Learning Pathway 1 has four activities. Each of the Journal activities is accompanied by a self-assessment rubric. The quizzes have an answer key. Once you have completed the journal entry, you can use the rubric to evaluate how successful you were in meeting the learning objectives. While the assessments are optional, and the grades will not be directly related to whether or not you receive credit for this course, completing them will help you gauge your progress and prepare for the TECEP© exam.
Journal Assignment 1
Becoming a Critical Thinker
The following is an experiment in psychology. Read the experiment carefully and then, in your journal, capture your answer to the questions that follow:
In the 1970s Stanley Milgram set up an experiment at Yale University in which participants were asked to administer electric shocks to others. The participants were led to believe that those who were being shocked were taking part in a scientific study to determine the relationship between memory and punishment. The participants had control over how severe the shocks would be, from slight shock to severe shock, and when instructed to do so they were to deliver the appropriate voltage. The participants (the “teachers”) are told that they are to administer the learning test to the “learners” in the other room. When the “learner” responds correctly, the “teacher” continues with the next item. When the “learner” makes a mistake, the “teacher” is instructed to give an electric shock. They must start at the lowest shock level (15 volts) and increase the level each time the “learner” makes a mistake; going up to 30 volts, 50 volts, 150 volts and so on.
The participants could not see the people who were being shocked, although when the shocks were severe they could hear that their “victims” were suffering greatly. The “teacher” is a naïve subject who has come to the psychology laboratory to participate in the experiment. The “learner”, or “victim”, is an actor who actually receives no electric shock at all. Milgram designed the experiment to establish how far a person will proceed in a concrete situation in which he or she is instructed to inflict increasing pain on others just because a legitimate authority asked them to so. The point of the experiment was thus to find out at what point the subject will refuse to obey the instructions of the experimenter.
The results showed that more than half the participants were prepared to, and actually gave, the most severe shocks and nearly 90 percent increased the voltage when they were asked to, in spite of clearly hearing that their “victims” were in pain.
Milgram (1974:5–6) observes the following with regard to his experiment:
“Many subjects will obey the experimenter no matter how vehement the pleading of the person being shocked, no matter how painful the shocks seem to be, and no matter how much the victim pleads to be let out. … It is the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority that constitutes the chief finding of the study … ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority”.
- What do you think this experiment illustrates?
- What lessons have you learned from the experiment? Do you think that those participants who increased the voltage when they were asked to, despite the fact that their “victims” were obviously in pain, thought critically about their decisions?
We think Milgram’s experiment illustrates how readily we are prepared to relinquish reason for the comfort of obedience. It is an example of how easily we take things for granted and assume that the claims of authority figures are true.
The lesson to be learned from the experiment is that we should be suspicious of the claims of authorities, rather than following their instructions blindly. As critical reasoners we should learn how to think independently, and critically question information and knowledge claims.
Journal Assignment 2
Thinking in an Informed Way – Part 1
Select a topic that is of interest to you. The topic should inspire at least two points of view. For example – “Prostitution should be legalized.”
- Learn as much as you can about your topic through research.
- Utilize a wide variety of resources and make sure that you read information that expresses a number of different points of view relating to your topic.
- Ask pertinent questions as you learn about the topic and look for the answers in your research.
- Assess the content – Are statements and arguments supported with facts, specific examples and clearly defined reasons?
- Form your opinion based on the facts you have learned. Combine those facts with your own emotions and personal experiences. Be able to utilize these facts as your key arguments when you try to convince others to see your point of view.
Thinking in an Informed Way – Part 2
Ask yourself the following questions: When you first selected your topic for the project, did you have a preconceived opinion about the subject? If so, how was your opinion altered by doing research and looking for facts about the subject?
- Do you believe your opinion would have been different if it had not been based on facts? If so, why and how?
- Based on your experience with researching, do you think most people base their opinions about important issues on facts or do they use emotions, personal experience, preconceived ideas and media to shape their ideas?
- In the future, do you think you will be more inclined to support your opinions with facts? Why?
- In future conversations with people of differing opinions, do you think you will press them to substantiate their opinions with facts and clearly defined reasons as a means of convincing you to change your thoughts? Why?
Write a short paragraph analyzing each of the following statement. Be sure your answer includes and demonstrates your understanding of critical reasoning.
- Critical reasoning is concerned with the truth of a statement.
- Critical reasoning implies that thinking is flexible and can be improved.
- Assumptions must be questioned.
- Critical reasoning requires listening to others.
- Something is true if my family taught it to me.
- Something is true if I believe it strongly.
- Something is true if the Pope has pronounced it.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Using the answer key below, identify the function of critical reasoning required in the following examples:
A = Thinking for oneself; B = Informed Reasoning; C = Critical Self-Reflection
- ____ My blood pressure is high, therefore I should be on medication.
- ____ My biology professor claimed that vaccines cause autism. I shouldn’t get my baby vaccinated.
- ____ I was raised as a Muslim. Islam teaches that homosexuality is a sin. I don’t approve be in favor of gay marriage.
- ____ I have been a hospice volunteer for four years. Now that many of the patients admitted to hospice have AIDS, I don’t want to work for hospice any longer. I don’t want to contract the disease and need hospice care myself.
- ____ Senator James Inohofe claimed that climate change is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. He’s been in the Senate a long time and must know what he’s talking about.
- ____ The Green Party advocates living a simple life and using fossil fuels as little as possible. I consider myself a Green but I commute a hundred miles a day in a minivan.
- ____ Exposure to the sun causes skin cancer. If I use sunscreen when I sunbathe, I won’t get skin cancer.
- ____ My religion teaches that abortion is a sin therefore I think abortion is a sin.
- ____ Every time I talk to Nicole, she tells me she doesn’t understand what I mean. I must be a poor communicator.
- ____ My political party is opposed to universal health care therefore I think we should not have universal health care coverage.
- ____ Congressman Riley voted against immigration reform every time a bill came up. I support immigration reform therefore I will vote against Congressman Riley.
- ____ An LA policeman was videoed beating up a homeless black woman along the side of the freeway. She must have been guilty.
- ____ My religion teaches that I should not marry someone of a different faith therefore I should not marry someone not of my faith.
- ____ Legalizing marijuana will lead to increased use of heroine and cocaine. We should not legalize marijuana.
- ____ I am planning a trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. Rte 95 will get me there faster than Rte 80. I should take Rte. 95.