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Teaching Critical Thinking

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Twisties

Real story, small town politics. 

 

Thursday night a Conservative friend was outraged that her 9th grade daughter was offered a choice of assignments on genocide in Honors English.  One choice was to compare Trump and Hitler.  There were two readings to choose from in that category, one that referred to the comparison as a "blunder" and the other that said "comparison too easy."  The students choosing that assignment would be expected to use research and critical thinking to write an essay comparing... and I presume that would mean most likely finding little in common.  There were other choices such as The Armenian Genocide, The Holocaust, and 6 or 7 others.

 

After creating a firestorm on Facebook, the parent went to the school Friday and was told that the issue, Trump being like Hitler/Nazi, was in the news, that they were trying to teach kids how to research and analyze such claims as part of their curriculum using current events to engage students in these activities.

 

The parent remained outraged, convinced that the teacher was biased, was forcing her bias on her daughter, that her daughter was graded low for not believing that Trump was like Hitler, and should be fired.  Her only evidence was that asking the kids to do the comparison was biased (an outrage) in and of itself.

 

I was vilified in the Facebook post for suggesting that both readings actually refute the validity of the comparisons and that these are the very critical analysis skills we need to teach...  I said I could see no evidence of bias in this...  let's face it, our kids see the same memes we do and I have seen three of these just since this erupted Thursday night.  I thought they should be learning to how to dig deeper.  About four people agreed, and maybe 60 remained outraged.   The mother posted asking, what does this have to do with spelling and grammar, and got much support.    

 

The experience has left me questioning how our schools are supposed to teach.  

 

What do you think?

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szurszewski

Well, first off I hope by ninth grade they already have spelling and grammar under control...

 

I’m with you and the teacher on this one, but if the teacher didn’t expect exactly this sort of thing to happen then they weren’t thinking things through either. 

 

I wonder if any of the comparisons address their hairstyles...

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Paul De

A topic like this has the potential for outrage and should have been anticipated.  A clearly defined class objective about critical thinking communicated to the parents may have headed off the outrage based on what sounds like a wrongly assumed intent.

 

Maybe anmother way to have approached the topic of genocide is to use a more open question about genocide, why and how it happens and have the student define a more specific narrowed topic.  It is an honors level class so less guiding of the topic specific to write about could be a reasonable expectation and a big addition to the critical thinking learning experience.  That said a general question approach would require careful vetting of each students outline on the topic to be sure they weren't heading down controversial rabbit hole.  They are only 13-14 year olds after all, and are capable of some grand blunders at that age.

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mbelectric

At least the discussion is being had...and we still live in a country where folks can form their own opinions based on facts. At least I think we still do, although sometimes it seems the First Amendment is being threatened.

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tallman

"Critical Thinking" was one, of many, I taught for over 25 years.

At this point, all I can add is if I had the ability to give everyone, everywhere, whatever they wanted, whenever they want it, there would be some who found fault

and criticized my effort because I was a "Teacher".

Plenty of experts.

 

"Our schools" is, of course, non-existent.

 

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Patallaire

It strikes me that the question had it own presumption, thus the inference of bias.  The assumption was that Trump should be compared to Hitler, or not.  But the anchor was there that there should be a direct reference to that bias.  I find it sort of like asking, "Do you still beat your wife?" It was a bad question and a trap question.  It elicited thought and response  on a presumption.  That presumption was the given.  The critical thinking answer should have been, "This is a stupid question."

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szurszewski

The analogue to, do you still beat your wife, would have been more like, explain the similarities between...

 

Not knowing more about the situation I suppose we could assume the teacher is a liberal democrat, but if we’re going to make an assumption I’d rather assume they pulled that topic from the media - this teacher (almost) certainly didn’t originate the idea. 

 

Trump is the leader of a powerful nation and got there by using a lot of emotionally charged rhetoric in his campaign. I think a comparison to Hitler is an easy one to make for those who would vilify Trump, so why not get students to look at the issue critically so that they can make their own judgement?

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mbelectric

^^^^^That^^^^^

 

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roadscholar
14 hours ago, Patallaire said:

The critical thinking answer should have been, "This is a stupid question."

 

Or worse, a devious one with malicious intent which is probably why the kid's mom is pissed off. She thinks the prof wants to help perpetuate the false narrative created by the crooked bastard(s) in the media.

 

12 hours ago, szurszewski said:

Not knowing more about the situation I suppose we could assume the teacher is a liberal democrat, but if we’re going to make an assumption I’d rather assume they pulled that topic from the media - this teacher (almost) certainly didn’t originate the idea. 

 

Trump is the leader of a powerful nation and got there by using a lot of emotionally charged rhetoric in his campaign. I think a comparison to Hitler is an easy one to make for those who would vilify Trump, so why not get students to look at the issue critically so that they can make their own judgement?

 

Let's be clear, Hitler was a deranged evil dictator that exterminated (systematically murdered) hundreds of thousands of people he didn't like. To compare him and Trump by saying they've both used emotionally charged rhetoric is grasping at straws, ludicrous, and another desperate attempt by the left to 'vilify' a president they despise. Trump may be an egotistical arrogant a-hole at times but he really hasn't done anything bad. So far. That we know of : )

 

 

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RecentConvert

I too think it is biased.  Substitute "Obama" for "Trump" in the assignment,  if that can't be done without angst or reaction, it is a biased question. 

 

Critical, unbiased thinking is required of the educator also.   IMO, it is the teacher's (instructor's, professor's) job to teach them HOW to think, not WHAT to think.   If that instructor has strong political opinions, view etc, keep them out of the classroom,  write or speak to your hearts content outside of the classroom.  To those that teach, you have more influence than your realize.

 

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Indy Dave

Perhaps a larger issue here - and one that I believe is problematic to our political socialization - is that the parent wants her (political) bias to be reinforced in and by the school. 

 

 

 

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Indy Dave
1 hour ago, RecentConvert said:

I too think it is biased.  Substitute "Obama" for "Trump" in the assignment,  if that can't be done without angst or reaction, it is a biased question. 

 

 

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=obama+compared+to+hitler&oq=obama+compared+to+hitler&aqs=chrome..69i57.4393j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

 

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Bud

My son teaches logic at the college level. A requirement for graduation.

 

So I was amused when one of his students, which he did not identify, appealed his grade of C in the class. His reason for appealing?  He wouldn't get into medical school if he didn't have straight A's. 

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realshelby

No matter your position on this, and it is obvious that there are automatic responses based on predisposed position, there is more to this. 

 

Education is learning. I cannot think of a better exercise than forcing a student out of their comfort zone. We learn a LOT from things that are HARD. Hard both in working with something you might think is "wrong" to even ask of you, and to do the research to write something and do it as subjective as possible. 

 

Was the teacher biased? No one here really knows, but there will be an automatic assumption that the point is indoctrinating students. 

 

If it were my child, and I was a far right parent, I would tell the child to turn in the best report in the whole class. 

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Twisties
4 hours ago, realshelby said:

I cannot think of a better exercise than forcing a student out of their comfort zone.

 

One of the mom's comments to me privately was that the school was challenging her daughter's beliefs and making her uncomfortable.  She opined that the school had no right to do so.

 

I didn't argue with her, but thought to myself, so if we are teaching geography and the student opines that the world is flat,  I certainly hope we're going to challenge that belief and grade accordingly.   

Edited by Twisties
grammar
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Bud

Perhaps teaching the world is not flat requires the teacher give students a "trigger warning"?:dopeslap:

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