Okay, sorry for the gap.
To preface, my view may be far away from what you guys are thinking,
but I'm putting it out there nonetheless. If you go a different way,
I'll probably go with you since I like your ideas, too, but here's my
I strongly believe that to teach critical thinking, teachers at all
1 - to BE critical thinkers
2 - to understand what is and is not a part of that process
3 - to understand what the average person uses to solve problems,
acquire knowledge, and evaluate claims
4 - resources such as demonstrations and classroom exercises
We HOPE that our audience (teachers) meets #1, especially at TAM, but
there are no guarantees. We (at critical-teaching) try to provide #4
for each other and others.
But #s 2 & 3 are a crap shoot.
I have probably brought this up before, and I am sure that most of you
have had similar experiences at TAM. It was also mentioned in some of
the talks at TAM6, but was somewhat "swept under the rug". So I am
unsure about how it might be received by those at JREF. It also
addresses something that cstein said - not everyone understands
critical thinking, even many of those with natural critical thinking
A growing portion of the audience are wannabe skeptics or
pseudoskeptics who fall prey to the same fallacies & biases as
everyone else when discussing matters that are not related to
conspiracy theorists or psychics. We've all met them and suspect where
many of them come from and why they are there. It's a great
opportunity to teach people what REAL critical thinking is about.
Although the teachers I have met do not fall into this category, some
may. And teaching critical thinking is the job of anyone who wants to
do some good in the world or even win an argument, not just those of
us in the profession. Most of what I'm proposing is for everybody;
teachers can use it, but others can, too.
Wanting to think critically and thinking critically are different
things; being a critical thinker and being able to explain critical
thinking are different things, too.
TAM gives its audience fish, and they like the fish, but it does not
show them where the fish come from, why they are necessary, or how to
get some for themselves.
We may frame it as "teaching critical thinking", but I really think
that anything like that needs to start by teaching critical thinking.
The first step in teaching critical thinking is to demonstrate
"normal" thinking. Even those who "get it" may not understand how/why
others do not, so it's important for them, too.
I would like to see talks and/or workshops that demonstrate and
discuss HOW people think, rather than just pointing out how silly
their beliefs are. And I'd like to see at least some of the audience
open their eyes and have to face their own silliness.
Things that I would like to see (all of which I can actually do or
provide materials for) include:
- A talk or workshop on fundamentals of logical reasoning - this could
have a snappy title that would interest everyone, like "How to Debate
a Creationist, Truther, Denier, or Chiropracter"
- A workshop (half-day, full-day, whatever is feasible) which covers
what is known about human reasoning & decision-making
- A talk about multiple-choice assessments, familiarity, and the
propaganda effect - there are many pedagogical issues with the way we
test that have direct effects on the strategies students use to learn.
By the time they get to me, every strategy they use involves
memorizing and copying structure rather than attempting to understand.
It's VERY difficult to undo this and it is ensures that no thinking -
critical or otherwise - takes place.
- A talk or symposium about the powers of expectation (could include
demos similar to those I posted recently http://icbseverywhere.com/blog/2009/02/04/naughty-elmo/
- A talk about the effects of shows like CSI, Numb3rs, & Lie to Me on
the layperson's understanding of scientific principles - a great idea
for this: part of the talk could show a man-on-the-street style video
of people giving stupid answers
Those are pretty broad, so I'm tapped for now. Sorry so long and