Experts, Critical Thinking, and Naps

“The immediate access to information that Wikipedia, Google, Bing, and other Internet tools provide has created a new problem that few of us are trained to solve, and this has to be our collective mission in training the next generation of citizens. This has to be what we teach our children: how to evaluate the hordes of information that are out there, to discern what is true and what is not, to identify biases and half-truths, and to know how to be critical, independent thinkers. In short, the primary mission of teachers must shift from the dissemination of raw information to training a cluster of mental skills that revolve around critical thinking. And one of the first and most important lessons that should accompany this shift is an understanding that there exist in the world experts in many domains who know more than we do. They should not be trusted blindly, but their knowledge and opinions, if they pass certain tests of face validity and bias, should be held in higher regard than those who lack specialized training. The need for education and the development of expertise has never been greater. One of the things that experts spend a great deal of time doing is figuring out which sources of information are credible and which are not, and figuring out what they know versus what they don’t know. And these two skills are perhaps the most important things we can teach our children in this post-Wikipedia, post-Google world. What else? To be conscientious and agreeable. To be tolerant of others. To help those less fortunate than they. To take naps.”

– Daniel J. Levitan The Organized Mind  


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