I’m really looking forward to our second installment of Lunch for Good tomorrow (Thurs 10/22)! Last month we discussed Responsible Participation and ways to get more people contributing online (see a recap here) and this month our topic is Sparking Critical Thinking. Specifically, we are going to try to answer the question, “How can online contribution evolve to encourage more critical thought?”
This isn’t an easy question to answer, but it’s worth spending the time and energy discussing it, considering the outcome can undoubtedly yield a more articulate and understanding world.
I believe that while the culture of online contribution is progressing, we still have a long way to go toward more critical thinking and less just being critical. More towards responding rather than just reacting. Most of us recall the childhood lesson “think before you speak.” Some of this comes down to basic etiquette, but let’s take the discussion beyond that and delve into what truly motivates people to think critically. What will encourage people to take that next step and compose their opinion for others to read and respond?
Why is that so important? Because until you go through the exercise of articulating your views for the world to see, you haven’t really thought them all the way through. For example, I don’t care if you simply love or hate Universal Health Care – I want to know why. It’s great that you’re addicted to Trader Joes’ Oatmeal, but I want details. A list of your favorite jazz albums is cool, but if you can tell me more about why each one made the list, that’s a far more valuable contribution. These are all examples of critical thinking. The depth of each topic is different, but the process is the same. I believe once we can figure out the process to encourage people to think more critically in general, it can be applied from the most simple to the most complex topics. This will help create a more thoughtful and thorough online conversation, making us collectively smarter and more engaged. If this change is wide spread enough, it will ultimately help us understand one and other on a different level and help us to find common ground on some of the more divisive but important issues of our time.