I am a missionary in Russia, and have had the fun of reading The Fallacy Detective with my teenage daughter this year, as part of her homeschool program. Recently, I’ve had several opportunities to address public school teachers and university professors in our city. This is rare in Russia, where educational institutions are jealously guarded and foreigners–especially Americans–are viewed with great suspicion. Last week, I was invited to give a seminar on critical thinking, and since this is nearly a brand-new concept in Russia and almost no materials for it already exist, I had carte blanche to say whatever I wanted to say.
Russian thinking is often characterized by many of the logical fallacies presented in The Fallacy Detective, so right away, I thought, “Russians need to know this stuff!” I wrote a portion of the seminar on logical fallacies, using the ideas in your book (and only small quotes, all of which I referenced per your copyright restrictions.) I was amazed by the reactions. It was by far the most popular part of the seminar, and afterward several university professors told me, “We will be using this material with our own students. We’ve never heard these things before!”
Also, there was one professor there who is just finishing up her post-graduate thesis on the subject of advertising. I mentioned propaganda in advertising only in passing (there wasn’t time to talk in-depth about it) and it was clear to me later that it was a concept the woman was unfamiliar with. She asked me many questions about it, and the answers I gave her were what I learned from The Fallacy Detective. I hope to follow up with an e-mail to her that has more details (in which I will certainly reference you!)
Thanks for your part in adding this dimension to the world-and-life view of these women. The influence of educators in Russia cannot be overemphasized (probably that’s some kind of logical fallacy, since obviously it can be overemphasized….) What teachers say in the classroom carries far more weight in this country (as a nation of non-critical thinkers) than it does in America (where critical thinking is, at least to some degree, part of our culture.) I believe the ripple effect of last week’s seminar will go on for years to come as some of these teachers put into practice the things I learned from you and in turn passed on to them. I’ve been invited to present the same seminar on a city-wide basis in February. How exciting to think of all the educators who will hear these things then!
With warm appreciation,
Great to hear those news!
In some countries in the world people were not allowed to think much on their own.
it is good to see that things are starting to change.
I have to disagree, that the concept of “critical thinking” is a brand-new concept in Russia. I received my education in USSR and continued to expand it in US. “Critical thinking” and logic and fallacies are studied in the higher Philosophy courses in Universities. I myself studied these concepts in USSR University, and had to repeat it in my Logic course in US, it was arranged somewhat differently, but the concepts were the same. As for the statement that “Russian thinking is often characterized by many of the logical fallacies”, I have to disagree again… Logical fallacies are the attribute of the uneducated masses in any country, Russia, or US alike. Among more educated, intelligent groups of the society it is not as common. Moreover,I think that logical fallacies are closely related to common sense,which in my observation, many of the Americans are lacking (eg.credit card ignorance among many Americans is the big one).
In responce to Carolina Jackson, that “In some countries in the world people were not allowed to think much on their own”, that is a complete nonsense. Only a person who never have been outside the US and have no knowledge of other cultures would say that. I think the opposite is the true, in US individuality is not encouraged, all I hear is “team effort”, “effective team player”. If someone thinks, that you may not be a “good team player”, you may find yourself in the bosses office, explaining yourself. Even in school/university “group study” is strongly recommended, as it almost guaranteed the success in the course, as if students are not able to have enough discipline to organize themselves to study. I my observation in over ten years in US, people are told what to do and what to think all the time. Whoever wants to think for themselves, and make their decisions for themselves, are able to do so in any country. No one can disallow people to think for themselves, just in some countries this can be more challenging to express ones thoughts (eg. in some Middle Eastern countries, it could be dangerous to be a Christian and speak of it in the open).