What essential principles of critical thought would you include in a high school level crash course on critical thinking?

Great question, thanks. Here are some fundamentals I would include, keeping the high school audience in mind:

1. The psychology of rationalization. I think this is probably the most important bit - learning just how creative human beings can be at inventing self-justifications for various beliefs or conclusions. An open class discussion that invites students to offer their own beliefs around a topic, then to critique rationalizing elements of each others’ reasoning, can be a great way to break the ice on critical thinking.

2. Common logical fallacies. After covering the basics, this can be turned into fun group exercises, where students “catch” each other making one or more errors while presenting their reasoning based on cases you provide (i.e. as they draw conclusions from a set of facts on a specific topic…)

3. The Socratic method. Seems like this could be a great in-class exercise, especially within a broader conversation about dialectics.

4. The flaws in empiricism, and the iterative process for truth. This can be a helpful longer-term homework assignment - giving students the names of researchers who have made incorrect assessments of their data (or been unable to clearly see what the data was really conveying), or where peer review and replication have reinforced incomplete or incorrect conclusions, etc. - and encouraging the students to find out what the errors were, why they may have occurred, and how the initial assertions were later revised by later research. This is a great way to “reverse engineer” critical thinking by helping students recognize real-world errors or incompleteness.

5. Freakonomics. Assigning the original book and/or some of the subsequent podcasts to help students sharpen their critical thinking skills and avoid jumping to “obvious” or premature conclusions.

6. Self-critique. If students are advanced enough I think a powerful culminating homework assignment could be having them identify their own patterns of logical fallacies, rationalizations, premature suppositions and errors in reasoning. This is, after all, what we would hope they will take with them into the real world.

If possible, I would also touch on the importance of emotions in what we believe to be rational thought or decision-making. Lots of good research on this.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-essential-principles-of-critical-thought-would-you-include-in-a-high-school-level-crash-course-on-critical-thinking


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