How can I look at this in a deeper, more enlightened way? If I could change this situation, what would need to change and why? How can I keep from getting caught up in the minutiae of negativity that seems to surround us and instead apply my mind to help create solutions? What do I know for certain in this situation, and what am I less clear about?\n\tThe point is to enter critical thinking wherever you can, and as often as you can. Apply it here and now, ask a pertinent question, notice something you haven’t noticed before, put two and two together, stop running from something, stop lying to yourself, stop lying to someone else, stop blaming…yes, start anywhere - using the critical thinking skills you already have.\n\t\n*critical thinking question: Do I need scientific evidence to know that florescent lights are harmful when it seems only logical that there must be some problems with them, given my body’s physiological response? In other words, is my body's response enough evidence for me to make the decision to avoid these lights?\n\n"}]}

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