On the surface this may seem very similar to part 2: logic and reasoning but it’s actually very different. Logic and reasoning are about problem solving where critical thinking is about discernment.
Why we chose it:
Quite simply I don’t want them to be taken advantage of. Whether it’s by a slick politician, a cunning supervisor, a spiritual guru, a clever marketing exec. or a mischievous friend; many people who purport to have our best interests at heart have their own agenda. I want my kids to be able to think critically about the information being presented to them and discern if it’s based in fact or if facts are being manipulated.
How we facilitate learning it:
Much like logic and reasoning, critical thinking is learned through conversation. Lots and lots of conversation. There is much going on in the political world right now and when those annoying political ads come on we talk about the ways they manipulate data, leave out information, play to people’s emotions, etc. When topics come up that are controversial we talk about what makes it controversial, what good points do both sides make, what flaws are there on both sides, etc. When we see ads making ridiculous claims about products we point it out. Mostly we ask lots and lots of questions.
A few of the questions we ask include (but aren’t necessarily limited to): What do current experts in the field have to say? What are the credentials of these experts? Might they have an ulterior motive? What was the methodology when finding the data? Why does methodology matter? Has this information (whether historical, scientific, etc.) been peer reviewed? What makes peer review so important? Why might there be disagreement among experts? When should we take these disagreements seriously?
Again, I don’t want to give the impression that we’re sitting around having these deep conversations all the time. But sometimes things come up. The news may run a story about doctors having different methods of treating illness, an article may be published about new scientific discoveries, we may see a movie that shows a different perspective on a historical event. When that happens we talk- in brief spurts. We plant the seed of encouragement to ask questions.
Are they learning it:
They’ve begun asking these questions on their own. When they share an opinion and I ask them why they think that they usually offer well reasoned arguments. When we watch TV they readily question what they see, both from the shows themselves and the ads. They don’t automatically believe that the conventional methods/beliefs are right but also don’t disagree just for the sake of being different. They seem to be growing into discerning young people and, hopefully, as they continue to mature so will their critical thinking.