Critical Thinking

Definitions I like:

[W]e need to think because the world we live in, however well we learn to cope with it, is constantly forcing us to choose. When experience surprises or disturbs us, we have to “make up our minds,” and, as the phrase suggests, when we do that, not only are we deciding what to do with the world about us; we are deciding what we are or want to be. —Monroe C. Beardsley, Practical Logic (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1950), x-xi.

[There are] two distinctly different kinds of thinking, creative thinking and critical thinking. Creative thinking may be defined as the formulation of possible solutions to a problem or explanations of a phenomenon, and critical thinking as the testing and evaluation of these solutions or explanations.  –W. Edgar Moore, Creative and Critical Thinking (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1967) 2, 3.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. –Michael Scriven and Richard Paul, “Defining Critical Thinking: A Statement for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction.” http://www.criticalthinking.org/aboutCT/definingCT.shtml (16 May 2005).

from Daryl Close’s “Teaching Critical Thinking”

Reading in America

Was reading a blog this morning. A very negative, inaccurate blog. I try to read alternative views, to keep my vision clear. This one said that you and I are stupid. Well, if you are an American he said you are stupid. He said I am an “uneducated clod”. He said my neighbors were. (Remember blogs are addressed to the reader. “You and yours” means “me and mine” to the reader.)

He also, foolishly, said that he was sure I didn’t know the last 5 books I’d read. Because Americans are too stupid to read. He said my neighbors wouldn’t know either. He took my answer off his site and disconnected comments from it.

This was my answer:

Goddess by Mistake

The Little Girl in the Blue Dress

The Other Linding Girl

The Wedding Assignment

The Baby Assignment

The Culture of Mesopotamia

Wonders of the Ancient World

The Tomorrow Log

A Fantasy Hero

A Summer's Breeze

The Mesopotamians

The Babylonians

The Assyrians

Archaeology and the World

Dummies Guide to Myth

Universal History of the World: Early Civilizations

Ancient Mysteries

GURPS: Low-tech

My Sister Celia

Sweet Adventure

The Curtain Rises

When Love is Blind

song Cycle

No More Secrets

One Good Man

The Black Gryphon

This is a short list, maybe half, of the books I read THIS WEEK.

Maybe the people you know don’;t read, but the people I know do. (Except for two.)

That’s the end of my answer.

I was ANGRY. I was furious that someone, I assume an American, would tell fellow citizens that they are too stupid to read.

I went to nursery class this morning to teach the three year olds like I do on Thursdays. I asked my fellow teachers, who I only see at class and do not know personally, if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. The shortest list was 11. The longest was 17. That’s from 3 people, women who teach nursery school.

I asked my parents if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. They did. My mom has read 9 in the last two days.

Of course, since I read a lot, you would expect people I know to read a lot. I do know two people who don’t read a lot. But they can also tell me the last five books they’ve read. One of them is a doctor and he reads multiple technical/medical journals every month.

A quote from the blog that made me so angry.

Our education level is far below, MANY other countries in the world. Consider the latest statistic that over 60% of Americans read below a 4th grade level. Don’t believe it? Name the last five books you’ve read in the past year. Ask your neighbor to do the same. (If you can do it without naming a magazine article from Car and Driver, I applaude you.) You get a gold star and can consider yourself part of the “elite” 40%)? The rest of the world knows we’re a bunch of uneducated clods…

According to our government, though, our children have an average education for other highly industrialized nation. Our government wasn't too happy that we were average, though. But we certainly aren't below average for the world if we are average for industrialized nations. I would be amazed to find someone outside our own country calling us uneducated clods. Because we aren't.

According to a 1993 literacy study, the average American reads between 8th and 9th grade level. That includes those who are in and grew up in a culture of poverty and are totally or functionally illiterate. According to the site above, most medicaid patients read at a 5th grade level. So according to this, even the functionally illiterate read at the 5th grade level.

If someone is going to say something like you and I are stupid, they ought to be able to back up what they say. And they can’t. Because we’re not.

What does that tell you about the rest of what they say? It isn’t reliable.

I know that people think reading has gone down in America, but I am not sure why they think that. One hundred years ago, my great-grandmother didn’t even finish high school. She was busy working as a secretary in a bank, trying to support my grandmother. She didn’t have time to read. And she was not a stupid woman.

Yes, the most elite read one hundred years ago. Certainly Jefferson, Adams, Washington, and Franklin (200+ years ago) were avid readers. But the regular folks in town? Were they avid readers? I don’t think so.