Welcome to Critical ThinkingEnglish 205, Mendocino CollegeSpring Semester, 2014Instructor: 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 analyze 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 argument composition and analysis, the course is further designed to aid you in understanding the essential principles involved in the theory and practice of reasoned decision making. The writing skills you develop in this class will serve you across all academic disciplines and in the workplace.

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 assumptions upon which conclusions depend.

Course Texts

Required: Internet Access. Wiki site: http://criticalthinking-mc205.wikispaces.com

Recommended:
Style Guide: Mendocino College uses Rules for Writing by Diana Hacker as a Style Guide; it's available online.
NOTE: All assignments and course materials are on the wiki site: criticalthinking-mc205.wikispaces.com.
You are expected to use the site as part of this course. If you have difficulty with home access, please use the school computer lab.

Graded Essays

(Rough drafts due on first date, final on second)

  1. Feb 12 (Wed) & 19 (Wed): World View Essay

  2. March 10 (Mon): In the News Topic

  3. March 17 (Mon) & 19 (Wed): Media Analysis

  4. April 7 (Mon) & 9 (Wed): Ethics Paper

  5. May 12 (Mon) & 14 (Wed(: Oral Presentation on Critical Reasoning

  6. May 21 (Wed): In-Class Written Final



Rough Drafts

When rough drafts are due, come to class prepared to work on your paper in critique groups. You will both give and receive feedback from your peers. We will have guidelines for this process and learn critiquing skills in order to better understand what is working and what would benefit from further clarification or development.

Course Requirements:

  • 3 Graded Final Draft Papers: Each paper will count for 10 points total, and will range in length from 750 to 1500 words, as assigned. (Total 3 papers = 30 points)

  • 3 Rough Drafts: Each rough draft accounts for 5 points total. The grade reflects your participation in peer evaluations and revision. NOTE! Rough drafts must be turned in with final draft. ALSO NOTE! You must be in class the day your rough draft is due. They cannot be made up. (Total 3 rough drafts = 15 points)

  • 1 News Topic (Essay #2A): Paper will count for 10 points. (no rough draft)

  • 1 Oral Presentation = 15 points total.

  • Classroom Participation: 15 points total of your grade will be based on the completeness of your general participation during class, for discussions, work groups and in-class writing assignments. This grade reflects your ability to be present, on time, and prepared to participate in class.

  • Final Exam: 15 points total of your grade will be the final, which will be presented as a writing exam. You will be given a topic on the day of the final and asked to write about it in the time allotted for the final.

  • NOTE! If your rough draft and final paper are turned in on time (and you’re in class to work on the rough draft), your papers can be rewritten for a better grade.

  • NOTE! Proven plagiarism or paper purchase can result in failure of the class.


Final Grade

Though your work over the semester may include + or - distinctions (ie A- or B+), your final grade will not.
Your Final Grade will be based on 100 Points
92-100 = A
84-91 = B
76-83 = C
70-75 = D
Below 70 = no credit for course
For more detailed information about grading, see Course Grading page.

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.

  • Your class participation is equal in weight to one paper. Come to class prepared to do daily work and writing based on homework assignments. Ask questions.

  • Please be on time! If you come in late, you are being disrespectful to 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.

  • Please keep your cell phones turned off and out of sight at all times.

  • 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. When in doubt, ask a question.

  • If you’re falling behind in class or doing poorly, set up a time to speak with me about getting some help. Advocate for your own success; get 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

WED JAN 22

Handout: Syllabus & Course Timeline, Questionnaire
In-Class Presentation: Critical Thinking Wiki
In-Class Activity: Introducing Ourselves



Week Two

Living in a Digital World

MON JAN 27

Read: Home Page, wiki page
Read: Modern Education, wiki page
In-Class Presentation: Introducing Critical Thinking
Essay #1 Handout: Seeing Our World

WED JAN 29

Watch Video: Digital Nation, Nova/FrontLine: (1.5hrs); Internet & its Influence, wiki
Read: Internet & its Influence, wiki page
In-Class Activity: Digital Nation Discussion Groups



Week Three

Paying Attention

MON FEB 3

Read: Paradigms & World View wiki page
In-Class Activity: Puzzle Play

WED FEB 5

Watch Video: Test Your Brain, National Geographic Documentary (45 min)
Read: Paying Attention, wiki page
In-Class Activity: "Take This Fish"



Week Four

Perception and Your Brain

MON FEB 10

Read: Perception & the Brain, wiki page
In Class Activity: Mind Games

WED FEB 12

ESSAY #1—Rough Draft Due: World View Essay
In-Class Presentation: Critique Guidelines, wiki page



Week Five

President's Day—Holiday

MON FEB 17

No Class

WED FEB 19

ESSAY #1—Final Paper Due: World View Essay
In-Class Presentation: Constructing Knowledge: Standards of Evidence



Week Six

Media: Shaping Public Opinion

MON FEB 24

In-Class Presentation: Watching the News/Paying Attention to the World
Essay Handout #2A: In the News Topic
Reference: Media Resources, wiki page

WED FEB 26

Read Handout: Asking Questions
Read: Questions Worth Asking, wiki page



Week Seven

Media: Deciphering Truth

MON MARCH 3

In-Class Presentation: Language & Thought
Read: Language & Its Role, wiki page

WED MARCH 5

In-Class Presentation: Propaganda & PR,
Watch Video: Century of the Self, part 1 on Propaganda & PR wiki page



Week Eight

Media: Shaping Public Opinion

MON MARCH 10

Read: Detecting Media Bias on the Media Resources wiki page
ESSAY #2A—In The News Topic Due
Essay Handout #2B: Media Analysis

WED MARCH 12

Read: Malcolm X wiki page
In-Class Activity: Analyzing newspaper articles



Week Nine

Making Ethical Decisions

MON MARCH 17

ESSAY #2B—Rough Draft Due: Media Analysis
In-Class: Peer Critiques

WED MARCH 19

ESSAY #2B—Final Paper Due: Media Analysis
In-Class Presentation: Ethics & Moral Dilemma



Week Ten

Ethical Challenges & Globalization

MON MARCH 24

Read: Ethics & Humanity, wiki page
Read: Ethics & Globalization, wiki page
Essay Handout #3: Making Ethical Decisions

WED MARCH 26

Read: Patterns of Diversity, wiki page
Read: Sharing the Planet, wiki page
In-Class Activity: Moral Dilemma Questions



Week Eleven

Ethics & The Social Contract

MON MARCH 31

Read Handout: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Read: Plato & Socrates, wiki page

WED APRIL 2

Read: Social Contract, wiki page



Week Twelve

Reasoning From Evidence

MON APRIL 7

ESSAY #3—Rough Draft Due: Ethics Essay
In-Class: Peer Critiques

WED APRIL 9

ESSAY #3—Final Paper Due: Ethics Essay
In-class Presentation: The Scientific Method & Reason
In-Class Activity: M&M Research



Week Thirteen

SPRING BREAK—NO CLASSES




Week Fourteen

Scientific Method & Critical Reasoning

MON APRIL 21

Read: Fallacies & Logic, wiki page
Essay #4 Handout: Oral Presentations. Fallacies will be assigned.

WED APRIL 23

Read: Scientific Method, wiki page
In-class Activity: Video with Neil deGrasse Tyson



Week Fifteen

Inductive & Deductive Reasoning

MON APRIL 28

Read: Inductive & Deductive Reasoning, wiki page
In-Class Presentation: Inductive Reasoning

WED APRIL 30

In-Class Presentation: Deductive Reasoning
In-Class Activity: Zebra Puzzle



Week Sixteen

Applied Reasoning

MON MAY 5

Pop Quiz: Inductive & Deductive Reasoning

WED MAY 7

Read: Evolution & the Universe, wiki page



Week Seventeen

Oral Presentations

MON MAY 12

Individual Presentations: Critical Reasoning & Logical Fallacies

WED MAY 14

Individual Presentations: Critical Reasoning & Logical Fallacies



Week Eighteen

Finals Week

MON MAY 19

In-class: Test Preparation

WED MAY 21

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