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Critical Thinking-Crucial Success Skill

With the focus on passing tests to determine student success being the focus of so many educational institutions since the 1980’s, critical thinking has taken a backseat.

It’s crucial that we help students recognize for every one opinion there should be several opposing opinions. Finding opposing opinions was much easier in the 1970’s when students had to visit a library to get different views on a topic. Today they open their computers, insert a question into the search bar and have multiple articles pop up. However, it appears to be more difficult to find varied opinions. Unfortunately, students don’t question why this is the case. They have grown to believe what they read is accurate because it is on the internet. In many cases, this is the furthest thing from the truth, so they need to be taught how to question everything they see and hear.

To teach critical thinking, we need to help students read material through questioning lenses. My students were reading an article on Cows and the methane they produce. The article began, “Some scientists believe…” Well, that is a red flag for me. I asked the children, “If some scientist feel this way, who are they and are there other scientists with differing beliefs?” Pointing out the words that are signals that questions need to be asked will help create critical readers. Once they ask the questions, they need to follow it up with more research and not accept one opinion as the only one.

I grew up surrounded by adults with varying views. It was not uncommon to listen to the adults at our weekly Friday night dinners discuss one topic and hear 16 different views over the course of our meal. I heard a lot of , “on the other hand..” statements. So, It is natural for me to seek more opinions. So, we did a search to see if we could find a variety of views on this topic of cows and their impact on global warming.

When we did my search to find all the opinions on the topic of cows and global warming, what we found raised another flag for me. So I asked my students, “Why are their only articles of one opinion offered? Where are the scientists who disagree? Why aren’t their articles offered in the search I requested?” I have lived long enough to see many scientific findings to be found to be incorrect, so it makes me a bit skeptical if I can’t find multiple opinions.

After asking different questions in the search bar, we did come across a few articles disagreeing with the current ‘acceptable’ opinion. I encouraged them to ask, “Why did I have to search so far? Who wants us to believe that cows are the cause of global warming? Is there financial gain by accepting this belief?”

We haven’t come up with an answers, but we have to ask the questions.

I encourage parents and teachers to encourage their children to do the same.

Why do I encourage this?

I have lived long enough to see proven scientific research to be found to be incorrect. In the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s cigarette smoking was prescribed by doctors who claimed they were the best way to reduce stress. Who was behind the findings? It was discovered in the 1960’s it was the tobacco companies who provided the research. In the 50’s, cereal companies proved sugar did not make one fat, but fat did. Then years later, the data was proven to be incorrect. I was frightened by a headline on the cover of Time Magazine in the late 1950’s stating, “Going Into an Ice Age,.” I get cold easily, so this was very disturbing to a five year old. These memories, along with others, have left me a skeptic.

Most recently, tax credits were offered if homeowners installed astroturf. By time I installed 3,000 square feet of astroturf it was discovered that astroturf increases the heat of the planet, so no longer was a tax relief offered, but millions of dollars of turf was sold.

Once one asks, “What other opinions are there on this topic? Who is benefitting from it financially? Who did the research? Why are there not more studies on this topic? we will see things differently.

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