Critical Thinking

Where to Begin Thinking Critically?

I realize almost no one will read this, but for the few who do, I have question. (I’ll keep this post short.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the most basic aspects of critical thinking: where to start a primer for students who have never really encountered it before. While “critical thinking” is a common buzzword, most people, including many teachers, don’t seem to actually understand what it is or use the term correctly (as I’ve written about before).

When it comes to teaching students, there’s big question of where exactly to begin. Critical thinking has so many important aspects, and while skeptics (myself included) like to focus on a few specific ones, like logical fallacies or quoting Carl Sagan, there really is a whole lot there to delve into.

What interests me the most in teaching is finding ways to ignite a spark of interest in my students, but most of the skills in thinking critically are very difficult and require a lot of mental energy even at the best of times. A good starting point can help students who might not otherwise be interested, but the best I can come up with is “Some information is unreliable, here is proof of that, here is what can happen if you believe it, and here are some ways to check it.”

Do you have a better starting point for teaching critical thinking skills?

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Jay teaches English in Asia and loves skepticism and teaching above all else.


  1. April 2, 2017 at 2:22 pm —

    I’ve presented problems with false premises and asked students to tell me why the conclusions were wrong. The example that springs to mind is an old Seinfeld joke that, since I am the cleanest thing in my apartment after a shower, I never need to walk my towel.

    • April 2, 2017 at 2:24 pm —

      Ahem, I never need to /wash/ my towel.

    • April 5, 2017 at 5:30 am —

      In the past, I tried giving students situations and having them tell me if they were faulty or not, but I’ll be trying something closer to your approach soon. I haven’t thought of that joke before, but I can see the teachable opportunity there with this.

      • April 5, 2017 at 11:50 am —

        What I like about this joke is that it contains its own motivation for many people because it just doesn’t sound right, but the logic seems sound at first glance.

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