Critical thinking #change11

Pierre Bayle

“.. For now, more than ever, is not the time to be blindly following, blindly accepting, blindly trusting. Now is the time to face the world with eyes wide open –” Noreena Herz in critical-thinking. Teaching critical thinking is not a common practice in schools.  The hard part of critical thinking is when teachers really want to foster critical thinking they will be the first to meet skeptical students and rebellious and challenging classes. That could be fun, but sometimes it is tiresome and frightening.
How to teach your students to think critical  not in an aggressive way but  to think critical in a cooperative way?

Make a difference between critical thinking on your personal beliefs  and opinions as a student  (which is teached in schools) and critical thinking on opinions of other  people (which is teached less in schools).

Maybe critical thinking and reflection is not a part of curriculum because it is hard to test?
Do you know of official  assessments on these skills? Even in academic teaching critical thinking of students is not always met with joy and encouragement. 😉

An educational consultant often twitters on Microsoft in a positive voice. I know he is working for Microsoft. That makes the value of  his tweets different. Most messages are part of a hidden agenda.

The portrait is of Pierre Bayle, was an important critical thinking person. He lost his job as a professor because of his critical opinions. The English translation of  the ” Dictionnaire Historique et Critique” was named by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson as one of the one hundred foundational texts that formed the first collection of the Library of Congress.

critical thinking; reflective thinking; skeptical thinking.


6 thoughts on “Critical thinking #change11

  1. I really like your post about critical thinking.

    I appreciate the choice of subject, teaching strategies and resources reported.

    But I’m not sure that the caption of the image (first part) encourages the practice of critical thinking.


  2. Critical thinking not part of the curriculum.

    People prefer to live by illusions and simplified versions of the world. They don’t want the responsibility of having their own thoughts. Should things go wrong, it’s far better to have accepted what you were told. It was easy to accept it, more agreeable, more supportive of the group. If what you believed turned out to be a deception, the blame falls on the deceiver, never on the back of those who trusted and were betrayed. This seems like a functional method of damage control and an evolutionary advantage over having the whole group punished and maybe weakened.

    Group stories and shared assumptions are the natural prey of critical thinking. Investigate them and you risk fiddling with foundational beliefs and emotions. I wonder if critical thinking can be useful at all times? In time of danger to the group, critical thinking might be a luxury best left alone. In times of change when the group story no longer sustains us it might be wise to dump the whole cart out and question every assumption. It might be that critical thinking comes in cycles or is neglected when change doesn’t seem so urgent?

    One last question: The importance of critical thinking seems to have come up quickly on the heels of widespread internet access. Is there some particular characteristic of open information that cries out for vigilance?


  3. Hi Serena, Scott

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    @Scott, group cohesion is a factor, a cause of group think, psychology did prove this. The interests of some groups are affected by critical thinking. In the times of Pierre Bayle the possibilities of communication in books and pamphlets fostered critical thinking. Critical thinkers were connected by a network of booksellers. (Radical Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel) There is a parallel to our time. The internet connects critical thinkers.
    @Serena, critical thinking will always cause unrest and change. Pierre Bayle lost his job, but he was able to devote all his time to writing.
    thanks again

  4. Hi, Scott. I see critical thinking for the internet as being closely linked to credibility and authenticity of the author. Who made the open contribution and what interest does the author or organization have in sharing it publicly? The triangulation concept we talked about in #change11 last week seems to be a useful way of looking deeper at the ‘credentials’ of an author or site (similar to looking at the inside cover of a printed book to see where the author studied, what organization was responsible for printing it, who has written reviews about the book and so on).

  5. Hi Brainy,
    Critical thinking is obviously a vital component of internet literacy. You have to be able to think before you can apply the critical component though. Schools teach at the surface. Tricks involving stimulus and response are popular, and can reach levels of sophistication that are almost life-like.

    Seriously, I understand the point here but what does it matter if everyone can see the truth yet does nothing about it? Can we call ourselves “literate” because we know which subjects to avoid talking about? I’d say clever or socially aware but not literate.

    At its core, critical thinking challenges all assumptions, authorities and conveniences of thought. In the carefully constructed world of polite education it must be seen as playing too close to irrationality, an invitation for conflict. This is why thinking skills need to come before critical skills. Challenging strongly held beliefs fools with peoples identities. Beliefs are not normally thought of as objects of discussion or really anyone’s business. Challenge them and you break a lot social taboos. When thinking of beliefs I hold none of them are well articulated or even close to being the product of rational or critical processes.

    So how would I teach these things I feel strongly about without being struck speechless? As a teacher or student dare I venture into this area of vulnerability? Jaap, you are right about critical thinking being dangerous–too bad it is so necessary.


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