Inside Outsider

13. Critical thinking and why it is missing today

As promised in We need to change our focus, this is part 2 of the discussion in the Bold New Breed community.

I shared a story about my geology teacher from my university days in Arizona several decades ago. He based all his courses on asking us questions. Non-stop for two straight hours, twice a week. We suggested answers and he always followed up with another question. If no one responded, he then rephrased the original question from a different angle. He did no top-down talking.

Could my geology teacher hold down a job today in an American university?

Although I have now been living in Europe for well over half my life, I follow what’s happening in the US extensively as I have family there. Seeing the news on television about the influence of politics and parental preferences on teachers, I think probably not.

As I talked about this experience that, as you can see, marked me deeply after all these years, other people in our discussion shared their opinions about why critical thinking is missing.

  • Teachers have to teach the topic, the subject rather than what the subject means as in the whole.
  • Critical thinking is not part of the education system, even at universities in undergraduate programs.
  • Why? It’s much easier to cover a bunch of sheep than have high, intelligent questioning, challenging, critical thinkers who may not agree with what you have told them.
  • You need to pass your examinations to get to university. Then you need to do this to get the right degree. That gets you the right job. If you follow the path, it gets you to this place, which is supposed to be good.

One member of our group shared his personal experiences with two offspring. They’re too old for me to say “his children”! One is studying public health and the other journalism.

  1. In the first case, working on how to change public health in the community, the work was based on questions: how do we do this? And you don’t know, go find out, come back and share with the rest of us. They created small groups to research different topic. The teacher says, here’s the topic who knows about this? Nobody, OK, you three go find out, let us know next week.
  2. In the second case, the journalist students are asked to collect questions and responses from everybody, pull all that information together and synthesize it so it makes sense with the pros and the cons. This means the readers of viewers of the journalist piece will then be able to understand and make a judgment on their own.

I wonder if this is a sign that things are improving? Based on what I see nearly daily as I check out news from the USA, I fear not. Yet, it is a ray of hope that I would love to believe in.

Wrap-up comment from our group:

We need to create a critical thinking model and bring it into our organizations. The bottom line is that it’s okay to disagree.

__________

Some data and definitions

Critical thinking is the act of analyzing facts to understand a problem or topic thoroughly. It typically includes steps such as collecting information and data, asking thoughtful questions and analyzing possible solutions.

Two key questions to ask

  • Did the person offer facts, opinions or both?
  • Did they give a verifiable source, if they were quoting or referring to another person or media?

Indicative data

The Future of Jobs Survey 2020 study from the World Economic Forum lists the relative importance of different skill groups for 2020 to 2025 in order of importance:

  1. Critical thinking and analysis
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Self-management
  4. Technology use and development
  5. Working with people

_______________________

What are your takeaways? What have you experienced that you can share with us?

Please share in the comments below, or directly with me via Twitter @netjmc, on Mastodon or my website at https://www.netjmc.com/contact/