The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



JREF and Education PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Bart Farkas   

With the insertion of a new American President that actually wants scientists to be heard and (and to subsequently follow their advice), one can feel the winds of change blowing across the country and to a lesser extent, other countries as well. These breezes are bringing a breath of fresh realism to the people where science is no longer twisted or ignored to fit ideology, but rather it is being recognized as a legitimate source of information from which to base sound decisions.

 

Many skeptical organizations say that Education is the backbone of their activities, and if that’s true then now is the time for them to move out into the education frontier and start fighting the battles to win the minds of our youngest students. Indeed, critical thinking could be taught in so many fun and creative ways to students in every state and province throughout North America that the mind boggles at the lost opportunities. There is so much that is out there that isn’t being exploited while the ‘woo’ side of the ledger pours money into magical thinking platforms (such as paranormal television shows) that turn youngsters into credulous consumers of the next generation.

 

Sure, there are some great efforts out there to get into the mind of our younger budding skeptics, but the reach of those efforts is often limited to say the least. What we need is a concerted effort to use the current skeptical organization’s extensive network of intelligent, creative, and entertaining educators in a way that can get the message of critical thinking into the classrooms across the land. What’s even more exciting is that several of the organizations have a neutral position on religious matters that can be parlayed into support for the educational programs in all schools since all we’d be teaching is critical thinking, not humanism or atheism.

 

With a new administration in the White House that is friendly to science, and some gaping holes in the education aspect of many skeptical outlets, now is the perfect time to put together a comprehensive plan to create permanent networks of smart, effective educators who are willing to donate their time to help insert critical thinking into all aspects of education. Think of what can be accomplished if we have just a few years of kids getting basic critical thinking skills at a young age. A large percentage of those kids are going to use those skills to better the world as they grow up, and indeed they are the future people who are going to ultimately help to put a tighter lid on superstitious belief and dangerous magical thinking (think alternative medicine).

 

I have three children ages 6, 8 and 10, and my experience in raising them (so far) has taught me a great deal about the power of just a small amount of critical thinking at a young age. By teaching them just a few basic concepts of critical thinking when they were in kindergarten and grade 1 I’ve created three children who are naturally skeptical, critical thinkers. Indeed, every time they hear something that even adults would be credulous about, they approach it from a skeptical point of view. I can’t believe the power just a few suggestions had in shaping their ability to think about the world around them. Imagine what a concerted effort by the skeptical community could do to put a skeptical foot in the door of kids across North America!

 

Bart Farkas is an active skeptic and is currently working on a book about the history of the JREF challenge.

 

Trackback(0)
Comments (21)Add Comment
...
written by The_Libertarian_Otaku, August 05, 2009
I didn't vote for Obama due to his socialist platform, but I have to commend him for being friendly to science, unlike Bush 43.

Less woo, more science.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -5
...
written by Mark P, August 05, 2009
By teaching them just a few basic concepts of critical thinking when they were in kindergarten and grade 1 I’ve created three children who are naturally skeptical, critical thinkers.


One helpful hint is to not teach them anything untrue from the start. Get them used to the idea that just because everyone around them believes something doesn't make it true.

We told our kids from the start that Santa Claus does not exist. It didn't "spoil their innocence" like many rather wet people think. It taught them the truth, out front. They love Christmas, and happily play along with the Santa myth, even while knowing it firmly to be untrue. Even better, our kids never went through any anguish having to discover that Santa is a faker!

We did have to coach them not to tell other kids that Santa is not real, since we knew the firestorm would arrive if we had kids that went round telling the truth. But that says a lot about the attitudes of many adults -- they lie to their children. Stupid, unnecessary lies. Lies that encourage magical thinking. (Note it was the adults that we were worried about -- kids can handle the truth, provided they don't get contradictory signals from different directions.)

One result is that they have grown up not expecting to believe things because other people do.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +13
...
written by dolandilae, August 06, 2009
I started thinking critically at a young age because of Church suprisingly... when I was told a man lived in the belly of a whale, under water for an extended period of time.. I thought to myself, this is complete nonsense, I just saw that on Pinnoccio. From that point on, the magical stuff became just a work a fiction to me.. sure it can be entertaining, but that doesn't make it real.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +15
@bart, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@truth6413, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@casarojo, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by boredagain, August 06, 2009
Anyone who calls Obama a socialist is without credibility. He is clearly a right leaning moderate, unfortunately the right has gone off the deep neo-con end and so in comparison he is left of them, but so is just about anybody. I didn't vote for him and I am not defending him or his party, just the silly bang the drum rhetoric of "Socialism" red scare that continues courtesy of right wing radio and television propaganda. If his health plan is socialist, then Canada, England, and US Veterans Administration are socialist among others. Time to join the 21st century with other industrialized nations. We pay more than any other country for a worse system, address that fact without demanding that everything be privatized and maybe I'll take you seriously.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
...
written by Don Riefler, August 06, 2009
To return to the original topic of discussion, I'm actually working on developing critical thinking lessons and lesson plans for school-age kids. I gave a presentation Sunday morning at TAM7 about the program I've developed and currently teach regularly to at-risk kids, and afterwards a TAM attendee who is on a school board in Alabama called me up and asked how he might use it for the kids in his district.

I've started putting my initial program information up on a Wordpress blog at http://kidsthinkingcritically.wordpress.com (which will eventually have its own domain, once I get some pocket money), and once that's done he and I are going to work on modifying it for use in the classroom. All of it will end up on the web eventually for anyone to take and adapt to their needs. I'm also working on a specific subject lesson (or series of lessons; we'll see how it turns out) on navigating the rough waters of product advertisement and scams. I'd call it "Scam School," but another, more prominent skeptic has already taken that one...

Right now, the site is a bit less than half done as I've been pouring my skeptical energies into finalizing a panel I'm hosting at Gen Con Indianapolis next weekend, but I hope to have it finished with all requisite information and sample lesson plans by the end of the month. I may have designed the original program specifically for at-risk kids, but it could be modified for other situations as well.

I figure this is close to the kind of thing Bart is talking about, and so I thought I'd be remiss not to mention that I, for one, am focusing specifically on the area of critical thinking education.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +12
...
written by Steel Rat, August 06, 2009
It's too bad Obama is intent on destroying the US economy further through cap and trade, so-called "green" jobs and energy, etc., due to the phantom menace of "global warming". He should definitely promote more research so we can learn more about the global climate (by learning more about regional climates, and studying more than just CO2), but we're nowhere near being 50% certain about what drives regional and global climate. There's no evidence that limiting CO2 will have any measurable effect on global temperature, or that increasing CO2 has had any effect on same. We need to concentrate on more than just the last 30 years.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -9
Author of piece
written by Bartmon, August 06, 2009
All,

You know, who cares about Obama? I'm a Canadian, and frankly, the political stuff is just counter-productive. I appreciate Don's comment to keep our eyes on the ball. No matter how you feel about Obama, the fact is that yes, there is an administration in place that's more friendly to science.

As for those that say atheists can't be neutral, why don't you say something like "All blacks are less intelligent than whites"? Let's keep our eyes on the ball and stay away from generalizations. Not everyone is the same. My kids go to church several times per year and even attend church camps, but my wife and I are both atheists. Compute that.

Bart
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +8
@bart
written by Steel Rat, August 06, 2009
Why would you do that to your kids?? smilies/angry.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -9
...
written by Jefoid, August 06, 2009
"These breezes are bringing a breath of fresh realism to the people where science is no longer twisted or ignored to fit ideology, but rather it is being recognized as a legitimate source of information from which to base sound decisions"

Wow. Just...wow. Can we please keep politics off the posts? Your first paragraph destroyed a fantastic suggestion about teaching critical thinking.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by Bartmon, August 06, 2009
As a non-american I thought it was accepted fact that the Bush administration had used science to forward ideology. The Plan B pill thing with the FDA, the changing of global warming information both with NASA and with white house documents, the president saying that he thinks "Intelligent Design" should be taught equally (I could go on and on). Maybe to an American that isn't clear, but to the rest of the world maybe it seems obvious. I apologize if that offended some of you. The only point I was trying to make is that there is a shift toward accepting science rather than ignoring it or changing it. Who knows, maybe in the end the current Administration will be worse than the last one. For now, however, things are looking up for science.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +10
@bartmon
written by truth6413@yahoo.com, August 06, 2009
Why is "global warming" considered solid science? If you think "this administration" is better than the last when it comes to the "climate change hoax", you are sadly mistaken. FACT: Liberal politics trump science.

I wish this site would apply its efforts in exposing this hoax instead of allowing the gullible to be duped, at the expense of us all.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -9
...
written by Random, August 06, 2009
Obama only listens to scientists who agree with him. I don't think he'll be listening to these scientists very soon. I am really not sure that such a politically-charged comment was necessary, especially as it was so easy to prove incorrect.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Random, August 06, 2009
It appears that links don't work. The words "these scientists" in my last post should have linked to the following URL:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/lndon5
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Random, August 06, 2009
I could equally have referred to these scientists http://preview.tinyurl.com/nprdwt
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Oldl Bill, August 07, 2009
Three words: Cap and Trade.

Friendly to Science my rosy red rearend.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Mark P, August 07, 2009
Why would you do that to your kids?


My elder daughter goes to church sometimes. We don't encourage her - in fact we gently mock her. But we don't stop her.

She goes to be with a friend. She most certainly does not believe any of it, but she likes a nice sing-a-long and the morning teas.

We reckon that banning her would likely to be counter-productive.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@ truth6413
written by CasaRojo, August 08, 2009
"You're an atheist."

I prefer 'non theist' but it's nice to see that we agree on the accuracy of each other's ad homs.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Follow Up
written by Don Riefler, September 01, 2009
I know this is an old post and a dead thread, but I'm posting in the hopes that this will get through to the JREF. I mentioned earlier in the thread that I was working on putting my "Kids Thinking Critically" program up on the web for others to adapt and use, and I linked to the incomplete site.

Well, I have finally finished it, at

http://kidsthinkingcritically.wordpress.com

and I hope that people drop by and use it as a resource. Please feel free to give me feedback if you drop by; I want to know what people think so I can gauge the program. Thanks!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy