Critical Thinking

School of Doubt is in Session!

Hello and welcome to School of Doubt, the newest sister site in the Skepchick network!

I’m Alasdair and I’m the site’s admin. It’s my pleasure to welcome you and to explain a little about what’s going to be happening here.

School of Doubt is dedicated to the discussion of skepticism and critical thinking in education. We believe that the development of strong critical thinking skills should be central to an individual’s education and that all young (and older!) people should be given the tools to view the world around them rationally and skeptically. Our contributors bring with them experience from a wide range of educational systems and stages, from the early years of school to the world of postgraduate study.

As skeptics, many of us are familiar with reading about, discussing, and perhaps even confronting viewpoints that are wildly different to our own. So many of the topics that people in the skeptical community discuss, from religion to alternative medicine to conspiracy theories, share the same simple feature: they are easily countered by a healthy dose of rational thinking. At School of Doubt we passionately believe that one of our core roles as educators is to provide our students, no matter their ages, with the skills that will allow them to cut through the nonsense, pseudoscience and confusion that they’ll face as they move into adult life.

 

I’ll tell you a little about myself and then introduce my fellow contributors.  I’m a high school English teacher from Scotland with a strong interest in science and skepticism. I view myself as a secular humanist and I hold some pretty strong views regarding religion in schools.  I run a “young skeptics” club in my school one lunchtime each week, where a group of pupils gets together to discuss issues like religion, alternative medicine, logical fallacies, and anything else from the world of skepticism that happens to pop up. I’m also currently doing an Open University physics degree so that I can become qualified as a science teacher at some point in the near future.

Most of my own posting will revolve around skepticism in a high school setting, but School of Doubt is lucky enough to have a wonderful group of contributors who bring experience from all over the educational world.

 

In their own words:

Nicole is a newly minted Ph.D in astronomy and works with the fabulous project known as CosmoQuest. Her home on the internet can be found at One Astronomer’s Noise.

Will is a cultural anthropologist interested in critical theory, science studies, human evolution, politics, and popular culture. His cultural interests include secular humanism, atheism and religious criticism, CAM, pseudoscience, and public perceptions and understandings of science. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his partner and five dogs.

Corey Lee Wrenn is an ABD PhD and Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Social Psychology.  She has published with several peer-reviewed academic journals on topics including social inequality, Nonhuman Animal rights, and social movement theory.

DrShell is an Associate Professor of English at a small liberal arts college. She teaches world literature, composition, popular culture, and speculative fiction and serves as faculty sponsor for the Secular Student Alliance. DrShell lives in tame suburbia with her husband and son and a pack of rescued pets, where she spends a lot of time running, taking Body Pump classes, and thinking about getting another tattoo.

Tori Parker met her first atheist by accident one day when she was 16 and was sucked into the scary yet fascinating world of critical thinking. Now, over a dozen years later, she teaches high school English to classes of students in central Ohio, and sneaks some critical thinking into her lessons to help enlighten them as well. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys managing a household containing herself, one man, one small child and many pets. She is also a champion at Bejeweled, if you take a very loose interpretation of the word ‘champion’.

Professor P.E. Robinson teaches astronomy to non-science majors at a 2-year college in the United States. He has a decade of experience teaching science in higher education, and providing professional development experiences to astronomers and other educators. Skepticism and critical thinking are key components of everything he teaches.

Dan is a doctoral candidate in Musicology and a sessional instructor (aka adjunct) at a major Canadian university. He mainly works on the Italian Renaissance when he’s not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy.

 

If you’re a reader of other Skepchick sites then you’ll likely be familiar with how School of Doubt is going to operate. All of our contributors will be writing their own posts individually, but we’ll also have some super-exciting regular features!

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’ll have a Pop Quiz, where one of us will introduce a discussion topic and ask for readers’ views.  There will be no extra credit to be awarded, but there are several stick-on gold stars to be earned.

Every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday we’ll be providing some Required Reading: a selection of links to interesting education or skepticism-themed articles and posts from across the internet.

 DrShell will provide us with fortnightly Lesson Plans on alternate Mondays, where she’ll be discussing strategies for incorporating skepticism into specific classroom lessons.

Every other Wednesday, Professor Robinson will be holding Office Hours, where students and educators can write in with questions about skepticism and critical thinking in education.

 

School of Doubt is a part of the Skepchick network and as such we share our older sibling site’s perspectives on equality and feminism. I’ve always viewed myself as a feminist man, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I truly understood what that meant. I started to read Skepchick at roughly the same time that I met my partner, who is an active feminist and was one of the co-organisers of the Glasgow Feminist Network while she lived in the city. Before I met her, I was the kind of guy who believed in absolute equal rights for women but who kinda figured that hey, it’s the 21st century and everything’s cool for women now, right?

I’d never really considered the fact that I don’t ever need to feel particularly scared if I have to walk home alone at night, or that the vast majority of the female characters in the video games I love are sexualised caricatures, or that Rape Culture might actually be a thing. I’d never head the phrase “safe space”. I’d never really paid attention to how many movie conversations between two women end up being about men. I see things more than a little differently now.

It is my firm belief ( and one that I’m sure is shared by my co-contributors) that education is absolutely key in tackling misogyny and other prejudices. If we can help young people to think critically about themselves and the world around them, if we can help them to take responsibility for their own thoughts and give them to confidence to hold others to account for theirs, then we will have done genuine good.

 

Well, that’s about it. We hope you enjoy the site; I’m extremely excited to be a part of this and to have the chance to write alongside such a diverse group of people. Keep checking back over the next few weeks and months as the site grows, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

School of Doubt: making the world a more skeptical place, one student at a time.

Featured image credit: ToGa Wanderings

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Alasdair

Alasdair

Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

7 Comments

  1. March 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm —

    This site is going to be a fabulous resource. Thank you for doing this!

  2. Tyler
    March 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm —

    Thank you so much for this site! I am currently doing my student teaching for high school biology, and this is such an amazing resource. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • March 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm —

      Thanks to both of you, Amy and Tyler! I can’t wait to see the site grow over the next few months. Best of luck with your studies, Tyler. It’s an amazingly fun profession!

  3. Malte
    March 2, 2013 at 7:23 am —

    Thank you! I am about to finish my education to become a high school physics and English teacher in Germany. Lesson plans and ideas about how to introduce critical thinking into science classes are greatly appreciated.

  4. March 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm —

    This is absolutely wonderful! I’m a Drama and English teacher in Canada – I look forward to combining edu-geekery with skepti-geekery.

  5. Marjie
    March 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm —

    This is exciting and so needed. Thanks!

  6. Nema Tode
    March 2, 2013 at 10:37 pm —

    I’m so glad you started this blog!! I was just thinking yesterday about how I wished I could find a rich source of skeptic evaluations of education issues, to equal the skeptic podcasts and blogs that I love but which don’t often address education theories and practices. So I’m so happy that this blog exists now! I have an MA in Education and I was quite appalled at the complete lack of interest in evidence or effectiveness on the part of my professors and the text books they assigned. I suspect that the entire field has this problem. By the time I realized that they were teaching us basically nothing, I was so invested that I finished and at least got a valuable degree out of it. My degree gives me access to teaching jobs, but I’m still uncomfortable with my level of training. I’m keeping an eye out for high-quality teacher-training because I would like to be a more effective teacher. I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on evidence-supported approaches to teaching and looking for reliable sources. I hope this site will become a vortex of reliable information about education!

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