Welcome to Critical Thinking

Spring Semester 2016Instructor: Molly Dwyer
"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."~John F. Kennedy

Course Description

Critical Thinking is the process by which we develop and support our beliefs, and evaluate the strength of arguments made by others in real-life situations. This semester we will practice some of the most central and important skills of critical thinking, and focus on applying those strategies to understanding current issues, belief systems, and ethical positions. We will analyze media, the current political environment, and our own beliefs and moral inclinations. You will learn to appraise information and influences, discuss controversial topics intelligently, and construct well-reasoned arguments on a variety of topics. The course will focus on group discussion and written analysis. This is a writing course. You will be expected to produce and share rough drafts before turning in your final version.

Course Objective

The primary objectives of this course are to impart a functional ability to reason well and to improve your analytical skills and instincts. In addition to familiarizing you with elementary methods of building strong arguments, the course is further designed to aid you in understanding the essential principles involved in the practice of reasoned decision making. The writing skills you develop in this class will serve you across all academic disciplines and in the workplace.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate skills in elementary inductive and deductive reasoning.
  2. Identify and understand basic formal and informal fallacies of language and thought.
  3. Identify the components of arguments and demonstrate the ability to create complex argument structures in verbal and written forms.

Course Text

  • Required Text: Writing Logically.Thinking Critically. Sheila Cooper & Rosemary Patton.
  • Course Website: http://criticalthinking-mc205.wikispaces.com. All assignments and course materials are on the wiki site. You are expected to use it for this course.
  • Style Guide: Mendocino College uses Rules for Writing by Diana Hacker as a style guide; if you don’t have a copy, it's available online.

Grading

  • 90-100 points = A
  • 80-89 points = B
  • 70-79 points = C
  • 65-69 points = D
  • 64 points or below = F or no credit

Due dates for Graded Assignments:

Essays, Portfolio, Quiz & Oral Presentation, Final Exam

(Essays require rough drafts. They’re due on first date, final draft on second.)

  1. Essay: Mon Feb 22, Wed Feb 24 (How You See the World)
  2. Portfolio: Wed March 23 (Media Analysis)
  3. Essay: Wed April 20, Mon April 25 (Ethics & Moral Dilemma)
  4. Quiz: Wed May 11 (Inductive & Deductive Reasoning)
  5. Oral Presentation: Mon May 16, Wed May 18 (Logical Fallacies)
  6. Final Exam: Wed May 25 (In-Class Opinion Essay)

Course Requirements:

  1. Graded Essays: Each paper will range in length from 800 to 1500 words, as assigned. Each requires a rough draft. (10 points each)
  2. Rough Drafts: Each rough draft grade reflects your participation in peer evaluations and revision. You must be in class the day your rough draft is due to get credit for it. Rough drafts must be turned in with final draft. (5 points each)
  3. Portfolio: A presentation/collection of response writings, journal material, possible creative work, images, etc. (15 points)
  4. Quiz: The will be one in-class quiz (10 points)
  5. Oral Presentation: Five-minute presentation to the class. (15 points)
  6. In-Writing & Participation: Final grade reflects class participation. (15 points)
  7. Final Exam: You will be given a topic on the day of the final and asked to write about it in the time allotted. (15 points)

Classroom Policies

Common Courtesy & Common Sense

  • Respect and cooperation are the core principles in this class. Show up. Be present. Be thoughtful. Get to know your fellow students.
  • You are responsible for the information on this syllabus. Check it before coming to class. Know what’s going to happen and come prepared. Your class participation is equal in weight to one paper, and is based on in-class writing, discussion and participation in activities.
  • Be on time! If you come in late, it’s disrespectful—to me & your fellow students.
  • Attendance is taken at the beginning of class. If you miss role, you may not receive credit for being in class. If you have more than 3 unexcused absences you may be dropped from the class. If you have to be absent, email me, let me know.
  • If you have to leave class early, please tell me at the beginning of class. Walking out in the middle of class is disrespectful and disruptive.
  • Phones are to be turned off and kept out of sight AT ALL TIMES. First time I ask you to put your phone away is a warning; 2nd time, you’re out of class for the rest of the day; 3rd time you’re out of class until you renegotiate your return.
  • Internet cruising and/or texting are not allowed during class. Neither is daydreaming, ignoring class or sleeping. If you’re bored, get engaged. Ask a question.
  • If you’re falling behind in class or doing poorly, set up a time to speak with me about getting help. Advocate for your own success; stay engaged.
  • Unless there is an announced change of schedule, you are responsible for what is on the syllabus each class day. Expect daily writings based on homework.


Critical Thinking Course Outline

(Reading assignments are to be completed prior to class on indicated day!!)




Week One: Course Introduction & Requirements

MON JAN 25

In-Class Presentation: Introduction to Class
Handout: Syllabus & Course Timeline

WED JAN 27

Read: WLTC (Writing Logically, Thinking Critically) Thinking & Writing, pgs. 1-3
Read & Watch Video: Home Page, wiki site
In-Class Presentation: Introducing Critical Thinking
In-Class Activity: Introducing Yourself

Week Two: Understanding the World We Live In

MON FEB 1

Read: WLTC, An Open Mind: pgs. 3-7

In-Class Activity: Hedgehogs & Foxes
Handout: Essay #1—Seeing Our World
Handout: “Bullet to the Brain,” by Tobias Wolfe

WED FEB 3

Read: "Bullet to the Brain"
In-Class Writing & Discussion: Bullet to the Brain

Week Three: How our Brains Work

MON FEB 8

Watch Video: “Test Your Brain,” Paying Attention, wiki site.
In-Class Presentation: Paying Attention
In-Class Activity: Take This Fish

WED FEB 10

Read & Watch Video: Perception & the Brain, wiki site
In-Class Presentation: Perception & the Brain
In Class Activity: Mind Games

Week Four: Writing for Critical Thinking

MON FEB 15

NO CLASS PRESIDENT’S DAY

WED FEB 17

Read: WLTC, The Writing Process, pgs. 7-36
In Class Presentation: How Do You Write?

Week Five: Constructing Knowledge—Deciphering Truth

MON FEB 22

Rough Draft Due: Essay #1—How Do You See the World?
In-Class: Peer Critiques

WED FEB 24

Final Paper Due: Essay #1—How Do You See the World?
In-Class Presentation: Constructing Knowledge—Deciphering Truth

Week Six: Building Strong Arguments

MON FEB 29

Read: WLTC, The Structure of Argument, Standard Form, pgs. 50-57
In-Class Activity: Standard Form
Handout: Media Portfolio Assignment

WED MARCH 2

Read: WLTC, Structure & Summaries: pgs. 57-70
In-Class Presentation: Building Strong Arguments

Week Seven: Media & It’s Influence

MON MARCH 7

In-Class Presentation: Questions Worth Asking
In-Class Activity: “20” Questions

WED MARCH 9

Read: WLTC, The Language of Argument, pgs. 94-99
In-Class Presentation: Language & Thought

Week Eight: Understanding Evidence & Opinion

MON MARCH 14

Read: WLTC, The Language of Argument, pgs. 99-110
In-Class Presentation: The Media & Its Influence

WED MARCH 16

Read: WLTC, Evaluating Sources, pgs. 203-209
In-Class Presentation: Recognizing Propaganda: Century of the Self

Week Nine: Deconstructing Bias

MON MARCH 21

Read: WLTC, Written Argument, pgs. 71-93
In-Class Activity: Analyzing Newspaper Articles

WED MARCH 23

Portfolio Due: News Analysis Portfolio
In-Class Presentations: Portfolio Summary

Week Ten: SPRING BREAK

MON MARCH 28—NO CLASS
WED MARCH 30—NO CLASS

Week Eleven: What is Ethics?

MON APRIL 4

In-Class Presentation: Ethics & Moral Dilemma
Handout: “Coming to a Lab Near You,” Essay by
Handout: Essay #2—Making Ethical Decisions

WED APRIL 6

In-Class Discussion: “Coming to a Lab Near You.”

Week Twelve: Making Ethical Decisions

MON APRIL 11

Read & Watch Video: Ethics & Humanity, wiki page
In-Class Activity: Moral Dilemma

WED APRIL 13

In-Class Discussion: Plato & Socrates, wiki page

Week Thirteen: Ethics & The Social Contract

MON APRIL 18

Read: Social Contract, wiki page
In-Class Presentation: Social Contract

WED APRIL 20

Rough Draft Due: Essay #2—Making Ethical Decisions
In-Class: Peer Critiques

Week Fourteen: Fallacies & Logic

MON APRIL 25

Final Paper Due: Essay #2—Making Ethical Decisions
Handout: Oral Presentations. Fallacies will be assigned

WED APRIL 27

Read: WLTC, Deductive and Inductive Argument, pgs. 148-156 & 174-183
In-Class Presentation: Inductive Reasoning
In-Class Activity: Pattern Recognition Puzzles

Week Fifteen: Inductive & Deductive Reasoning

MON MAY 2

Read: WLTC, Deductive and Inductive Argument, pgs. 156-167
In-Class Presentation: Deductive Reasoning
In-Class Activity: Zebra Puzzle

WED MAY 4

Read: WLTC, Fallacious Arguments, pgs. 122-147

Week Sixteen: Scientific Method

MON MAY 9

Read & Watch Video: Scientific Method, wiki page
Presentation: The Scientific Method & Reason
In-Class Activity: M&M Research

WED MAY 11

Quiz: Inductive & Deductive Reasoning

Week Seventeen: Oral Presentations

MON MAY 16
Oral Presentations Due: Logical Fallacies

WED MAY 18

Oral Presentations Due: Logical Fallacies

Week Eighteen: Finals Week

MON MAY 23

In-class Activity: Test Preparation

WED MAY 25

In-Class Final: Opinion Piece on Social Issue
Note! You must purchase a “blue book” from the bookstore to take your test