Seems that Katy Independent School, Texas, has a class on Critical Thinking for 7th graders. Students were asked to classify the statement "There is a God", among others, as true, opinion or common assertion in an ungraded assignment. One 12 year old said it was true, and when the teacher indicated that was a false answer - that it was common assertion (or myth in a wide definition) it has caused an uproar.
The little girl insists the teacher said it was false (that there is no god), something very hard to accept in a critical thinking class discussing the statement itself. What the teacher actually said was that the statement (without addressing the merits of the assertion) was common assertion. The class virtually disintegrated (this is Texas, remember) and the girl has appeared before the school board complaining.
It's sad that a 12 year old simply cannot distinguish between opinion (hers) and fact, but what's worse is that neither the media nor the parent(s) can either! And that both media and parents cannot tell the difference between an English class learning critical thinking and an attack on their religious beliefs.
Given that the example was probably a poor choice, is that what our schools should be about? Teach only subjects that have zero chance of encroaching on parental belief systems? Or should we be teaching kids to actually think for themselves and come to their own opinions and conclusions?
First, I'm impressed that there is a class on critical thinking in the public schools. Kudos to them for that.
Second, I am not surprised that so many adults cannot distinguish between a common assertion and a fact. To say that "there is a God" is a common assertion is not the same as saying there is no God.
That said, if I were a teacher I would not use that example as a teaching tool in the 7th grade (college would be fine), simply because of the controversy it would inevitably attract. I would find something else.
Also, why don't Christian parents use it as a teaching moment instead of going all ballistic on the schools? The teacher did not say anything that is untrue. Why don't parents talk to their kids about what "faith" means and how critical thinking and faith are sometimes mutually exclusive? After all, if they are confident in their faith, it should not threaten them to be exposed to other ideas.
I agree with you, both that the teacher didn't say there is no God and that it was a poor example.
As to why parents don't use it - I would have to surmise that their faith isn't great enough to ensure that their kids will not use their skills to take their own faith apart. Exposure to training in how to think is not something the faithful seem to want to see happen.
Yes, there should be critical thinking in schools, starting at the 5th grade. Children at that age should be cognitive enough to analyze and dissect opinions, facts, and falsehoods. Religious subjects should also be delved into in critical thinking classes. That 7th grader has learned her first lesson in critical thinking. The teacher made a simple statement which is rightfully an opinion as it has not been proved. However, the 7th grader was not cognizant enough to distinguish opinion from fact. Thinking critically is the ability to distinguish between opinion, facts, and falsehoods. One's religious faith should never preclude what is believed to be an opinion.
I'm not sure that 5th grade isn't too early, but that is simply ignorance speaking. I'll leave that to the child psychologists to determine.
But what statement did the teacher make that was opinion? That the statement "there is a God" is opinion? That seems self-evident as it cannot be proven.
And I disagree vehemently that school is the place to discuss the truth of religious belief. It is NOT the place to do any more than learn the various beliefs throughout the world. Never to dissect those beliefs or assign the label "true" or "false" to any of them.
Hey guy, once again we see the reason Baskin-Robbins was so successful.
My first reaction was to agree with you and applaud your example. Then I followed your link, and 5 or 6 more from Google, and then 5 or 6 more from the Explore in depth... link. I ended up seeing a different picture than the one you painted.
My initial response was this;
"I think that example was an excellent choice. The details make it almost ideal to make your point.
I think 11-13 year-olds are well beyond the crushing emotional impact of learning the Easter Bunny isn't real. I think they are in just the right developmental state to confront and learn critical thinking processes. And..."
Then discrepancies started popping up. First were the answer choices. Some sources quoted as you did; "... true, opinion or common assertion..," then another source quoted the choices as; "factually true, common assertion, or opinion," another source tossed "myth" into the mix in place of "common assertion."
I think that makes a difference. If "myth" was used, I think it was such a poor choice as to ruin the objectivity of the activity.
I then stumbled on the descriptions of how things went down. In your OP a clear impression of the teacher's follow-up efforts and explanations indicated the teacher was trying to teach the process of validating a choice before you consider it, not that what the choice stated was true or false.
Critical thinking. I can see that as a logical explanation.
But then, all of the links appeared to only have the girl as their source for how things went down. Several mentioned the girl speaking for other classmates, but nowhere did I find a source other than the girl. And as we can expect from news-repeaters, the girl's version(s) all say the teacher told her that she had to admit there was no God. Whether this is true or not, or whether she is lying and it really happened as you say - I don't know. But if her version is the truth, then the teacher badly mishandled this assignment interaction, and it is easy to see the plaintiff's point of view.
So were we just reading the same stuff and getting different perspectives, or is there proof that the teacher's efforts as innocently intended as you say? Or could either interpretation be biased?
No proof, but... given a 12 year old being told she had to agree that a statement she highly agreed with was (opinion/myth/common assertion) it is real easy for me to understand how it became, in her mind, to "God doesn't exist". I also cannot imagine any even half competent critical thinking teacher willing to stand up and say there is no god - the very antithesis of critical thinking. And yes, like you I read a dozen or more reports on the incident.
Nor do I think the girl was intentionally lying. She truly was unable to understand what was being said or asked of her, and coupled with a virtually unshakable belief (belief) in the truth of the statement responded to what she "heard" the teacher say. It's why critical thinking skills need taught, after all.
The media - plainly says to me that they wish to blow it up by intentionally misunderstanding. Or, given that the ones I saw seemed to be all right-wing reporters sensationalizing the story, have the same failure to distinguish between fact and opinion. Something NO reporter should have any trouble with, but very often seem to. Of course, it's the opinions that sell newspapers and further careers, not facts.
The parent in the video - plain (to me) to see where the girl is getting her thought processes, for the parent exhibited the same deplorable lack of ability to actually examine what was said and meant. Just jumped on the religious bandwagon that her child was being told there was no god without ever trying to understand or explain it was the statement, not the assertion that was under discussion.
I also found a reply from the school that said the (ungraded) assignment was an exercise in critical thinking that used a very poor example and it would not be repeated. When it was repeated (before the school could have replied) the media also pointed that out with much glee, of course.
Not sure if I can agree that a 12 year old is beyond being crushed by finding out the god they accept as absolute, incontrovertible fact isn't there, but then that wasn't taught. I should take some years before they learn enough skill to apply reason to deeply held beliefs, whereupon they are old enough.
I hope that I will be able to join with you, because I agree with almost all of your points. Except... there is still a fair possibility that the girl is right, and the teacher blew it. I am not saying so though. She/they already have a lawyer making statements for them. Even after the school apologized and dumped the exercise. Hmm...
On the other hand, it's Texas...
A possibility, yes. But not a "fair" one, IMHO. Typically (though not 100%) it is the Christians pushing religion in schools (prayer on the football field, religious literature, etc.), not others. And I did see where the teacher claimed to be a believer as well - if true it's highly unlikely she made any such statement.
I've always said I wished there was a critical thinking class before kids left high school as I believe it was one of my most rewarding classes in university.
I remember in one of my research methods classes my professor brought up God as something that cannot be scientifically proven using the scientific method and a couple of students (we're talking 20-something year olds) got their backs up and it turned into a "thing" which she clearly never intended it to be - she was just making a general statement. And then the poor woman had to stand there for 20 minutes explaining that she wasn't trying to tell anyone they shouldn't believe in God, yadda yadda. It was insane.
I think the class is a great idea but going forward in other schools that may adopt the idea, it's probably best to leave God/religion out of it to avoid upsetting people and threatening the future of the class.
Critical thinking ("rhetoric" as was) depends on understanding that how things are categorized is based on how things are categorized and defined. So if "true" was defined, for example, as "subject to agreement by impartial independent observers". That it would be incorrect to say that statement was true.
Whatever starting assumption they were using should be applied, not some random assumptions by journalists and readers,
True, as far as it goes. But I do think that the personal opinion of the girl, her parents or even a large majority of friends, neighbors or community was in no way implied as sufficient reason for a statement to be "true". That is, after all, what such a class is about.
This statement should have been left off the list.
Pure and simple
End of story.
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