Critical Thinking for Children

When I think about seminal moments in my life and how I managed to be the me that I am today I am becoming more convinced that it was lessons in critical thinking that made the largest impacts.

I don’t know how you would teach children these things but there must be a way. The PBS series with Alan Alda called The Human Spark delves into how the human brain is different than other animals. They show how tests with children show interesting things about us: we are trusting of those in authority and we assign agency to anything, everything, and especially things that we cannot readily explain.





It makes sense to me that we are meat machines. My posts on mechanical atheism allude to this. We are simply unaware of how much is going on inside our heads. If you watch Star Trek, Data knew about his machine existence and what all the parts were doing. We know when our senses are not working right, but for some reason, despite all this information, people still think that our brains are a monolith process.

Sam Harris’ book on free will demonstrates that he does not understand the concept of a hive of processes acting as a single entity. If you remember the story of the 4 blind men and the elephant, all we have so far is the four blind men’s views of our brain and how it works. I’m betting that when we really get to it, we are borg-like. That is, there is no single process that is ‘us’ and in fact the ‘me’ in my head is an emergent effect of many processes working together. The gestalt of it is more than we can yet comprehend.

When the machine knows that it is a machine, does it still need a god? Does it still need to be happy? Does it still need to be fulfilled? Does it need a purpose driven life? These are all good questions, and once you consider that you are a meat machine, how do you answer them?

In those videos you saw how kids are basically hardwired to look for patterns, seek cooperative individuals etc. Think about that for a minute; the very basic building blocks of our societies are hardwired into our brains. The basics of the law of reciprocity is hardwired into our brains. From reciprocity (golden rule) all other ethical laws follow. Morality is hardwired into us in effect.

I am a meat machine. I’m okay with that, but what started all this?

When I was in first grade I discovered the hard way that authority figures will lie to you. They may indeed give you solid advice or training but they are meat machines too, and they will go off the path at will. They cannot be trusted implicitly for all things. You must think for yourself, ask questions, and never ever accept authority based on something as simple as a uniform, title, or ‘their grown ups’ — if you see what I mean. Teach your children that and they will be better off.
Think for yourself. Be.

  1. I taught elementary school. Some ‘gifted’ students attended classes and critical thinking was to be included. I suppose there was a guide to follow. I
    don’t know as it was many years ago. It really should be an on going learning. It should be incorporated in every class and not really be a separate thing… seems to me. Easy to say.

    I know I am still working on mine which I know are very inadequate. 😦

    I am afraid I have become rather irritating to some as I am always questioning something…..just to get at the facts. lol

    • Oh, it’s an ongoing thing alright. I just hope that more kids learn it early rather than in their 30s. Life is easier when you can think critically. 🙂

  1. September 14th, 2012

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