what i did and did not say about critical thinking
Two weeks ago, we had quite a discussion about critical thinking. There was one strand of debate the baffled me. Thomas wrote the following:
“If I don’t teach critical thinking, then what do I teach?” you ask. “Turns out that there is a simple answer: sociology.” It sounds good at first. But what you’re really saying is that you won’t acknowledge a kind of critique that isn’t sociological. That’s certainly the line Goffman’s defenders are taking. If you think she’s wrong, they say, it’s because you don’t understand how ethnographers think.
That is not what I was saying. What I said is this:
Aside from a very simple general rules of thumb, such as “don’t be emotional in arguing” or “show my your evidence,” the best way to be improve your thinking is to learn from those who have spent a lifetime actually trying to figure out specific problems.
I did not say: “only trust experts.” I said: “learn from.” In other words, there are people who have encountered certain problems and they have tried and tested the ideas that might have occurred to you. In the processes of trying out those ideas, they have probably learned important things about the phenomena that you are looking at. You should probably learn those lessons. Once you have absorbed those ideas, you are free to criticize as you will. No one has a monopoly on truth, even the experts. But that doesn’t mean experts are clueless fools. Certainly, “critical thinking” must have a place for learning from other people.