Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
The Cambridge Dictionary defines critical thinking as “the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you.” In other words, it is the idea of being critical or skeptical of any information one receives until it is properly vetted and found to be credible. This is a skill that has become increasingly more essential to have in today’s world of misinformation, fake news and so-called “alternative facts.” Indeed one of the greatest weapons of Stalinist Russia was their campaign of disinformation. “The English word disinformation is a loan translation of the Russian dezinformatsiya, derived from the title of a KGB black propaganda department. Joseph Stalin coined the term, giving it a French-sounding name to claim it had a Western origin.” The Russian government had an entire department dedicated to the spread of false information; a department that still exists today in some form. You can read more information on Russia’s modern disinformation program in the New York Times article entitled A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories. It is now common knowledge that the Russian government has intentionally interjected false information into US social media platforms in order to disrupt our political process. Here is an extensive Senate report detailing the findings of a long term investigation of Russian involvement in spreading misinformation. There is also a concerted effort to combat such disinformation.
Due to this intentional spread of false information It is ever more important that educators teach their students critical thinking skills. Our society is becoming increasingly more reliant on digital media for information and it is essential that we can tell the difference between that which is true and that which is false. Whether people are reading news articles, scanning websites or watching Youtube videos to get their information it is absolutely critical in our times that we understand how to differentiate between reliable and unreliable information. Below I have provided some lesson plans teachers can use to help their students hone their critical thinking skills.
Developing Students’ Critical Thinking Skills Through Whole-Class Dialogue
Critical Thinking Lesson Plan
Creativity/Problem Solving/Critical Thinking Lesson Plans and Resources
Critical Thinking Skills Teacher Resources
Critical Thinking Resources for High School Teachers
A Teacher’s Guide to Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking in Social Studies
Critical Thinking and the Social Studies
Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.