2.3 Looking Ahead “Wait! If critical thinking is a process, why haven’t you authors given us the steps in that process? In fact, what you did say was that nobody knew the order in which the different critical thinking skills fire. So, if the process of critical thinking is not applying the skills one after another, then what is the process?” You are correct, critical thinking as a process needs to be explained and illustrated. throughout the first two chap-ters we equated the critical thinking process with thought-ful problem solving and fair-minded decision making. Every discipline from music composition to biochemistry and every professional field from military leadership to counseling psychology has its experts talking about how people working in those domains engage in problem solv-ing and decision making. Our question was this: Is there a more general way to describe the process, one that has applications across all the academic disciplines and profes-sional fields, and beyond. And, as decades of research by ourselves and others24 indicates, the answer, affirmed by the Delphi Panel, is a resounding Yes! Revealing, detailing, and guiding the correct application of that process, including each of the core skills, is what the rest of this book is about. In Chapter 3 is an overview of the critical thinking
process. There we present a basic five-step critical thinking process for problem solving. Then later in the book, when the timing is right, we refine that process in a chapterUsing the discussion about shale gas drilling as an example, practice formulating good critical thinking questions about the topics listed below. Look too at the table entitled “Questions to Fire Up Our Critical Thinking Skills” to get ideas about how to target specific critical thinking skills with your questions. Write at least four good critical thinking questions about each of the topics below. Instead of making them all analytical or inferential, spread the questions over at least three core criti-cal thinking skills. Before you write the questions, go online to review relevant recent news stories about the topic. 1. Sagarika Ghose, a former CNN news anchor and writer for a leading newspaper in India, has over 175,000 followers on Twitter. Ms. Ghose regularly receives cyber threats of gang rape and stripping. Assume you are a reporter for an American TV network that does balanced and fair stories on serious topics, and assume you have the opportunity for a Skype interview with Ms. Ghose. Write four good critical thinking interview questions. Before you write the ques-tions, do some background research. Start by searching “Sagarika Ghose rape threats.”
2. Boko Haram is a militant organization violently opposed to Western culture. In the past two years the group has killed more than 1,000 people with suicide bombers, and vicious raids on churches, schools, and villages. (Search “Boko Haram Nigeria BBC News.”) The group’s opposition to Western education is so strong that it has threatened, kid-napped, and killed female students and their teachers. And yet, many parents still seek opportunities for Western edu-cation for their daughters and those young women con-tinue to go to schools that teach dangerous subjects, like history and science, and use Western educational meth-ods, like critical thinking. Assume you have the opportu-nity to interview a teacher at a school that offers a Western education to girls in a region where Boko Haram kidnap-pings and attacks have occurred. Frame four good critical
thinking questions to ask the teacher. Search “Boko Haram kidnaps school girls” to begin your background research.
3. Perhaps with more foresight strong critical thinkers might have anticipated this problem. But when the one-child pol-icy was put in place, China was also beginning to experi-ence a phenomenon that has continued for many decades, namely, the migration of young people into urban areas in search of better jobs and a lifestyle different from what is available “back on the farm.” In 2013 China passed a law requiring children to visit their elderly parents who lived in the countryside. Search “China requires visit parents” to get the details. Then formulate good critical thinking questions about this policy and its potential benefits and difficulties.
4. Recently a study of 86,000 women who gave birth and 9,000 women who had abortions reported that 40 percent of all pregnancies in the United States were unwanted. The study appeared online in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Review the study and the news cover-age that report on the study and offer editorial comments. Then write four good critical thinking questions about this phenomenon.
5. The plant called quinoa offers “an exceptional balance of amino acids; quinoa, they declared, is virtually unrivaled in the plant or animal kingdom for its life-sustaining nutri-ents,” according to a New York Times story about the problems of too much success. As global demand sky-rockets, quinoa producers and other Bolivians may not be receiving either the nutritional or the economic benefits of this crop. Learn more about quinoa and the problems of its success by searching “quinoa economic impact.” A 2013 story in the Huffington Post should be one of your search results. Then formulate four good critical thinking questions about this issue. Let one of the questions be about the importance of having foresight.
6. The Buddhist nation of Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness Commission, and the head of that commission has a problem: Domestic violence appears to be rampant among a population whose religion abhors any kind of vio-lence. Search “Bhutan domestic violence Commission for Gross National Happiness” and then formulate a related series of four good critical thinking questions from the perspective of the head of the Gross National Happiness Commission.
Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader. From a video calling for more attacks on schools to protect Islam from the threat of Western education.
Source: AFP/Getty Images
7. Search “survey seven social classes in UK” and you will see a BBC report on a scientific survey that suggests that the familiar grouping of social classes in to just three, “upper, middle, and poverty” no longer effectively describes social stratification in the United Kingdom. Review the BBC story and related stories, and write four good critical thinking questions about that report. Some questions can focus on understanding the report and its implications, others could focus on whether or not a similar finding would result if the study had focused on the social class structure of some other industrialized country, for example, the United States devoted specifically to more sophisticated strategies for reflective decision making. In both chapters we point out how all the steps and strategies call for positive critical thinking habits of mind and rely on multiple critical think-ing skills. To supplement these broader overview chapters, five chapters at the end of the book take the critical think-ing process into several different areas of inquiry. We used the phrase “when the timing is right” in the last paragraph because learning things in the right order isvery important. Like coaches working with very promis-ing artists or athletes, we have a plan for when and how each critical thinking skill can be developed. We begin with interpretation and analysis in Chapters 4 and 5. There we examine strategies for clarifying the meanings of individ-ual claims and ways to visually display the reasoning peo-ple use to support claims and conclusions. In Chapters 6 through 9 we work on evaluation, looking first at how to assess the credibility of individual claims and then at how
to evaluate the quality of arguments. Strengthening our self-regulation skill is the emphasis in Chapters 10 and 11 as we take a closer look at what science tells us about our real-life decision making. The advantages and disadvan-tages of snap judgments and reflective decision making are the topics for these two chapters. Chapters 10 and 11 are of particular importance to people pursuing careers in professional fields like business, health care, education, communication, counseling, law, social work, or engineer-ing because effective decision making is so valuable in professional practice disciplines. We draw all the bits and pieces together in Chapters 12,
13, and 14. This trilogy of chapters emphasizes inference and explanation. At one level they explore the benefits, uses, strengths, and weaknesses of the three most powerful forms of argument making: comparative (“this is like that”) rea-soning, ideological (“top down”) reasoning, and empirical (“bottom up”). But for us they are more than just chapters in a text book.
Do not miss Chapters 12, 13, and 14. They are the heart of the matter. These three set up the most powerful contrasts between how the members of our species think. These chapters illustrate why we humans so often are unable to come to reasoned accord, even when we are giv-ing it our best effort. It turns out that many of our personal doubts and much of the discord in the world have more to do with how we think than what we think. Chapter 12 explains how powerful analogies and pattern recognition strategies shape our thinking, color our expectations, and persuade us using a minimum of evidence. It turns out that even poor analogies and fumbling metaphors can be wildly effective, amazingly so. We also use top down ideological reasoning, as Chapter 13 explains, to hammer home our prejudices and preconceptions. Ideological rea-soning can often generate unwarranted metaphysical and moral certitude. And these are the seeds of war. And at the same time, as Chapter 14 explains, we use hypotheses and evidence to creep ever so slowly toward a truer and truer
scientific understanding of this marvelously complex uni-verse, always knowing that certitude is beyond our grasp and that the next generation will overturn what truths we feel we have so confidently articulated. These three divergent ways of reasoning often create as many conflicts within our own minds as they create between ourselves and other people. Given how we human beings think, it is clear that strong critical thinking skills and habits of mind are needed if we are to negotiate livable paths not just to our own individual well-being but to the truth about how our universe works, to mutual respect, and to harmony in the world community. As we said earlier, the final chapters take the critical
thinking problem solving process into several quite different but important domains. Because effective writing and criti-cal thinking are connected in the classroom, in every profes-sional field, and all throughout our lives, Chapter 15 shows how to write sound and effective arguments. Because we all have to deal with vexing ethical problems at many points in our lives, Chapter 16 connects critical thinking with ethi-cal decision making. Chapter 17, on the logic of declarative statements, builds on the ideas first presented in the Chapter 8 on valid inferences People interested in accounting, technol-ogy, engineering, and mathematics will see connections with their disciplines and the effort to connect logic, symbolic nota-tion and natural language. Strong critical thinkers engage in social science inquiry into human behavior and apply social science findings to problems in professional fields like edu-cation and communication. Critical thinking is manifested in systematic natural science inquiry into the causal expla-nations for the observed patterns, structures, and functions of natural phenomena from the subatomic to the galactic in scope.
Strong critical thinking skills and a positive critical thinking mindset are integrally connected to success in each of these important domains of life and learning. Use these final chapters to connect the process of critical think-ing to what interests you.
truth-seeking means that a person has intellectual integ-rity and a courageous desire to actively strive for the best possible knowledge in any given situation. A truth-seeker asks probing questions and follows reasons and evidence wherever they lead, even if the results go against his or her cherished beliefs.
open-minded means that a person is tolerant of divergent views and sensitive to the possibility of his or her own possible biases. An open-minded person respects the right of others to have different opinions. analytical means that a person is habitually alert to poten-tial problems and vigilant in anticipating consequences and trying to foresee short-term and long-term outcomes of events, decisions, and actions. “Foresightful” is another word for what “analytical” means here. systematic means that a person consistently endeavors to take an organized and thorough approach to identifying and resolving problems. A systematic person is orderly, focused, persistent, and diligent in his or her approach to problem solving, learning, and inquiry. confident in reasoning means that a person is trustful of his or her own reasoning skills to yield good judgments. A person’s or a group’s confidence in their own critical think-ing may or may not be warranted, which is another matter. inquisitive means that a person habitually strives to be well-informed, wants to know how things work, and seeks to learn new things about a wide range of topics, even if the immedi-ate utility of knowing those things is not directly evident. An inquisitive person has a strong sense of intellectual curiosity. judicious means that a person approaches problems with a sense that some are ill-structured and some can have more than one plausible solution. A judicious person has the cognitive maturity to realize that many questions and issues are not black and white, and that, at times, judg-ments must be made in contexts of uncertainty.
interpretation is an expression of the meaning or signifi-cance of a wide variety of experiences, situations, data, events, judgments, conventions, beliefs, rules, procedures, or criteria. inference identifies and secures elements needed to draw reasonable conclusions; it forms conjectures and hypoth-eses, it considers relevant information, and it reduces or draws out the consequences flowing from data, state-ments, principles, evidence, judgments, beliefs, opin-ions, concepts, descriptions, questions, or other forms of representation. evaluation assesses the credibility of statements or other representations that are accounts or descriptions of a per-son’s perception, experience, situation, judgment, belief, or opinion; also assesses the logical strength of the actual or intended inferential relationships among statements, descriptions, questions, or other forms of representation. self-regulation is a process in which one monitors one’s cognitive activities, the elements used in those activi-ties, and the results educed, particularly by applying skills in analysis, and evaluation to one’s own inferential judgments with a view toward questioning, confirming, validating, or correcting either one’s reasoning or one’s results. analysis identifies the intended and actual inferential relationships among statements, questions, concepts, descriptions, or other forms of representation intended to express belief, judgment, experiences, reasons, informa-tion, or opinions. explanation states and justifies reasoning in terms of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, and contextual considerations upon which one’s results were based; also presents one’s reasoning in the form of cogent arguments.