Greater need for critical thinking

When the thoughts of many people are now able to be expressed far more freely and widely, the need for critical thinking is more important. It is very difficult to sway entrenched beliefs, but more critical thinking done by more people will lead to greater enlightenment.

However this not something that can simply be turned on and started.

NZ Herald: Critical thinking has never been needed more

There is so much distortion and fabrication in our public discourse that we should be teaching children to question and challenge from a young age, not only to protect them from the risk of radicalisation, but also to give them the skills to evaluate the world around them for what it is, not what various extremist commentators want them to think it is.

The majority of critical thinking education currently occurs at university level. That needs to be revised. Media literacy, of which critical thinking plays an important part, needs to be implemented much earlier in the curriculum. In this era of hyper connectivity, by the time young people get to university – if they decide or are able to access tertiary education at all – it will likely be too late.

If it needs to be encouraged at a young age it has to be a long term project.

I have concerns about this being done at primary school level, or even at secondary school, because teachers have often shown to have their own bias when involved in activism.

It is only with considered scepticism and meaningful discourse that we’ll be able to defuse extremist rhetoric, whether it’s espoused by terrorists or controversial commentators. It’s time we injected some civility and rationality back into our public debate.

We don’t all have to agree with each other, but if we could agree to some basic terms of engagement (for example, that facts are facts and wilful misinformation isn’t worthy of further dissemination) it would go some way towards reducing the risks of radicalised division and its tragic consequences.

We will never agree with each other on everything. But we can learn off each other, we should be prepared to learn off each other

And we should accept that at times will simply not agree – in this case ‘agreeing to disagree’ respectfully is important.

Note: before commenting here please try to focus on critical thinking, and don’t get diverted by personalities. This topic is about ideas, not specific people.

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90 Comments

  1. David

     /  27th April 2019

    Should be learned at home. I tried but failed miserably with my two with one voting Green and one voting Labour although disappointment is kicking in with the Greens and the Labour supporter is just plain embarrassed.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  27th April 2019

      Karma

      Reply
      • Jacqueline

         /  27th April 2019

        My critical thinking kicking in –
        David clearly didn’t fail. He loved his young enough to encourage them to choose for themselves. And he’s not afraid to share his ‘failure’ with us.
        Karma? Very negative, or perhaps that was a joke. Karma is a spiritual concept though, on a secular political blog.
        Note that David’s young are shaping up to follow in their Dad’s footsteps. More power to his family!
        I personally believe in Jesus’ power and God’s blessings.

        Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  27th April 2019

    A potential problem I see straight away with teaching kids proper critical thinking is likely going to be more of them questioning the poverty of evidence for the religions that lie at the very heart of some of the worst massacres we are seeing around the world today.

    Reply
    • Pink David

       /  27th April 2019

      The sad thing here is that you think evidence is in some way at all important in religion.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  27th April 2019

        Why is that sad?

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  27th April 2019

          Because you think it matters, when it very clearly does not.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  27th April 2019

            It just bloody mattered in Sri Lanka.

            Reply
            • Pink David

               /  27th April 2019

              Please explain how the existence, not, of god matter in Sri Lanka.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              The belief in the existence of a non-existent one true Jaweh – aka Allah -& his claimed divine communications, corrections, instructions & examples to his one & only last holy prophet, as recorded in some of Islam’s scriptures, mattered to some mass murderers in Sri Lanka. And to many others carrying out such massacres regularly. We don’t hear about them all here.

            • Pink David

               /  27th April 2019

              God doesn’t need to exist for them to believe in it. I would have thought this was painfully obvious.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              I find your whole line of questioning here a bit screwy, tbh. My point is that these 3 god versions who have all in one way or another provoked such hateful acts against the other believers throughout the histories of those who believe in them clearly do not exist. But they are all taught, often from childhood, that they DO, because their existence is “proven” in their holy scriptures, that were divinely revealed – and they’re such a bloody jumble there are thousands of sects, & Jaweh-knows-how-many interpretations that can be cherry-picked out by theologians & preachers to justify any one of them. These are fundamentalist Islamic terrorists like ISIS, Al Shabab, Taliban, Boko Haram, the Bali Bombers, whose evidence for Allah includes interpreting passages to mean Allah wants them to murder unbelievers & receive eternal reward in paradise.

              Until believers in this God can shake the blinkers off & realise the scriptures are not true, you are likely going to continue to have this problem.

      • Jacqueline

         /  27th April 2019

        Just going by memory – is it said that all the nations will mourn on account of Jesus when He returns? Scrambling around for evidence. Let alone having time and inclination to be discussing the evidence.

        Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th April 2019

    Marvelly could start her critical thinking by checking her facts. Rather than plummeting, Trump’s approval ratings have been remarkably stable. When you get your basic facts wrong your thinking is worse than useless.

    Reply
    • Polls are not facts, but she her casual comment on Trump’s polling does seem to fail the critical thinking test.

      Some individual polls have moved against Trump significantly since the Mueller report was released after having improved after the Barr report.

      The poll of poll indicators are a bit different.

      Apart from several short term blips the RealClear poll compilation has shown fairly stable support for trump over the past 12 months at around -10%.

      The FiveThirtyEight has also been mostly flat apart from a couple of swings/corrections over the last year, but there has been a of a swing away from Trump since the Mueller report release (currently -12%).

      However your own critical thinking is a bit astray here attacking the messenger rather than discussing the topic.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  27th April 2019

        Rubbish. Of course it is discussing the topic. Critical thinking starts with fact checking. I didn’t attack Marvelly, merely her careless mususe of facts. Not much sign of plummeting here:
        https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

        Reply
        • You’re dumping on her for one brief comment in a whole op-ed. That’s not critical thinking, it’s personally targeted criticism.

          RealClear shows Trump as fairly consistently -10% popular.

          I like to also look at FiveThirtyEight, which shows that Trump has so far been the least popular modern president.

          https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  27th April 2019

            Nonsense. I’m using it to highlight the importance of getting your facts right and not spouting preconceived assumptions. The inclusion of that gratuitous snippet in her piece was a bit of ideological territory marking. Critical thinking needs to identify those. Your reaction is similar.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  27th April 2019

            @5-38, Not much in it for some of them and certainly no sign whatever of “plummeting”.

            Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  27th April 2019

      Yes remarkably stable at a net minus 9-10% job approval, he has started bragging about Rasmussen, who seem to have a 10% bias towards the Republicans, giving him 50% approval rating.

      Reply
      • Patzcuaro

         /  27th April 2019

        Nice ride though.

        Reply
      • I’m surprised how much the Rasmussen poll swings so much given that it’s an incremental poll (a small number polled each day).

        A politician who cherry picks and brags about the most favourable poll results is not doing any critical thinking. They are trying to fool themselves and those who blindly support them.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  27th April 2019

      do you get better with practice..Al?

      Reply
  4. Corky

     /  27th April 2019

    ”I have concerns about this being done at primary school level, or even at secondary school, because teachers have often shown to have their own bias when involved in activism.”

    To be fair one of my young rellies was in a class where his forward thinking teacher was using the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ protocols created by Edward de Bono to explore subjects.

    But apart from that, exploring a subject usually consists of climate change and recycling for
    far too many children in our education system.

    Reply
    • Pink David

       /  27th April 2019

      The six thinking hats is very good, we use it as part of our development training.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  27th April 2019

        Another relly ???

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  27th April 2019

          “Another relly ???”

          Care to repeat that in english?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  28th April 2019

            What ? another of the myriad rellies that Corky claims to have ?

            ‘Another relly’ is English; relly is short for relation.

            You must have heard this usage before; if someone says that there is a JW at the door, the odds are that someone will say ‘ Another one ?’

            Reply
      • Corky

         /  27th April 2019

        I must admit when I saw 6 hats in action I thought it was another new age waste of space. Unfortunately I judged too quickly as the class was divided into six groups and working on different aspects for each hat. The teacher must have seen my confusion. She gave me a quick overview and gave me de Bono’s book to read. I later bought that book.

        And that’s what a real teacher is about. To shine light on something we are ignorant of.

        Reply
      • Blazer

         /  27th April 2019

        Honky Tonks favourite book…apparantly.

        Reply
  5. This will be a challenge for the Herald to live up too as they start paid subscriptions. I imagine they will be very interested in who is paying and what they like to read and how to individualise content to their readers tastes. Just like facebook. After all they don’t want to foist Lizzie Marvelly onto the wrong person and then expect them to pay for the imposition. So they must tread a path between the twin perils of becoming an echo chamber or offending paying subscribers. Good luck.

    Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th April 2019

    There have been good results in deprived areas from teaching philosophy in schools but it needs special teachers. It gives children tools to think about and solve their problems that they otherwise would lack and resort to destructive methods.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  27th April 2019

      So does some basic human psychology, Al. It’s one of the professional tools folk are crying out for more of to help try & save lost & screwed up kids from harming themselves and others.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  27th April 2019

        Psychology turns you inwards whereas philosophy turns you outwards. Both are necessary but the latter is more rewarding.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  27th April 2019

          Dang it! WordPress Wilkinson Effect strike, sorry, Al.

          Replied here:
          https://yournz.org/2019/04/27/greater-need-for-critical-thinking/#comment-364614

          Reply
        • Jacqueline

           /  27th April 2019

          The delving into psychology by the churches (and schools) is horrible and dangerous! The real psychologists are appalled.

          Philosophy and Science is better. Just keep giving youth information. If we don’t, more youth will turn to professional counsellors – and they are running out of ideas and are tending to turn to quackery too. We are going to need an influx of real (scientific) psychologists if we don’t quickly arrest our lack of critical thought.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  27th April 2019

            Jacqueline, teaching children to believe in heaven & hell, which is an intrinsic part of your religion, IS psychological manipulation, however well-intentioned it might be.

            There are now organisations set up in the US for preachers who’ve come to the conclusion the Bible is untrue & are trapped. It’s all they’ve ever known & trained for. They’re living in communities that are entirely Christian. They’re terrified to admit they’re now atheists, because they’ll lose their wives, their children, their parents, siblings, all their friends.

            Some of them have told these organisations they have been carrying on teaching the Bible ever since they realised they no longer believe it because they are so terrified about the devastating consequences. They are asking for counselling for how to deal with this.

            Reply
            • Jacqueline

               /  27th April 2019

              Teaching chn about heaven and hell is not what my religion is about Gezza. It’s what your religion was about. Why don’t you move on? And you should read other’s posts more carefully if you want to engage with them, and/or apologise when you’ve misunderstood.
              From memory, I stated here that I could never understand people going on about heaven. I feel the same about the hell issue. This is due to my Bible reading. These issues are clearly paramount to you. You could just move on. You told us that you were in the Jesus way. Now decide what kind of seed you were/are. It’s your decision and you are free. I personally see you as a (very weak) brother in Christ. Ouch! You deserve it.
              Where’s Kimbo? Gezza’s in need of the bromance.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              This is due to my Bible reading.
              According to your Bible, your god is a mass muderer. You always avoid explaining how on earth he breaks his own commandment not to murder. Why?

            • Jacqueline

               /  27th April 2019

              Gezza!
              Where is your proof that god/God himself destructs people?

              It’s earth catastrophes and human evil which causes all harm. In the case of natural events, does this mean you believe in God?

              If God warned through prophets that a certain catastrophe would occur, then it did occur, then you obviously believe in Him because you ascribe the evil happenings to Him.

              Why do you repeatedly ask stupid questions? If I behaved that way on YourNZ, I would get harshly ridiculed by several others, especially the invisibles.

              You love Popularity more than Life.

              I don’t know why God allows unhappiness beyond knowing that I am a poor sinner, but I do know that God is Love.

              Basically, you will never get any other answer from a believer in Christ. Work it out for yourself. Everyone else who follows Jesus has to. Why should you get special treatment?

              Time and again your rants reveal that you are already a follower of Jesus. Either a very rebellious one, or one who was harmed along the way by other Christians, or a combination of both.

              And you can’t try that trick ‘oh I just like to wind people up for a larf’. This is not a laugh Gezza, and I think you know it.

              I knew Kimbo would never get through to you, because he’s unreconciled with me, and I most definitely belong in the Body of Christ (and not because of superiority PG. Because of spiritual need.)

              Now, I am never communicating with you again (take note how it’s done Kimbo boy) until YOU apologise for all the times you ridiculed me for following Jesus.

              You and Kimbo can go back to on again off again bromance. Like Pink says, Sad.

              To answer your question, ‘I don’t know why.’

              In loving concern I suggest that both you and Kimbo read the gospel of John. Keep your mind prepared to allow God, or god if you prefer, to teach you.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              Jacqueline, it’s in your Bible! Unless you have pages ripped out or a version without these, or you think The Old Testament is full of bull?

              https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Examples_of_God_personally_killing_people

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  27th April 2019

              I have told the story before about how the RI teacher when I was 6 drove me to near breakdown (my parents got it out of me when they discovered that I was having hideous nightmares and why) She told small children that they were responsible for their entire family going to Heaven (if their names were in The Lamb’s Book of Life) or Hell (if we failed to have them put in) She also told us awful stories; the one about the little boy living in a barrel doesn’t sound too bad, but the way she told it was the stuff of nightmares to an imaginative child. I can’t have been the only one terrified that I would end up alone, freezing and starving.

              We were told that we must never tell anyone about all this.

              How many children did this sadist terrify ? When my parents found out and went to the school, she was never seen again.

    • Jacqueline

       /  27th April 2019

      Education of children is key for raising generations of critical thinkers who will fight for freedom of speech.

      I find reading the Bible to children is the best way to raise critical thinkers. (Note I say ‘read’ not ‘commentate’ from.)

      It’s surprising how much can happen from the Bible in the critical thought stakes. Questions around science (all fields), philosophy, the future, history, religion, politics, current events… all lead to youth deciding for themselves (thinking critically) and embarking on wider reading (continuing the pathway of learning for life and becoming contributors in a free secular society).

      There’s a general and anecdotal indication that children and adults are lacking listening skills, stemming from emotional insecurity. The simplest solutions are the ones that work. Parents should be encouraged to read widely to their children (content which stretches the mind).

      As mentioned before, I also think that it would be helpful if older generations communicated with youth through blogs like this one. This could help break the generational cycle we seem to be in where our society is lacking in critical thought.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  27th April 2019

        your best post…ever.

        Reply
        • Jacqueline

           /  27th April 2019

          Perhaps it’s due to your ongoing encouragement. Are you real Blazer? I know I am. Are you?
          How about Maureen. Are you real Maureen? Can there really be a Kiwi as nasty as Maureen on YourNZ?

          Sometimes I get the impression that YourNZ is just a game. Kimbo’s real though, and Gezza, and PG, and quite a few others. Alan is the nicest real of all. Phantom pretends well (to be nice). He’s actually very snowflakey IMO.

          Seriously, blogs run by folk with time on their hands and with a caring attitude about the future of Kiwis could do much good by blogging with youth. PG sets a good example. You could present this concept to the ed ministry.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  27th April 2019

            Well, I’m going to thank you for that because things hsve been getting heated sometimes, but I think there should be a lot more open discussion about religions, whatever you may think of me.

            Reply
          • Blazer

             /  27th April 2019

            hang on…I’ll pinch myself…..ouch…yes I’m definately…real.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              Not sure you’d qualify via Descartes’s criteria, B.

            • Kimbo

               /  27th April 2019

              @ Alan Wilkinson

              You’re just setting Blazer up for the next variation of Cartesian verification:

              “I drink, therefore I am”, 😀

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  27th April 2019

              Rene Descartes/Was a drunken fart/’I drink, therefore I am.’

              Descartes was in a bar. The barman said ‘Are you having another drink ?’
              Descartes said ‘I thnk not.’ and vanished.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              Or to quote the late great George Best, “I spent most of my money on wine, women and song. The rest I wasted.”

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  27th April 2019

              He also wasted a liver transplant by carrying on drinking after he was given it, having convinced the surgeon that he’d stopped drinking. He died of alcoholism and a wrecked second liver that could have gone to someone who would have made good use of their second chance. I can’t remember how long it was before he drank himself to death after the transplant; less than two years, I think.

              Late but not great.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  27th April 2019

              He actually said birds, booze and fast cars.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              A great soccer player. Man U played a South Island selection my brother was playing in at English Park in Christchurch. George fired a shot from the right wing that banana curved around behind the goalie into the net.

            • Kimbo

               /  27th April 2019

              Saw a good stand-up comedy routine describing how George Best’s soon-to-be-transplanted liver was wheeled kicking and screaming to the operating theatre.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              Incredible footwork. Watch the slo mo version of this one:

            • Blazer

               /  27th April 2019

              @magnificent..dribbler…the game changed to quick passing..Man U came to Auckland and played the locals..George thought he could dribble around the whole team and played like a cnut.

              His quote about ‘life’ belongs to Hunter .

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              George thought he could dribble around the whole team and played like a cnut.

              That good eh, B?

              https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnut_the_Great

  7. Gezza

     /  27th April 2019

    This is philosphy. I reckon this sort of thing turns you inwards & teaches you nonsense.

    https://collegeconservativesoapbox.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/plato-aristotle-augustine-on-souls-hillsdale-college-assignment/

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  27th April 2019

      Yes, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about giving kids a meta language to discuss important things in their lives with as well as the psychological space and confidence to dispute and find resolutions peacefully whether in agreement or not.

      Reply
      • Kimbo

         /  27th April 2019

        The best teacher I had at school was for fifth form English. Explained to us and then we analysed examples of the language of advertising and all the gimmicks they use – exaggerated claims, pseudoscience, etc. Then we looked at letters to the editor and what made for a bad argument- emotive language, sweeping and/or unsubstantiated claims, etc. so it was practical critical thinking.

        A few years later he lost his job because of a personal issue that spilled over into his work. Bloody sad and maybe unjust. Anyway, I managed to find his address and posted him a letter expressing my thanks for the skills he had taught that I have found invaluable for life, both personally and vocationally. Got a thank you card back, so he seems to have got some solace in his difficulties.

        Reply
  8. duperez

     /  27th April 2019

    The irony of the importance, the necessity for critical thinking in the populace being followed by a thread with, “Something media should be most wary of is feeding speculation, rumours and deliberate conspiracies before facts are known.”

    Reply
  9. david in aus

     /  27th April 2019

    Teaching Critical Thinking at a young age is a forlorn hope. Not because some children are not capable but to teach Critical Thinking you need to be a Critical Thinker yourself.

    As commentators have mentioned Primary and Secondary schools are bastions of indoctrination and not of independent thought. The purpose of mass education had been standardization, for the purposes of having reliable workers in manufacturing and work.

    Some teachers do not like the questioning type of student.

    Critical Thinking, if it is taught, should be about being a Sceptic, verifying knowledge, and challenging assumptions. Unfortunately, when you start from a low knowledge base as children, how productive would Primary School Critical-Thinking education be?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  27th April 2019

      Can be when they discuss stuff they know about – like drugs and fights and jobs and money.

      Reply
      • David in Aus

         /  27th April 2019

        I am going to apply Critical Thinking to your reference. You reference a study and I will ask the question: how is that generalizable?

        This was based in a Research setting with presumably trained staff. Moreover, is this an example of a phenomenon where those subjects being studied behave differently to those that do not have extra attention, analogous to the Placebo effect?

        To actually to determine the effect, they need to have randomized trials. To make general recommendations for circula, they need to assess the extra training involved for teachers and the feasibility in combination with the current demands.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  27th April 2019

          My point was deprived kids benefit most. They received the same treatment as the others.

          Reply
          • david in aus

             /  27th April 2019

            My point is that you cannot draw conclusions from one study. Science is about repeating the experiment, in different settings with a robust methodology.

            Critical Thinking makes you challenge assumptions.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              It’s one study of many. The philosophy in schools project has been going for a long time. A meta review of studies showed a modest but consistent beneficial impact on a wide range of measures.

            • david in aus

               /  27th April 2019

              Fair enough. The question that comes into my mind is then, why is not rolled out? Are there cost-effectiveness, resource diversion, and prioritization issues.

              If there is a modest positive effect, the corollary is what programs will be ‘sacrificed’, PE, music, three Rs …..? And is that politically and socially acceptable?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              I expect there are cost, resource and targeting issues as well as professional inertia.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              Good to see that you’re taking it philosophically, Al.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              Best way, G. Beats psychoanalysis any day.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              The first reports I saw many years ago were from a project in an inner city US school. Most of the class went on to Uni – unheard of from there. No doubt the teacher was extraordinary – a lady if I recall right. Hope she died happy.

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              Different purposes, Al. Depends who needs psychoanalysis & what they need it for. For all we know some philosophers are even psychos. Must have a read of that link you posted. I’ve always thought most babies soon work out I think therefore I am.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              In their case, ‘I stink therefore I am”?

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2019

              🤔 I thought they think their shit don’t stink? 😉

              It’s actually linked in with developmental psychology. If you read on down past the 2nd para where some notable child psychologist pooh-poohed it & is wrong. If it improves children’s ability to reason out where something doesn’t add up & improve their communication, empathy, sympathy & teach them patience, calm, & overall social skills without needing fairy tale stories to motivate them to do it, great.

              https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_for_Children

              There’s a “P4C for New Zealand” link in my google search results too.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2019

              Yes, an article I read a long time ago said it took quite a while for kids to get the hang of it but was transformative when they did. This was in the gangster-territory schools.

  1. Critical Thinking and Free Speech | The Inquiring Mind

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