Friday, February 18, 2005

No wonder there's no critical thinking 

We college professors talk often about building critical thinking skills, and we're frustrated when students accept things said to them without question. This is a perception often of the web, that information out there is unsafe because it is unfiltered. Most of the critiques of the Blogosphere by the MSM are thus.

We find that they're learning it in the classrooms:
I said to my colleague that it seems like we've not really evolved that much at all in terms of our thinking about learning, but that I thought that might be changing, primarily due to the effects of the increasing transparency the Web seems to be bringing to many areas of life...journalism and politics, for instance. Two places where traditional ideas are being seriously challenged by our new ability to particpate and by the demand, of some, for a more open accounting of process and methodology. And so, I said, I felt like in time, education would be affected by that as well, in potentially very positive ways. ...

'You have to read some Marx,' my friend said. 'Don't you know that those in power will let the masses convince themselves that are in control until they become a bit too powerful, at which point they'll step in and shut it down?' (Or something along those lines.)

'So what are you saying?' I asked. 'You think if the Web gets too disruptive to education 'they'll' try to censor it?'

His answer was, for all intents, yes, that if things ever got to the point where the status quo was seriously challenged, there would be serious attempts to limit the technology."

And then, in a subsequent post, he shows us how one such censor would work.
My colleague's brother is a high school principal in a major East Coast city, and during a phone call they had yesterday, the conversation turned to the Internet.

"My teachers are complaining that the quality of their student papers is just getting worse and worse," the principal said. "And it's because they're getting such bad information from the Internet. Are there any lists of 'reputable' sites out there that we can get our kids to use?"

My colleague, who has had the misfortune of sitting through many of my information literacy harangues, and who is a very smart person himself, said "Why don't you do some professional development for your teachers and show them how to teach kids to find good sources?"

"Oh, no," the principal said. "They won't want to do that. They don't have the time for it."

"Well, don't you think the kids need to learn how to use the Internet effectively as a research tool?" my friend said.

"I think it's better for everyone if we just give them a list of sites they can use when they do their papers," the principal said, "and tell them they have to have a certain number of those resources in the final product."