Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Pass It On

So last week was the beginning of a new semester of college. I am lucky enough to have been assigned to a great instructor in my department for my Teaching Assistantship. She and I have collaborated on creating a project for the students in an Introduction to Anthropology course (a freshman-level course) that involves keeping a journal over the course of the semester. The goal of the journal project is to get the students thinking more deeply and critically about the topics and themes of the course.

One thing that this instructor and I both agree on is that if there is only one thing our students walk away from this semester with it is critical thinking skills. Even if they don’t remember a single thing about anthropology after the course is over (something that would make me very sad, I have to admit!), we hope they leave with the skills to think critically. If there is something that younger generations seem to me to lack (from the perspective of an educator and someone who regularly engages with young college students), it is good critical thinking skills (and good writing skills–but that’s a separate issue).

What traits do you think are most important to instill in younger generations? Why?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 3pm ET.

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Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at


  1. January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm —

    I agree with Ernest Becker’s argument in “Beyond Alienation” on the importance of critical analysis. It is the best means we have to free ourselves from constricting worldviews, narrow ideologies that distract us from individual subjectivity, and hinder the fullest development of Human potential. He argues that this should be the goal of education and the ideal of a working democracy.

  2. January 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm —

    I agree that critical thinking skills are essential to a decent education. I have to disagree though that poor critical thinking skills is a separate issue from poor language skills: I think that the lack of linguistic precision results in not even realizing how poorly considered the thoughts one is failing to express actually are.

    • January 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm —

      To be clear, I didn’t say bad language skills, I said bad writing skills. People can be linguistically savvy and be shitty writers. 😉

    • January 25, 2012 at 11:20 am —

      Further, this is redolent of the kind of language used to dismiss speakers of non-standard varieties of a language as incapable of critical thinking or sophisticated thought, ostensibly due to the poverty of their idiom but actually due to racism and/or classism.

      • January 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm —

        There is a big difference between criticizing differences in dialect when the thinking is clear, or criticizing the problems of a non-native speaker, and criticizing the total inability to communicate abstract thought. I have been a TA in university math classes for several years, and the people with the least skill in written communication are almost invariably people who speak only English, and who grew up in the same part of the country as the university (which, incidentally, is also true of me). Obviously this is a highly biased sample, of course.

        • January 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm —

          Yeah, there is a difference. Your original reply did not make that difference clear. You said “lack of linguistic precision,” which can be interpreted in lots of ways.

          That said, I’m not sure I follow your reasoning about “total inability to communicate abstract thought” as it relates to linguistics. Could you provide an example of what you mean?

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