Education is the development of the skills to ask for facts

The full title of this post should be, “education is the development of the skills to ask for facts not just accepting statements”, but that might be a tad too long for a title.

This post is, in some ways, a carry on from the last post I made. Since making that post I have been banned from several other Facebook sites for asking that they produce evidence for statements made on their site. What is even funnier is that I (and my friends) have been labelled a troll by one of them.

But that aside, my thinking for this post has been prompted by a wonderful book I am reading called Focus by Daniel Goleman, the author of emotional intelligence. Goleman discusses how the imposition of technology has caused people to become easily distracted. Extending on from this, I wonder if technology has stopped us asking questions and seeking alternate explanations, and if the education system has facilitated this lack of interrogative questioning.

Wikipedia has become the source of choice, not just for students, but also educators. My youngest receives her school information and assignment replete with Wikipedia citations from educators despite warnings like this. When I discuss this with my youngest and urge her to use something other than Wikipedia, she quite rightly states that “if it is good enough for the teacher, than why can’t I use it?” How do I counter that logic?

So, how do we encourage people to move from one source to look at other sources? I find this an intriguing as my doctoral research is on critical thinking and while my focus is away from the general education stream. I am more and more convinced that critical thinking is not only lacking in the curriculum but some of our educators also lack the ability to think critically.

If we accept that critical thinking is an ability to define, analyse, and evaluate statements, we can see that critical thinking occurs daily and everyone is a critical thinker to some respect. For example, if you want to buy a new car, you may look at various brands and models, and read reviews from magazines and the internet. After a careful evaluation, you then decide what is best for you. This, in the simplest form, is critical thinking.
Yet, when it comes to education, this type of thinking appears wanting. There are numerous examples on the internet that discuss this very topic. AND yes, I know that I – a few sentences back – I expressed concerns about what is on the internet, but I did use my critical thinking skills and searched for additional material.

Some claim that this lack of critical thinking may result from political bias, for example see this article and if you have time, watch this.  For me, I think the lack of critical thinking stems partly from the political point of view, but mostly from laziness in lifestyle and thinking, and the need to do as much as we can with as little as we possibly can. Also, I often wonder if our slavery to technology has stopped us thinking and caused us to only respond/react, much like Pavlov’s dog?

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