1. We’re aiming at a 1.0 version for December 2013. After that, we will use feedback from volunteers and members to keep improving the course. (It’s your country too — so feel free to suggest improvements!)
2. No one will be an expert critical thinker at the end of this (unless they already were one) but we believe people who do the reading and exercises will be much better!
3. We’re aiming at something that would take no more than 14 hours to do (at your own pace.)
4. We are imagining (or pretending) that millions of adult Americans will someday be taking this course, or an enhanced version of this, with many videos. So we’re aiming at a broad segment of Americans.
5. On our team, we’re fortunate to have a cognitive psychologist who’s aware of some of the latest research in decision-making and things that hinder critical thinking. We plan to make use of these insights in the course’s design.
6. Skills to be taught:
– Analyzing an argument to see if it’s weak, strong or completely irrelevant.
– Recognizing unfair influence tactics, and errors in thinking (logical fallacies.)
– Assessing candidates so you can pick the ones most likely to match your interests.
– Determining which arguments and discussions are likely to be unproductive (and walking away from them!)
– Figuring out which issues would be most worth your time to support or fight against. (Prioritization)
– Media literacy — learning how to ‘unpack’ messages of all kinds to avoid being manipulated.
– Assessing the quality of news and blogs sources.
– Figuring out your critical thinking blind spots and weak areas.
– Teaching tolerance for opposing views (that often come from holding other values.)
7. Learning this will be easier than you think, because you’ll be given checklists to prompt you with the questions you should be asking yourself. After some practice, you will probably internalize the questions.
8. No one learns skills without practice. Since the PTTN Member Agreement asks members to do regular news intake, regular advocacy on issues they care about, and study of candidates in issues right before you vote, these are times when we expect you to consciously practice your skills.
9. We plan to do assessments of test participants to see if they are still using the skills three months, six months, a year and two years later. We will use information collected to enhance the design and long-term impact of the course.
10. In some areas we will offer an optional, more advanced level for those who either already know the basics, or want advanced skills. (Or we’ll offer links to these resources.)
11. As a bonus, we will offer some tools for critical thinking in life. From another point of view, if you aren’t a good critical thinker in life, you will make poor decisions that would probably eat up the time and energy you’d use for political critical thinking. — So it makes sense for use to give you general tools as well.