• Episode 1: Introductions

    In this first episode Nick and Dave introduce themselves and explain why they are producing this podcast series. They tell how they think their listeners can benefit from the podcast. They speak briefly about what critical thinking is and why it’s a skill set worth acquiring.


    Dave: Greetings everyone. You’re listening to Critically Minded: Critical Thinking For 2nd Language Learners.  I’m Dave —
    Nick: And I’m Nick. Thank you for downloading our first podcast.
    Dave: This is the first in a series of several episodes we’re planning to present on Critical Thinking for English language learners.

    Nick: First off, I suppose we had better introduce ourselves. I was born in the U.K. and I came to Japan in 1985.
    Dave: And I’m from Missouri in America. I’ve been living in Japan since 1996. By making this podcast, what we are trying to do is to help English language learners improve their listening skills while learning about critical thinking. Before we continue any further, we should first define critical thinking and give you listeners an idea of what to expect in this podcast series. First, we should say that there are three categories of critical thinking: analysis, evaluation and inference.


    Nick: If you are not sure what analysis, evaluation and inference mean, now would be a good time to look them up in a dictionary. Also look up the word “argument”. In most dictionaries the first meaning of the word “argument” means an angry disagreement. Skip that meaning and look at the second, third or forth meaning. One of these will also explain it as “a truth statement supported by facts.” Analysis is what we do when we examine something closely to understand it better.
    Dave: For example, bicycles. We normally think about bicycles as being very simple machines that take us from here to there. It’s only when something goes wrong and our bicycle stops working that most of us analyze the bicycle more closely. We become aware that the bicycle has parts, a frame, handlebars, a seat, a chain, wheels. Even closer analysis shows that the parts have more parts. A wheel is made up of a rim, spokes, a hub, and many other small parts that we usually never think about.
    Nick: A lot of people never closely examine their bike when it breaks down. They simply take it to the repair shop, and pay someone else to analyze the problem and repair their bike for them. They never get involved in the process. Thinking is much the same. Many of us don’t get involved in the process. In our day to day life, we don’t think about our own thinking. We don’t need to, usually, and most of us don’t have time to sit around thinking about our own thoughts.


    Dave: However, when we have a big problem in our day to day life, we need to be able to think more clearly. We need to think about our thinking, and organize our problems and solutions. Our final goals are problem solving and decision making. But before we can solve our problems, we need to understand what the problem is. Unfortunately, many people do not have the skills to do this analysis. So the first several episodes of this podcast series will explain the parts of an argument. Analyzing English arguments for English language learners can be challenging, but if you know how to break up an argument into its parts, and you understand the purpose of each of those parts, then understanding the argument becomes much easier. After we have covered that material, we will talk about the second category of critical thinking.
    Nick: Evaluation is done by questioning the information available and the logic of an argument. First, we try to make sure that the information in an argument is true. After all, lies and false information are not very useful. It is not always easy to find out if information is true or false, but we will teach you some simple ways of checking and assessing facts and claims. Then we judge the logic to decide whether the argument is strong or weak. So,in short, we don’t just accept information as it is, or accept the logic of an argument without first assessing it in a logical way.


    Dave: The third, and last category of critical thinking skills is called inference. You might think of this as the “So what?” part of the argument.
    Nick: That is to say, “Alright, I understand the argument, and I have found the facts in the argument to be true. And I have judged the logic to be strong. Now, I have to ask, ‘So what?’” “What is the significance of the argument?” Is it important or misleading?
    Dave: But for the first eight or nine episodes, all we’re going to discuss is the first two categories of critical thinking, that is argument analysis and evaluation. And Nick and I will go directly into that discussion in our second episode.
    Nick: So, until next time this is Critically Minded Podcast.

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