Principles of Sustainability course at NWTC/ critical thinking

Principles of Sustainability  (10-806-112)  is a (newer) three credit course taught online, face to face and blended at NWTC.  This transferable course counts as a science elective  at UWGB/UW-O and is quite popular with General studies transfer students and also with ADN to BSN completers.

What’s in the curriculum you may ask?

Principles and applications are involved, but also critical thinking.  Solar energy (alternative energy), chemical cycling and biodiversity are considered the three scientific principles.  Most of us would expect those topics.   The SOCIAL science principles are:  economics, politics and ethics.

Sub themes include:  natural capital, natural capital degradation, trade-offs, solutions and individuals matter.

Any one of those sub themes could be a SPARK, or even a topic to integrate into a lesson in many disciplines that need applications/ current events.

The critical thinking charge to students in the preface lists these items:

  1.  Question everything and everybody.
  2. Identify and evaluate your bias and beliefs
  3. Be open- minded and flexible
  4. Be humble about what you know
  5. Question evidence and conclusions presented
  6. Try to uncover differences in basic beliefs and assumptions
  7. Try to identify and assess motives of those presenting evidence
  8. Expect and tolerate uncertainty
  9. Do the arguments used involve logical fallicies or debating tricks?
  10. Do not believe everything you read on the internet
  11. Develop principles or rules to evaluate evidence

My hope is that more instructors will be encouraged to add some content from Principles of Sustainablity to their classes.   Feel free to share your ideas!




One thought on “Principles of Sustainability course at NWTC/ critical thinking

  1. Refreshing to happen upon critical thinking skills openly articulated in this course – with the demise of thinking critically and creatively by the summer of 2018 – I trust programs and their specific courses will openly articulate some of the critical thinking skills along with doing so creatively – since this course is fundamental, basic, and non-negotiable — for learning is not what to think, but it is how to think — Confucius had it right thousands of years ago. Roger

    The critical thinking charge to students in the preface lists these items:

    1. Question everything and everybody.
    —use the Socratic method – see socratic seminar international —
    Identify and evaluate your bias and beliefs

    2. Be open- minded and flexible
    —view Dr. Tony Wagner’s presentation — 7 skills students need for the future –agility and adaptability is one of the 7

    3. Be humble about what you know — known as intellectual humility

    Topic 1: Intellectual humility is knowledge of ignorance, sensitivity to what you know and what you do not know. It means being aware of your biases, prejudices, self-deceptive tendencies, rationalizations, and the limitations of your opinions and viewpoints. Here are some questions that enhance intellectual humility:
    +What do I really know (about myself, about the situation, about another person, about my community, about my nation, and about the world?)
    +To what extent do my prejudices or biases negatively influence my thinking?
    +How do the beliefs I have uncritically accepted keep me from perceiving reality as it really is

    4.Question evidence and conclusions presented

    One good question is worth a thousand answers – basic philosophical concept

    5. Try to uncover differences in basic beliefs and assumptions

    Reasons, assumptions, inferences/implications, examples, and counter examples

    6. Try to identify and assess motives of those presenting evidence

    motives can be biased, prejudiced, sprinkled with hidden agendas and rationalizing , that is, our thoughts do lie to us

    7.Expect and tolerate uncertainty – the balance of opposites – to be able to mentally live with contradictions–intellectual humility

    8. Do the arguments used involve logical fallicies (correction – fallacies) or debating tricks?

    Fallax=to deceive – the dirty tricks of the mind department–in watching the presidential debates and even to this day, I have identified over 28 fallacies thus far —-

    Fallacies ——————————–here are a few of the over 200 of them——

    1. Hasty Generalization – error in the process of generalizing
    “My boyfriends have never shown any real concern for my feelings. My conclusion is that men are insensitive, selfish, and emotionally superficial.”
    2. Sweeping Generalization – focuses on difficulties in the process of interpreting. “Vigorous exercise contributes to overall good health. Therefore, vigorous exercise should be practiced by recent heart attack victims, people who are out of shape, and women who are about to give birth.”
    3. False Dilemma: either or fallacy occurs when we are asked to choose between two extreme alternatives without being able to consider additional options. “Everyone in Germany is a National Socialist – the few outside the party are either lunatics or idiots” – Adolf Hitler, quoted by the New York Times, April 5, 1938).
    4. Misidentification of the Cause: we are not always certain what is causing what. Headaches and tension: a third factor may be responsible for both of the effects.
    5. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: “After it, therefore because of it.”
    If your team wins the game each time you wear your favorite shirt, you might be tempted to conclude the one event ( wearing your favorite shirt) has some influence on the other event ( winning the game.)
    6. Slippery Slope: asserts that one undesirable action will inevitably lead to a worse action and so on to some terrible disaster at the bottom: “Don’t miss that first deadline, because if you do, it won’t be long before you are missing all of your deadlines.”
    7. Appeal to Authority: to establish our beliefs. “Sony, ask anyone.”
    8. Appeal to Tradition: it is better or right simply because that is the way it was always done. “Real men don’t cry – that is the way I was brought up.”
    9. Bandwagon: Joining the illogical appeals to authority and tradition relying on the uncritical acceptance of others’ opinions. “I used to think that Country music was my favorite kind of music. But my friends convinced me that only losers enjoy this music. So I have stopped listening to it.”
    10. Appeal to Pity: pulling at another’s heartstrings. “I know that I have not completed my paper, but I really think that I could be excused. This has been a very difficult semester for me. I caught every kind of flu around. In addition, my brother has a drinking problem, and this has been very upsetting to me. Also, my dog died.” Note – there are instances in which pity may be deserved, relevant, and decisive.

    9. Do not believe everything you read on the internet —

    Additional Alternative News

    Below are some non-mainstream scholarly sources of news, and background for the news. Again, it is recommended to review them critically as you would for mainstream views.

    1. Harpers =
    2. The Progressive =
    3. Counter Punch =
    4. Common Dreams =
    5. Indy Media Center =
    6. The Nation=
    7. Mother Jones=
    8. Free Speech
    9. In These
    10. A
    12. The Multinational Monitor=
    13. Dollars and
    14. The
    15. The Village
    16. Project

    10. Develop principles or rules to evaluate evidence

    Critical Consumers of the News – check list


    1. Study alternative perspectives and world views, learning how to interpret events from multiple viewpoints.
    2. Seek understanding and insight through multiple sources of thought and information, not simply those of the mass media.
    3. Learn how to identify the viewpoints embedded in the news stories.
    4. Mentally reconstruct news stories through awareness of how stories would be told from multiple perspectives.
    5. Analyze news constructs in the same ways I would analyze other representations of reality as a blend of fact and interpretation.
    6. Assess news stories for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and significance.
    7. Notice contradictions and inconsistencies in the news (often in the same story).
    8. Notice the agenda and interests served by a story.
    9. Notice the facts covered and facts possibly ignored.
    10. Notice what is represented as fact ( that is in dispute).
    11. Notice questionable assumptions implicit in stories.
    12. Notice what is implied ( but not openly stated).
    13. Notice which implications are ignored and which are emphasized.
    14. Notice which points of view are systematically put into a favorable light and which in an unfavorable light.
    15. Mentally correct stories reflecting bias toward the unusual, the dramatic, and the sensational by putting them into perspective or discounting them.
    16. Question the social conventions and taboos being used to define issues and problems.
    Source: “How to detect media and bias and propaganda in national and world news” by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, third edition, 2006 – Foundations for Critical Thinking.

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