Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can critical thinking be taught in a classroom?

       The answer I guess would be yes, I mean colleges even offer courses in both logic and critical thinking...but I do see limitations to how much of it can be taught. One of the hard parts of learning some things is learning how to apply what was just learned in real life. I feel the most important thing in trying to reach the truth is to be able to put biases and ego aside first. This is way easier said than done. One can take courses in logic, critical thinking, and propaganda techniques all they want but the ego can still manage to find ways around it. Many people who are professionals may have PhD's, be experts in their fields, and even take critical thinking courses yet they still don't always agree with each other on everything.
       When I see political debates on TV, usually the pundits shown are professionals with respectable degrees- many times with a background in law or political science... Most of them are aware of what critical thinking is and claim to value and use it, yet they apply it selectively to real life. They may use it only when it supports their ideological identity. This is part of what makes identifying with ideological labels so problematic.
       Humility is also a nice compliment to critical thinking as well as agnosticism- yes I'm still a Catholic- I don't mean "that" kind of agnosticism. I'm talking more of the ability to say "I don't know." when appropriate or at least a temporary "I don't know." until more information is available. I think when one is a professional who is well respected, it can be even more difficult to "plea the fifth". I think this could be why we get such conflicting medical advice in the media. Sometimes in science if something can't be proven true, it is dismissed as a "myth". The thing is that it is difficult to prove a negative. An example would be if an herb called "X" can prevent colds and the flu. Years could pass without any proof from science to back up the claims. The home remedy is then dismissed as "snake oil" (maybe it is maybe it isn't). Even if it may seem unlikely that herb "X" works, one may never know for sure and it takes professional courage to admit it. Life on other planets is another example. From what I have most recently read many scientists are expressing doubt that it is likely, yet I think it would be arrogant of anyone to say that it is proven to not exist. Even if the universe were discovered to have walls, no one can prove that there isn't anything far beyond that wall. An honest "I don't know" is not necessarily a cop-out, if anything it leaves room for the real truth to come in later on- if it ever comes.
       In browsing free podcasts I came across one that is associated with this site. This site is by a college professor who tried to explain critical thinking. It is a little involved and some if it I had a hard time keeping up with but it can be a good resource nevertheless:
       It is also important for people to accept that truth cannot be owned, sold, or patented. If one tries it just magically turns into untruth. Some people may notice my frequent use of words like "maybe" and "perhaps" quite a bit on this blog. Some may interpret it as fence-sitting, wishy-washy, low self-esteem, low self-confidence but anything is batter than false confidence. I feel if one wants "truth" it is necessary to make room for it.