How To Teach Critical Thinking
Or: How to get yourself fired from an educational job
Who has tenure and wants to try their hand at teaching the next generation of students to critically evaluate arguments instead of just latching on to comforting beliefs?
Here’s a few SAMPLE EXERCISES designed to promote critical thinking among students. As a BONUS PROPERTY these are the kind of exercises likely to get a person fired from their job as a teacher.
Have students read the arguments against heliocentrism made against Galileo. Challenge students to come up with arguments that promote heliocentrism without relying on evidence not available to people in 17th century Europe.
Have students sort evidence for any generally accepted scientific theory based upon how much trust is involved in accepting the evidence as valid. For any given theory, ask the students how much direct evidence they personally have seen which supports the theory.
Have students develop the best possible arguments they can think of, to support the following theses. Have the students read and evaluate all of the arguments other students have developed, and rate them in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Offer a small prize to the student who develops the best argument. Ask the students, who is more likely to be persuaded by these arguments? What kind of evidence might this person show?
Democracy and constitutionally limited government are bad ideas, and the world should instead be run by a diverse committee of experts selected for their technical knowledge, moral character, and diverse, intersectional backgrounds.
The world is run by a cabal of lizard people, and this explains why everything is going so poorly.
Hitler was right, that the Jews really do control the world, and that the idea of laws of physics and objective truth are merely a Jewish plot to convince people not to engage in a race-based struggle for power and control.
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There are many, many such exercises one can perform here.
The whole point of this game is to convince students to pretend to take seriously ideas which are generally considered heresy. If you aren’t engaging in support of heretical concepts, there’s a real risk that you’re just saying things that people are already comfortable saying. If you can’t generate plausible arguments in support of ideas that make you deeply uncomfortable, I don’t see how you can think critically. Once a student realizes that it’s possible to generate plausible sounding arguments for any idea, they become much more adept at challenging concepts in general, rather than learning only to recite arguments they are given by their teachers.
In a world of educational professionals more devoted to critical thinking than the transmission of modern orthodoxy, there would be no such thing as heresy, and it would be encouraged to have students steel man ideas all right-thinking persons find atrocious.
How else can you be certain you aren’t secretly believing heresies yourself, if you haven’t inoculated yourself against their strongest form?