Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Other Deficit

Saw a bumper sticker the other day: "Critical Thinking: The Other American Deficit." I've been thinking about that, and how little critical thinking I see in America these days. Those who know me know I don't do "group think," irrespective of what group is doing the "group think." I prefer to do my own thinking, thank you very much. "The mind," they say, "is a terrible thing to waste." With group think, no one does any thinking except the person at the top. He/she decides what the group will think and then issues "talking points" with which the faithful dutifully and uncritically proceed, and which they mindlessly parrot. It matters not whether the talking points manifest inconsistencies, hypocrisies, or gaping defects in logic; they have come down from the top, where all the thinking is done...or not done, and that makes them axiomatic and self-justifying. The casualty in group think, of course, is critical thinking, the real "deficit" in American life. Not doing "group think" has, of course, gotten me in trouble from time to time (if you don't do "group think" no group ever really trusts you), but I sleep pretty well at night.

Part of the reason for the deficit in critical thinking, I'm convinced, is that we no longer teach people how to do it. Critical thinking brings to mind windy lectures on logic with obscure Latin phrases and the like. And besides, it's hard...much harder than just being told what to think. But it need not be hard. Having taught critical thinking for years to my students both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I've developed a method for teaching critical thinking that is simple, memorable, and doable. I call it "The Three A's of Critical Thinking." If you're interested, I've recorded a brief video lecture on my YouTube page. To view it, click here.

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