Are today’s College Students Critical Thinkers?
One of my favorite lectures when teaching a psychology or sociology class is on the topic of critical thinking. Unfortunately, today’s culture is one of critics not critical thinkers. You seek out truth through a philosophical base, a world view so to speak. Seems today’s educators transmit a philosophy negative in its approach toward society and the world; Marxist without even saying the word. Finding fault is not critical thinking. It is just being critical.
You can seek the root cause or truth of the matter by asking those critical thinking questions needed for some clarity of the situation: who, what, where, when, how, even why.
But without a proper philosophical base, the conclusions can be off base on reality. Are people poor because of lack of values or poor because of social structure? Is there prejudice because of improper education, or because of improper parenting, or because of historical experience? So we delve into finding answers to those critical thinking questions. Well, forever and ever are the debates and analyses because we just can’t blindly take anyone’s word for it.
I told my class we should arrest all teenagers in the summer months if we witness them entering a convenience store and buying an ice cream bar. Clearly they are up to no good, so we might as well nip it in the bud. “What are you talking about?” they cry out.
“City police statistics do show that burglaries increase substantially during the summer months,” I say, and then continue. “Convenience store sales of ice cream also increases during the summer months. So, let’s put two and two together and get those kids; obviously potential thieves.”
Preposterous I know. I mean who would fall for that? This is what we call a correlation. Yes, the two statistics of summertime behavior both increase, but the the fact that one cause the other is absent. Could be more people in the street during the summer. Could be more kids with nothing to do since school is closed, not the ice cream. Could be more people on vacation during the summer. Could be windows open for a breeze during the summer luring someone to grab an apple pie on the window sill. And so on. You can think of other reasons for an increase in burglaries.
Police will tell us that when the moon is full, burglaries and assaults increase. Perhaps violent crime rises and falls with the lunar cycles. Some scientists believe the moon’s gravitational pull has an affect upon brain cells causing aberrant behavior. How do you prove that? Or is it just another correlation without causation and without proof?
We always hear advertisements such as 75% of all dentists surveyed approve of ‘Happy Paste’ for brushing your teeth. Should we rush out and buy it? Maybe they work for the company, ‘Happy Paste’. And what is 75%? Three out of four [75%] surveyed is hardly enough to convince me of buying it.
The point is you have to come up with reasonable conclusions while employing a critical thinking mode. Are there deceptive statistics? Are there multiple causes? Are there fallacies in the reasoning process? All as illustrated above.
The bible has something to say about critical thinking. Here are a few. First when seeking out the truth of the matter, be careful not to rush to conclusions, judging, and avoid reacting too harshly, too soon.
“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
Or, be sure to be aware of all the issues on a matter. It is so easy to be fooled from lack of information. And as the contemporary adage goes, “If you believe in nothing, you’ll believe in anything.”
“The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps”
Self interest may also keep one from thinking critically since it constricts the view and narrows the focus excessively. Our truth is not thee truth. That's cultural relativity.
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Critical thinking exercises in a college classroom can be fun, but I believe the current propaganda efforts of our behavioral and social scientists, society’s new priestly class, curtails our critical thinking processes. We call that political correctness, the woke mentality.
Grasha. A. F. Practical Applications of Psychology. Winthrop Publishing.