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Critical Thinking

HANDOUT FOR POLITICAL SCIENCE AND AMERICAN GOVERNMENT Definition: The application of principles of logic and reason in a deliberative process of decision-making. The following are attributes of critical thinkers: They 1. Care that their beliefs be true, and that their decisions be justified; that is, care to "get it right" to the extent possible. This includes the dispositions to a. Seek alternative hypotheses, explanations, conclusions, plans, sources, etc., and be open to them b. Endorse a position to the extent that, but only to the extent that, it is justified by the information that is available c. try to be well informed d. Consider seriously other points of view than their own 2. Care to present a position honestly and clearly, theirs as well as others'. This includes the dispositions to a. try to be clear about the intended meaning of what is said, written, or otherwise communicated, seeking as much precision as the situation requires b. Determine, and maintain focus on, the conclusion or question c. Seek and offer reasons d. Take into account the total situation e. to be reflectively aware of their own basic beliefs

PROCESS of Critical Thinking

1. Analyze arguments a. Identify conclusions b. Identify stated reasons c. Identify unstated reasons d. Identify and handle irrelevance e. See the structure of an argument f. Summarize 2. Ask and answer questions of clarification and/or challenge, such as, a. Why? b. What is your main point? c. What do you mean by? d. What would be an example? e. What would not be an example (though close to being one)?

f. How does that apply to this case (describe a case, which might well appear to be a counter example)? g. What difference does it make? h. What are the facts? 3. Define terms. a. Clear communication requires accurate use of words. He who defines the terms wins the argument. b. Be aware of different uses of the same word and know how some words have shifted meaning over time. c. Some terms are meant to be used with precision while others are general in their natural use. Be sure that you know the difference. 4. Judge the credibility of a source. Major criteria include: a. Expertise b. Lack of conflict of interest c. Agreement among sources d. Reputation e. Use of established procedures f. Known risk to reputation g. Ability to give reasons h. Careful research and methodology 5. Deduce, and judge deduction a. Class logic b. Conditional logic c. Interpretation of logical terminology in statements, including (1) Negation and double negation (2) Necessary and sufficient condition language (3) Such words as "only", "if and only if", "or", "some", "unless", "not both". 6. Induce, and judge induction a. To generalizations. Broad considerations: (1) Typicality of data, including sampling where appropriate (2) Breadth of coverage b. To explanatory conclusions (including hypotheses) (1) Major types of explanatory conclusions and hypotheses: (a) Causal claims (Correlation is NOT causation) (b) Claims about the beliefs and attitudes of people (c) Interpretation of authors intended meanings (d) Historical claims that certain things happened (e) Reported definitions (f) Claims that some proposition is an unstated reason that the person actually used

(2) Characteristic investigative activities (a) Designing experiments, including planning to control variables (b) Seeking evidence and counterevidence (c) Seeking other possible explanations (3) Criteria, the first three being essential, the fourth being desirable (a) The proposed conclusion would explain the evidence (b) The proposed conclusion is consistent with all known facts (c) Competitive alternative explanations are inconsistent with facts (d) The proposed conclusion seems plausible 7. Make and judge value judgments: Important factors: a. Background facts b. Consequences of accepting or rejecting the judgment c. Prima facie application of acceptable principles d. Alternatives e. Balancing, weighing, deciding 8. Attribute unstated assumptions. Determine what must be true in order for the premises to be true. If the basic assumption(s) are untrue (or suspect) then the conclusion is necessarily suspect. Ask this question, What fact, if true, would change your position? If the answer is nothing, then there is little to be gained by continued discussion with this person. Developing Listening Skills CLASS Exercise: Volunteers should be given a few minutes to review one of the following short speeches before delivering them to the class. The audience should be attentive to parts of the speech that: 1. are opinion; 2. call for an unwarranted inference; 3. make a conclusory statement; 4. are based upon non-ascertainable facts, or 5. use facts that are verifiable but irrelevant. Speech One Fellow students: It is with a heavy heart that I must come before you today, bringing news that the present crisis in education is worsening. Student SAT scores are at an all-time low and drop-out rates are skyrocketing! Our greatest national, resource, our youth, are in being neglected by politicians hostile to the future. These narrow-minded, self-serving bureaucrats are destroying Americas future with their partisan bickering over budget increases. They obviously have no concern for our children or they would stop being so stingy with their money. IF we ever hope to make America great again, we must increase the national education budget and if this Congress wont do it, we

must do whatever it takes to remove them from office and replace them the true representatives of the people- the ones who will place education FIRST on the national agenda. Thank You. Speech Two Friends, I am grateful to share with you a matter of great importance to us all. My little daughter was injured last fall when a wheel came off of a defective stroller. Thank goodness she was not seriously injured as she could have been very badly hurt. At first I thought it was just a fluke- that my stroller was the only one. I heard later that many strollers of this model have been sent out by the manufacturer and that several other children might have been similarly put at risk. Dozens of children under the age of eighteen months old have been dumped from their strollers because of this defect and yet, the manufacturer continues to knowingly sell these dangerous devices. I would like to ask you to join me in putting pressure on Congress so that new legislation may be introduced to force manufacturers and retailers to improve their quality control measures. It is vital that further risk be minimized, and compensation might be made to those whose children have been injured. Thank You Speech Three Note to speaker: First- write the words Dihydrogen Monoxide on the black board. Then give the short speech that follows. Emphasize each of the 7 bad conditions in the strongest way possible. ********** I am here today to implore you join me in demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical "dihydrogen monoxide." This chemical causes the following conditions: 1. cause excessive sweating and vomiting; 2. it is a major component in acid rain; 3. it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state; 4. accidental inhalation can kill you; 5. it contributes to erosion; 6. it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes; and, 7. it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients. Because of the foregoing evidence, I have a petition demanding that our legislators ban this obnoxious substance. I am going to ask you to raise your hands if you will sign the petition that I am going to circulate. ********

Wait a few seconds and look at the audience expectantly. ( see how many raise their hands) Thank them for their good citizenship. NOTE ***** A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair, April 26 (97?). He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was water. The title of his prize winning project was, "How Gullible Are We?" He feels the conclusion is obvious. Speech Four I've done a little research, and what I've discovered should make anyone think twice.... 1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users. 2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests. 3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations. 4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread. 5. Bread is made from a substance called "dough." It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month! 6. Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and osteoporosis. 7. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days. 8. Bread is often a "gateway" food item, leading the user to "harder" items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts. 9. Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person. 10. Newborn babies can choke on bread. 11. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.

12. Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling. In light of these frightening statistics, I urge my fellow citizens to join this crusade immediately. I propose the following bread restrictions: 1. No sale of bread to minors. 2. A nationwide "Just Say No To Toast" campaign, complete celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers. 3. A 300 percent federal tax on all bread to pay for all the societal ills we might associate with bread. 4. No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage. 5. The establishment of "Bread-free" zones around schools. Send comments to: Disclaimer: This material was largely assembled from the Internet and is distributed for educational purposes only. May be dangerous in the wrong hands. Adult supervision is strongly encouraged. Do not try these exercises at home. Offer void where prohibited.

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Critical Thinking
PHIL 123 Critical Thinking
Points: Faculty: School: 20 Humanities & Soc Sc History, Phil, Pol Sci & IR Prerequisites: Corequisites: Restrictions: None None None

This course provides an introduction to the theory of critical thinking. Students will learn how to evaluate arguments and weigh up the evidence in support of a conclusion. Students will also learn how to make rational decisions based on the hypotheses they come to believe after consideration of such arguments. 70% internal assessment, 30% examination.

Tuition Fees
2012: domestic $755.00 2011: domestic $726.00 international $3,341.60 international $3,241.60

Set Text
PHIL 123 Book of Readings. Available from Vicbooks, Student Union Building

Trimester 2 2011
* indicates instructor is the course coordinator.

CRN 13093

From/To 11 Jul 16 Oct 2011

Days Mon, Wed, Thu

Time 1310 - 1400

Building [Campus] Maclaurin [Kelburn]

Room LT101


Stuart Brock

Trimester 1 2012
* indicates instructor is the course coordinator.
CRN 13093 From/To 5 Mar 10 Jun 2012 Days Mon, Wed, Fri Time 1000 - 1050 Building [Campus] Maclaurin [Kelburn] Room LT101 Instructor

College Students Lack Critical Thinking Skills, But Whos To Blame?


A new study suggests that American universities are failing in what is supposed to be one of the their core missions: NEW YORK An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didnt learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education. Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldnt determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin. Arum, whose book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective. Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After

four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called higher order thinking skills. Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time or 85 hours a week socializing or in extracurricular activities. The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups. Perhaps most the most interesting thing about the study is the manner in which the results seem skewed by field of study: Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills. Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings dont preclude the possibility that such students are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills. Greater gains in liberal arts subjects are at least partly the result of faculty requiring higher levels of reading and writing, as well as students spending more time studying, the studys authors found. Students who took courses heavy on both reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages in a semester) showed higher rates of learning. Thats welcome news to liberal arts advocates. I would think it would be, but on some level such an analysis would seem to ignore the reasons that students go to college today. Unlike in the past, when a college education was viewed as an opportunity for learning, there seems to be more of a focus today on learning skills that will lead to a high rate of monetary return after college. Majoring in history or political science may help you to learn to think critically, and that is a skill that is valuable in fields like medicine and law, but its unlikely to lead to the same level of monetary reward as someone who pursues, say, a Masters In Business Administration. On some level, colleges have become vocational school almost as much as they are institutions of higher learning. Im not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing, but its the world that we live in and its unlikely to change. Ann Althouse, who teaches law at the University of Wisconsin, wonders why the study concentrates so much on the students and not the professors: Id like a study analyzing whether the professors know how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument, and objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event. It strikes me as a fair point considering that it is sort of difficult to teach someone a skill you dont possess yourself. Another blogger points out that this isnt just an indictment of college education in the U.S.: By the time our kids get to college it is too late to change habits por learn new skills that should have been taught to them in grade k-12 in my opinion. This study does not merely condemn colleges, it throws a harsh light on our primary education system on this country. In general, the US doesnt pay our teachers well (compared to other professions and other nations), nor do we reward them for excellence, nor do we often provide them with a system that accurately assesses their efforts (i.e., No child left behind ring any bells?). This is a fair point. Students do not walk into college blank slates, but as products of the education they received for twelve years before that. If colleges are failing at their primary mission, it isnt necessarily their fault.