Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Culture of Discussion: Critical Thinkers -- More on Disposition

'Why-Question' Mark?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still looking at the article by Peter Facione titled "Critical Thinking: What It is and Why it Counts" (2010). In the section of this article under the heading 'The Disposition Toward Critical Thinking,' we find emphasis placed upon asking the question "Why?" (or equivalents):
What kind of a person would be apt to use their critical thinking skills? The experts poetically describe such a person as having "a critical spirit." Having a critical spirit does not mean that the person is always negative and hypercritical of everyone and everything. The experts use the metaphorical phrase critical spirit in a positive sense. By it they mean "a probing inquisitiveness, a keenness of mind, a zealous dedication to reason, and a hunger or eagerness for reliable information." Almost sounds like . . . Sherlock Holmes The kind of person being described here is the kind that always wants to ask "Why?" or "How?" or "What happens if?". The one key difference, however, is that in fiction Sherlock always solves the mystery, while in the real world there is no guarantee. Critical thinking is about how you approach problems, questions, issues. It is the best way we know of to get to the truth. But! There still are no guarantees -- no answers in the back of the book of real life. (Pages 9-10)
Readers may recall my own emphasis upon 'why-questions':
More specifically, critical, creative thinking requires that one rework this 'why-question' by asking two basic but compound (and perhaps complex) questions about a particular belief to be evaluated: 1) What are the reasons for holding your belief and how good are they? 2) What is the evidence supporting this belief and how good is it? These two questions orient one toward sorting out well-grounded from ill-grounded beliefs and toward laying a foundation of more-or-less dependable knowledge.

Beyond these two compound questions is another 'why-question' -- the sort of question that asks about significance. Suppose that a belief is supported by good reasons and solid evidence. One could still wonder why a belief is important and therefore pose the question: "What is the significance of this belief?" This question orients one toward evaluating significant beliefs from less significant ones and determining how coherently they all fit together.
I've already noted that things are more complicated than these three variants of mine on the 'why-question', and my citations from Facione's article demonstrate this as well. Facione's explication of the 'why-question' also has a different emphasis. I've focused upon "why" as a question directed toward one's own beliefs, whereas Facione focuses in the passage quoted above more upon "why" as a question directed toward solving problems. Both focii are necessary in life, of course, for one cannot solve a problem without a willingness to question one's own assumptions.

Moreover, as Facione shows, there are really more than just the 'why-question' -- critical thinkers also ask such questions as the 'how-question' and the 'what-happens-if-question' (which we could shorten to the 'what-if-question').

Questions arise as this point. Why would a society want critical thinkers? How should a society go about developing critical thinkers? What happens if a society changes its educational system to encourage critical thinking?

Korean society, as readers of my previous posts have perhaps noted, needs to be asking such questions.

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At 4:07 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Korean society needs...It could be said that many educational systems need to nurture critical thinkers.

At 4:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Agreed. And even educational systems that do nurture such thinkers will need regular self-reflection to ensure that they continue to do so.

Jeffery Hodges

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