CT Free Lesson 3

Let’s ask one more snap-judgement practice. Does this look good or smell funny:

6. Japan is the best country. 

  • To approach this in critical thinking, we have to ask ourselves questions. Why is it the best country? How? What is our evidence? Did we make any assumptions? Countries are so complex, it seems nearly impossible to compare them in whole. In the West, if we think it is the best country, we would say Japan is the best country for me. Then, it becomes my opinion and not a scientific-like claim. That’s why children in English speaking countries (critical thinking countries) start understanding about themselves from their own subjective point of views and then expand their views to more objective views.  (Unfortunately, Japanese children do not have that opportunity …)

Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective judgements on the basis of well-supported reasons and evidence, rather than emotion and anecdote. An anecdote is a story about one case or incident, and it is often incorrectly used to support a claim. For example, one internet Q & A asks, “Could teaching English to Japanese children at a young age result in harming them?” This is answered, “No! I know a 12-year-old girl who started studying English at three years old, and she was perfect in both languages.” This is just one case, and it does not mean that all children will become perfect in both languages. To answer the question, we need to find just one case of a Japanese child who has been harmed. (Of course, we would first have to define “harm”.)

It’s important to keep in mind that not all opinions are equal. Your opinion is not equal to those of others if it ignores reality. If you actually believe there is a huge rabbit on the moon, your opinion ignores reality and is not equal to others. 

The process of critical thinking treats the mind neither as a storage bin nor a sponge. In that sense, rote memorization for entrance examinations is meaningless. Kids need to observe their world, gather experiences and think! We are writing this at a time when Japanese students have been deprived of their summer holidays because of the Covid pandemic. This disregards the science that tells us the children’s brains need time to be away from school work in order to properly develop. 

Critical thinking is not only indispensable in ordinary life, but also fundamental to all science. 

One common mistake is that critical thinkers are always critical. Being critical is important, but is just one aspect of critical thinking. It is also important to be logical, objective, scientific and specific. Even when we read a textbook, for instance, we need to ask ourselves if what is written there is correct, and how the author knows it. This way of thinking goes against the teachings of the Japanese education system.

Welcome to thinking freely.

Before you go, enjoy the snap judgement quiz coming up next.

Then, move on to Unit 1 to start becoming a wonderful critical thinker!