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Use Critical Thinking Skills

Open your eyes to critical thinking skills

Open your eyes to critical thinking skills

Open your eyes to critical thinking skills

In the present business and political context, critical thinking skills are more important than ever.  We are figuratively drowning in fake news and  false information, thanks to the new powers that be.

What can you do to be aware of and fight against misinformation? And practice your English writing skills, particularly the skill of summarizing?

In a previous post on critical thinking skills,  I looked at five principles of critical thinking.  You need to be aware of:

1.  Stereotypical or reflective thinking

2. Correct statements vs. false statements, i.e.,  real facts versus “alternative facts”

3. Multiple viewpoints to expand your thinking

4. How your previous knowledge and experience affect your thinking

5. Invalid principles and assumptions or definitions

In a recent article in the Guardian, the author analyzes the message in two great British novels: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

The article offers some great advice about using critical thinking skills in confronting misinformation.

Here are four strategies to improve your critical thinking skills.

Let’s  learn some great content and at the same time practice summarizing – a useful business and academic skill.

Use critical thinking skills to fight misinformation

Use critical thinking skills to fight misinformation

After you read each point, write the general idea in your own words on a piece of paper.  Then check my suggested summaries after writing your own.  No cheating!

First: treat false allegations as an opportunity. Seek information as close to the source as possible. The internet represents a great chance for citizens to do their own hunting – there’s ample primary source material, credible eyewitnesses, etc, out there – though it can also be manipulated to obfuscate that. No one’s reality, least of all our collective one, should be a grotesque game of telephone.

Second: don’t expect “the media” to do this job for you. Some of its practitioners do, brilliantly and at times heroically. But most of the media exists to sell you things. Its allegiance is to boosting circulation, online traffic, ad revenue. Don’t begrudge it that. But then don’t be suckered about the reasons why Story X got play and Story Y did not.

Third: for journalists, Jay Rosen, a former student of my father’s [Neil Postman] and a leading voice in the movement known as “public journalism”, offers several useful, practical suggestions.

Finally, and most importantly, it should be the responsibility of schools to make children aware of our information environments, which in many instances have become our entertainment environments, but there is little evidence that schools are equipped or care to do this. So someone has to.

We must teach our children, from a very young age, to be skeptics, to listen carefully, to assume everyone is lying about everything. (Well, maybe not everyone.) Check sources. Consider what wasn’t said. Ask questions. Understand that every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform.

Here is more about about detecting fake news.

My suggested summaries of each of the four points. Don’t worry if your summaries are different. There are lots of different ways to write them.

1. When faced with false news, use it as an occasion to check reliable sources yourself to get the facts.

2. When using “the media”—whose primary goal is to make money,  be aware of any biases or particular viewpoints that exist.

3. If you are a reporter, find out what Jay Rosen suggests in his article.

4. Schools should teach children to be skeptical and aware of any bias in what they read or listen to by checking alternative sources.

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