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What is Wrong with the World? Part 2

November 12, 2014

 What is Wrong with the World? Part 2

Teaching people to think critically before they can think clearly

before

Education in Australia has failed dismally to produce the next generation of thinkers and doers. It has especially failed the students that it is sending out to cope with in a world that does not care for what internal discoveries and self-enlightenments that they made throughout their high school years. Did you achieve Nirvana in year 12? That is well and fine but please keeping stacking those shelves or flipping those burgers or whatever it is that most people do before they start their professional careers. Forget all that. Can you explain why the proposal you suggest is high risk and has no chance of being approved? However, you say that you are so clever because you can question authority. Give me a break, everyone questions authority.

One of the most disappointing problems that I have found as an educator, is that so few students have been educated to think about solving a problem. Rather they have become experts at finding problems where they do not exist and not seeing a problem that in front of their faces.

It is not their fault that they have been taught to use persuasive argument techniques when all we really need is a few solid facts. Nor is it their fault that, when asked to justify why they chose one proposal over another, they resort long diatribes of politics. Nor is it their fault that they believe one alternative is as good as another despite overwhelming evidence to contrary. It is the way that they are being taught to think. In fact, they pride themselves on their ability to think critically about everything. They question everything, accept nothing and use their own experience as the final authority of what is right and wrong. 2+2 may equal to 4 objectively but subjectively they can bend it to match their own critical line of thinking. However what is missing from their line of thinking is the actual foundation of thinking: The ability to think clearly.

Inductive reasoning without deduction is a mess

The education system has abandoned this essential step only to leapfrog over to the fun criticism part. Let’s be honest, who really wants to examine piles of evidence from both sides of the argument when you can choose a side and then cherry pick the evidence to suit? Who really wants to sit there drawing up Venn diagrams so that you can fully understand a situation before embracing an immediate gratification? If I ask someone whether they did their study before sitting an exam I sometimes receive the reply that they do not believe that the exam process fairly identifies their true brilliance. And if you dare ask how they know that they are so smart if they are never tested then you are part of the old way of thinking (as if there is such a thing).

Modern thinking models often miss the point. It appears to focused on argument and epiphany.

The comfort of believing that you are always right is no exchange for being wrong. Regardless of our attitude to what is the truth our opinions are immaterial. People can drown in water, fire still burns, the sun will rise in the morning and bills still need to be paid. Reality sucks in every way possible but it is still there and we need to deal with it.

The lost art of inductive reasoning is being overshadowed by the desire to win every argument through rhetoric and a snappy one-liner. Even the notion of logical fallacies is being hijacked by some as their exclusive property. As helpful as a list of logical fallacies might be they are still limited to the context in which they are used. I have seen people use the phrase “Hitler ad absurdum” to shutdown debate that even relates to eugenics and euthanasia. Rather than instantly blurting out “Hitler ad absurdum” they should be considering the term “Hitler ad appropriate”. However, this is not the only example I am seeing. In fact, the issue is no longer about discovering the truth but one of saving face. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to save face if you do not even know when there is egg all over it.

My quest is simple. Perhaps if we spent more time teaching clear thinking to understand structures before we teach students how to deconstruct then they would be less damaged before having to deal with the realities of life.

Footnote:

Probably the best book on the subject: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/jepsonrw/

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