36: a discipline without discipline
How do we improve critical thinking skills in an era of misinformation?
We will need to evolve these skills into primary education and not just reserve it for university institutions (who still don’t have formal instruction on this).
Interesting work is being pursued by the Reboot Foundation, an organization interested in improving critical thinking at the community level. They surveyed 253 people on identifying whether there were problems with people’s conclusions in a screening exercise. The following fallacies were explored:
Random chance - you think the conclusion is a meaningful result of intersecting factors more than actual chance.
Lack of control - you draw conclusions about things without an appropriate comparison (or in the scientific world, what we call a control group).
Correlation/Causation dilemma - you think something is true, because the variables are correlated, but that doesn’t mean that there is causation. A is related to B, but A is not because of B.
Overgeneralization - you apply the conclusions of something to a broad group of people - when in fact, it only applies to a small group of people.
Experimenter bias - the way that the question is asked is leading, loaded, or biased.
Confirmation bias - you look for any piece of information that confirms your conscious or subconscious beliefs - you don’t consider alternative points of view equally.
Based on the way people were surveyed, there can be a whole lot of learning that is completely separate from critical thinking. Take for example:
There is alot of learning that makes us recall information, but doesn’t stress our critical thinking about it. A more critical thinking approach to the problem could look like this:
Why can’t we just make a separate critical thinking discipline in education?
Even though imperfect, I think the reason universities currently have the chokehold on this skill is from the relationship critical analysis has with content domains. Currently we are educated to learn specific content, and within that context, we learn what it is to be a critical thinker. If we separate that skill from the content, it becomes more pedagogical, academic, and less useful in the modern world.
To your health -
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