Is critical thinking part of your curriculum? As parents and educators, we’re tasked with teaching our kids the most important skills they’ll need to be successful in life. Perhaps at the top of that list should be critical thinking skills, or the ability to assess multiple sources of information, ask good questions, and analyze all of that data before forming a judgment.
Categories of Thinkers:
Category of Thinker
Intellectually unskilled thinkers
Weak-sense critical thinkers
Fair-Minded Critical Persons
Strong-sense critical thinkers
In episode 31 of The Authentic Wife Show, author, historian, and educator Barbara Ann Mojica shares her perspective as a former teacher, special educator, principal, and school district administrator. We talk about how critical thinking skills are missing in today’s learning environment as teachers are forced to teach to the test, how history could help us develop those skills, and how her Little Miss History series of books can help parents bring the past to life for their kids.
You can also watch this episode on my YouTube Channel:
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Questions to Ask Others to Get Good Data:
- Could you elaborate on that point? / Could you elaborate?
- Could you illustrate what you mean?
- Could you give me an example?
- How can we determine/find out if that is true?
- How could we check on that?
- How can we verify the accuracy?
- How could we test that?
- Could you provide more details?
- Could you be more specific?
- Could you be more exact?
- How does this idea relate to the issue/problem?
- How does your claim bear on the question? / How does that bear on the question?
- How does that help us with the issue?
- What are some of the complexities of the question?
- What factors make this difficult?
- What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?
- How do you take into account the problems in the question?
- Do we need to consider another point of view?
- Do we need to look at this in other ways?
- Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
- Does all this make sense together?
- Does your first paragraph fit in with your last one?
- How does that follow from the evidence?
- Does what you say follow from the evidence?
- Which of these ideas is most important?
- Is this the most important problem to consider?
- Which of these facts are most important?
- Is this the central idea to focus on?
Questions to Ask Ourselves to Think Critically:
- Is my purpose significant?
- Is it justifiable?
- Does it contradict other goals I have?
- What precisely is the question?
- Is it the most fundamental one at issue?
- Is there more than one question that I need to address in order to effectively reason through the problem?
- From what vantage point am I viewing this issue?
- Am I so rooted to my point of view that I can’t see the issue from other points of view?
- Must I consider alternative points of view in order to reason effectively through the issue at hand?
- What is the most important information I need?
- What (if any) alternative information sources do I need to consider?
- How can I determine if the information I’m using is accurate?
- Is all of the information I’m using relevant to the issue at hand?
- What is the most fundamental concept applied to the issue at hand?
- Are my concepts deep and broad enough to do intellectual justice to the question or problem?
- Are my assumptions clear or unclear?
- Are my assumptions justifiable or unjustifiable (in the context of the issue at hand)?
- Are my assumptions consistent or contradictory?
- Are my assumptions logical or illogical?
- What are the key inferences?
- What assumptions are the inferences based upon?
- Are the inferences justifiable?
- Are the inferences logical?
- Even if logical, are the inferences relevant and important to the question at issue?
Podcast Interview Transcription:
This is the largely unedited auto-transcription of our conversation:
Beth Rowles: [00:00:00] Barbara, I’m so happy to have you here. I love history. I love what you’re doing in the world. I think it is just a really wonderful topic for my audience who’s very concerned about how their children are raised and that they know. Not only where like they come from, but where the world around them has been and where we’re headed, and so they feel armed to make good choices for themselves.
And I know that you’re passionate about this kind of conversation of having children who can critically think and choose properly for themselves. You have so much to share, but tell me a little bit how you got into this work that you’re doing now with these books about history and everything else that you’re doing.
Barbara Ann Mojica: Well, my two passions are history and education. Mm-hmm. . So I started out as a young child in a working class family and didn’t appear [00:01:00] that college would be part of my future because my family had limited resources. But I was lucky that at the time I lived in a, a city in which. There was an option for public college if you had the grades to get in.
There was a merit-based public college system. Mm-hmm. . So one of my teachers in high school really inspired me and, and. She was a history teacher and I just loved the way she made people and places and events come alive and so impactful. So she told me I really needed to go to college and that got me thinking on that path.
And I just that I worked really hard, got into my first choice, went to. Put my nose to the grindstone and even got a scholarship for graduate school. So there I [00:02:00] was. I, wow. I was a major in history. Got degrees undergraduate and graduate in history. But when I graduated, I. Kind of miss the people aspect.
I loved research and I, I loved the whole focus of history where you were thought to really think critically, to analyze, to interpret. To be able to pull so much information together and then be able to use all of that knowledge to come to a conclusion. But I didn’t wanna live in the world of academia.
Totally. I wanted to be involved with people. So I kind of did a 180 and I started teaching. And I started teaching in elementary school. So I did that for a long time. And as I taught, I became aware that there were so many children whose needs were aren’t being met in [00:03:00] that. Kind of general ed the private school setting that I was in.
So I went back to school again and I took graduate certification in special ed. Mm-hmm. . So I began to work with children with special needs. All the way on the other end of the spectrum, these were children with really severe needs autism crack cocaine, babies down syndrome, fragile X, all kinds of issues.
And I really got immersed into that. , I became a principal of a special ed school and Oh wow. Eventually I became an administrator for preschool special education in New York City. So I did that for about 20 years and, and I learned so much about children with special needs. But then I got laid off, big reorganization, and I went back into public school education again there
I was making the whole circle and I [00:04:00] worked with children. That had special needs within the public education setting. But by this time, education had begun to change dramatically. And there were so many forces at work. There was a lot of politics. There were the teachers, unions, teachers weren’t being allowed to teach.
The way they used to be able to teach, to be able to go into the classroom, interpret the needs of their students, and then apply the curriculum to them. Now, we were teaching to the test. We were becoming data collectors. We were. Making this one size fits all approach. We had children who had multiple needs children from so many different languages, and we weren’t accommodating them at all. We were becoming like mini robots, you know, just a part of this system. Mm-hmm. do as I say, and, [00:05:00] and that’s it. And the children were losing out. So when I did retire, I had. Begun to see that trend and I’m retired 10 more than 10 years now, and it’s got it’s worsened.
You know, our education system here in the United States keeps falling further and further below as far as world standards go, and we keep telling ourselves, well, we have to meet the standards. We have to have common core. We have to bring ourselves up to this. And our children are not learning well, they’re learning a whole bunch of facts and data to try to meet this arbitrary standard, but they’re not being taught how to think. And that’s why I feel so passionately that parents should have many, many more options than, than this one size fits all approach.
Beth Rowles: Ah, so they’re being taught to the test. Or taught to the test, right. Is that what you. Teach to the tests and they’re being taught Oh, well,
Barbara Ann Mojica: right? And, and they’re not able to meet those standards because here you have children who are coming from so many different cultures so many different backgrounds, and we give them this one standardized test, and half of the children don’t even understand the culture.
Where that test is coming from. So not only can they not, do they not understand the language, they don’t have the cultural background to understand the test that’s coming from these academia, test test researchers, you know, the experts, the authorities on formulating these tests. So, , it, it, it is, to me it’s ki kind of being in a rat race.
It’s just a circle [00:07:00] that keeps going round and round and we never seem like the hamster on the wheel. You know, like we never seem to make any progress.
Beth Rowles: Do we have, is there like a time in history when things we were headed in this direction before? and what was the result of that? Or is this kind of a new place that we’re in?
Barbara Ann Mojica: Well, I, we may have had that issue briefly at times in the past, but I think the technology has really pushed this to the forefront. Oh. Cause now, We are not even presented with the facts. We’re presented with opinions and scenarios, so, mm-hmm. , chil, you know, the ch children themselves have become creatures of the technology.
So, you know, of course children want to fit in. They want to be [00:08:00] accepted by their peers. Social media plays into that. You know, they go on social media and they see the ideal image and they want to fit into that image, and, and they talk to their friends and they they follow what their friends want to accept, so they.
are like almost trapped into this vicious circle. So on social media, they’re, they’re given to per they’re given, you know, certain ideals and then they want to be accepted. And what does social media show them? Does social media show them the facts? No, social media gives them. a point of view based on an algorithm.
Mm-hmm. and when the child tunes into social media, that keeps getting reinforced over and over and over again. So, you know, if you go back to the fifties or the sixties, when we first [00:09:00] had television we were given the news and we were, we were just presented with the facts. You know, that’s the way it is.
You know, the Walter Con. Type of thing. But now when children tune into social media or adults tune into social media, they are met with a panels of experts who give them opinions. And depending on the type of social media that you turn into, you’re going to get. An opinion that’s slanted one way or another.
Mm-hmm. . And then that’s going to be what you hear. And the more you hear it, the more it’s reinforced. So we are not being given the opportunity to do critical thinking in my opinion. We’re always presented with one side of the story. So I think it’s so important that we go back. To being able to be presented with a problem, a [00:10:00] topic, an issue, and then look at what historians call the seas of history.
We look at the content. Mm-hmm. , we look at the context, what else is going on? Who are the people that are influences and being influenced by what is going on? How are they communicating with each other? The, the way we communicate today is radically different from the way we communicated 10 years ago.
And in history, we should be relying on the primary sources, the data, the artifacts, the letters, the journals. The actual meat of what was happening at that time, not somebody’s interpretation of it. And then when we, when we look at the connections and the way it was communicated and those actual citations of.[00:11:00]
Data that was real and true at that time, then we can put all that together, infer and analyze and come to some kind of conclusion. And sometimes there’s more than one conclusion. Sometimes there is no conclusion at all. There are just a multiple list of possibilities and we. Make one right or wrong answer.
Children need to understand that, that, you know, it doesn’t have to be that I have a question, I go to the internet, I type in my question and the first answer I see, well, I got an answer. That must be the answer. They have to know how to go in deeper, and that’s why I love history so much because it involves so much critical thinking. For a child to grow up and succeed in any kind of career, whether that be a vocational career or an academic type of career, the child has to learn how to think for himself or herself to be critical, to become a critical thinker. And yeah, our schools are really, in my opinion, failing in that regard. So I think parents have to come in and step in and, and be aware of that and take up the slack.
Beth Rowles: Yeah, so I was encourag. I was gonna ask you like what is gonna happen if this continues? If, if people are just presented with opinions and they’re not shown the facts and the data, and they’re not critical think thinkers.
So you said that they’re gonna grow up and they’re not gonna be able to succeed in any type of career because they don’t have the skill. How else do you see this impacting. Society as a whole. If people are not able to understand that multiple things can be true at once, they’re not able to critically think and look through problems.[00:13:00]
What’s gonna happen? Do we know ? Do we know that from history? What’s gonna happen? Or is this new?
Barbara Ann Mojica: Well, we certainly have never been living in a society like this where we have so much division because people are presented with very rigid. and tight points of view. And then yes adhere to that, you know, these are part of the barriers to critical thinking.
People think in black and white for many reasons. Whether it’s they come from it with a very strict religious point of view, or they come to it because of this social thinking of you. What the internet and their peer group of friends are telling them to think, or maybe it’s ego. We have these academic types, you know, the quote experts who are supposed to be authorities and well, you have to accept it because I have [00:14:00] spent x amount of years studying this and I am the authority on the subject.
We have a lot of that too, so those are all the barriers, but I think we can overcome some of that by having parents and teachers as much as they can within the confines of, of their, you know, Experience with administration and, and the powers that be, the unions and so on. I think we can do a lot.
We can teach these, what I call these creative thinking skills. Mm-hmm. so parents can teach children to respect other opinions, you know, and, and encourage children to.
Well, this is what I heard, but suppose this isn’t true. Maybe there’s [00:15:00] another way of thinking. So parents can kind of modeling, do modeling with that and . It’s hard for parents because they also are the victims of this kind of social media thing. Mm-hmm. . But they should be aware of that and always propose the alternative to a child.
You know, be honest with them and say, well, a lot of people think this, but. Maybe they’re not right there. There could be another side, you know, show compassion for people that think differently. You know try not to be so narrow minded. Teach children to be grateful for the things that they have.
An appreciate that there are always other people who are worse off than they are. So there are all, you know, even if things look bad, we can always. Like my character does. She always looks on the bright side of things, wearing the rose-colored glasses, but positive thinking, you know, [00:16:00] encouraging positive thinking within children, you know, always look, there’s always something better that that could be had from what’s going on.
And, you know, teach them. Also forgiveness and humility, you know, when they’re. Admit that they’re wrong. Mm-hmm. It, it’s o you know, it’s okay to be wrong. No one is right a hundred percent of the time. And parents have to be very careful with that because, you know, some parents like to see themselves as the quote authority figure.
And yes, for me, I think a, a this most successful parents are those who are more mentors and coaches. They, they have the ability to listen. as well as talk. Yes. And they can tune into their child’s feelings, you know, when the child is upset, express to the child your, your understanding of the way they feel, but at [00:17:00] the same time talk through their, their feelings, you know?
Oh yeah. Show them love and kindness and also show them. that there has to be an ability to look on that, that other side of the picture. So, you know, teach them to have a more balanced perspective. At the same time, I don’t mean to say encourage a child to be shy or red sit in any way. I think parents.
Encourage boldness in their children, encourage them to try new things even if they fail, because, you know, a lot of parents want their children to be successful. You know, the kind of like, well, I couldn’t do this, so maybe my child will be able to, to do this kind of living vicariously through the child.
Oh yeah. But I think We learn [00:18:00] a lot more sometimes from our failures than we do from our successes. Mm-hmm. . And it’s okay for children to try things and then fail at them and Absolutely make them feel accepted. You know, okay, you tried this, it didn’t work out, but that’s okay. We can try something else.
And, and. Well this is, that also exposes children to new experiences. Yes. As well.
Beth Rowles: Yeah. This is definitely the way that I parent or try to parent, but it’s also like you’re bringing up kind of a point that I make in the work that I do, which is helping. Women and men, you know, work together in their marriage because a huge cause of the division is really the same thing.
That inability to understand another person’s perspective to honor that two things can be true at once. My husband and I don’t always agree on every topic. But that’s okay. And I think it’s so important to model that for our kids, that, [00:19:00] you know, we can listen to each other and we can talk about it and critically think through it and come to, you know, the best solution for us, which we had to do over the past couple years with the Covid vaccine, where he was hearing one thing from social media and I was hearing very different things from social media and we had to like address the fears and critically think through that.
Okay, what is the best choice for our children with this? When we set aside our fear, when we really try to get as many facts as we can and not just people’s opinions. So I think that this division that you spoke of is really what’s gonna cause a problem. It is already causing a problem, right? Because we can no longer work together.
And it seems to me. Place in our homes is really the best place to start with our kids, with our husbands, with our families. You’ve hit so many good points. I really love the work that you’re doing and how you’re helping people to bring these creative thinking skills. Into their parenting [00:20:00] especially.
And for teachers, I know you’re supporting them with these books that you write. You’ve got this wonderful series. Can you tell me about that series and how does it, I know it talks about the history of each place that you go. Does it kind of go into this sort of critical thinking, creative thinking process as well?
Barbara Ann Mojica: yes. That’s a big part of the book series. My character, Little Miss History, who was created. By my illustrator and husband, because he knows me very well, he created the character based on a younger version of me. Oh, wow. And the, the character is curious. The character is very empathetic very compassionate, very involved in each of the situations.
Brings the child on the journey with, so the books are interactive, the character. With rose colored glasses, tries to keep a positive [00:21:00] outlook, even though some of the situations she encounters are very, very sad and very, very upsetting. But she wears this hiking outfit that’s re reflective of the way I was.
I always wanted to travel, and as an adult, that was the first thing I did. When I started working, I became very, very interested in traveling and learning more. Different people and cultures and histories of course. And she wears these hiking boots cuz I used to love to hike in the mountains nearby.
And she is curious, determined, compassionate, but yet humble and empathetic and. . I want children to see themselves in this character. Hmm. So she’s the narrator. And my books bring children to many different places and they cover not only history, but they cover many different disciplines. So I have a book, for [00:22:00] instance, on the LaBrea Tarpits that goes all the way back to pre-history yet.
The LaBrea Tar Pits is an active archeological site, and there are scientists there today who are still uncovering fossils, cleaning them, categorizing them. Children who go there are able to experience that firsthand. They’re able to walk where there was pre-history 40,000 years ago. and they are able to see these reconstructed skeletons of creatures that once walked the earth.
Hmm. My, some of my books cover national Parks and Nature, so the Sequoia National Park Book. Talks a lot about science, these Sequoia trees, how they grow. What are the differences between the redwoods and the sequoias? Who went to Sequoia National Park? Who were the ancient explorers? What kind of wildlife lived there?[00:23:00]
And how is Sequoia National Park a contradiction in terms. A reflection of nature’s beauty, and it’s also the most polluted national park in the whole system. Good. Because there’s so much air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. I asked children to think about things like this. What? What do they think about it?
Can they come up with any solutions? I have books that talk about world history, like the Intrepid Sierra, and Space Museum. That’s a book about the intrepid. And on the intrepid children are able to, to visit and see planes from World War I, world War ii. They’re able to see the actual enterprise space.
Brings right up to modern times. They’re actually able to be going down into Theum where they can sit in a helicopter that was used in [00:24:00] the Vietnam War. They can look at a space capsule that came back. From the space program in which the Intrepid actually picked
Barbara Ann Mojica: they can see movies of World War II experiences.
They can see a Lego ship reconstructed, just like they play with Legos. They can see a a, a Lego model of the intrepid. So there are so many different dimensions. Again we talk. Different kinds of prejudices. Like the Mount Rushmore book. We talk about how the land was taken from the Lakota Sue and how we built this beautiful monument to four presidents of a natural history.
But, Was it right to take this land? And now what do they think about the fact that the Lakota are now building a monument [00:25:00] right near Mount Rushmore? Mm-hmm. to crazy horse, the leader of, of their tribe. What do they think about that? What do they think about Native American rights? What do they think about the way this played out in history and the way the.
is addressing it today. Mm-hmm. So my North Pole book is another one that covers many different aspects. We talk about the eight countries that have territory in the Arctic. We talk about literature and the whole Santa Claus story. We talk about the fact that the night before Christmas is, the night before Christmas, may not have been written by the person that we think it was written by Uhuh.
So there are all. Questions and dimensions that I try to bring forth. And encourage children to think critically about. That’s
Beth Rowles: wonderful. Well, I was just gonna ask you if you could buy your books like on location at these sites. So with the exception of the North Pole one anyway, like, cause I love to take the kids.
When I was, I was sharing [00:26:00] with you before I was homeschooled, one of the things my mom did that was just marvelous was she took us to so many places and then she’d go in the gift shop and get more materials for, you know, further learning. Stuff.
Barbara Ann Mojica: Well, yes, some of them are available on site. That’s a whole other story as far as the way these sites market and Uhoh set up their museums.
My newest book is Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello. Lovely. And I’m try, I’m working on trying to get the book at the Monticello sites, which is a long. Process, but they’re, my books are available at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Oh, that’s awesome. And they are available worldwide.
You can go to. Amazon online, worldwide, Barnes and Noble, online worldwide bookshop.org. Wow. A lot of the indie books sites like IndieBound the books are all available there. You can go to my website and preview all the books and all you know, links to sites [00:27:00] where they are available.
Beth Rowles: And what is your website address
Barbara Ann Mojica: Simply? Miss history.com. Don’t miss. Uh, And from there you can get to all of my resources. I have tabs to click on getting to the YouTube channel the videos for teachers, parents, and even authors. You can get to my blog so you can get the articles on how to.
good reading book for your child. You can, you know get to the book reviews, which I do twice a week. You can get to my other social media sites like LinkedIn Instagram. I have a Facebook page for little Miss history as well. Oh, wonderful. So I have an instant chat too, so they can just hit chat and
Beth Rowles: talk.
Wonderful. Do you say on your YouTube channel you have like two minute lessons? Or little
Barbara Ann Mojica: lessons? Yes, I have, I call them a two minute teacher. Oh, okay. And every week I do mini lessons. So they could be used by parents or [00:28:00] teachers. Some of them cover critical thinking issues, like what is bias, what is a fact, what is an opinion?
How can you be a good citizen? Mm-hmm. , some of them cover all different subject areas. I have two minute teacher lessons on , some of my books. I have too many teacher lessons on math on science STEM activities making paper toys all kinds of things, art activities, anything you can imagine.
Just supplementary activities for children to explore their creativity and their critical thinking. .
Beth Rowles: Mm. I love that. That’s wonderful. Those, you know, everybody who’s homeschooling right now, they’re temporarily or permanently can go grab those to supplement the lessons that they’re doing. So that’s fabulous.
I love this. Everything that you’ve shared is so important. I think that this is work that really needs to happen. We need to re-look at her educational system, but we can certain. Start at home to begin to raise these beautiful critical [00:29:00] thinkers who, like you share. We didn’t get to talk about it, but they get to become the leaders of tomorrow and, and be a wonderful character in history.
Can you share, just real quick before we go, what does it mean to you for each person to have that role in history, to be a character in history? What, what is the legacy that our children are going to leave?
Barbara Ann Mojica: I see history as an evolutionary process. So the day we’re born, we become a character in history. And, and what do children ask? Well, who am I first questions? Where did I come from? How do I fit in? So they want to know about their family, you know, who will, who was grandma or who was grandpa? , how did they go to school?
What, you know, how did they dress? What? What did they do in their spare time? You know, these [00:30:00] are all questions. Parents, again, can encourage children to wonder. Those two words, I wonder. Mm-hmm. . So take the child and bring them From that point. I wonder about, oh, that old house who lived there, what did. , how did they dress?
What were their customs? How did they react to other people in the community? Then go out into the community and take that further. Let your child be active in the community. You see a broken swing. Ask the child, Ooh, that’s broken. Do you think we could do something to fix that? Get the child involved.
If you go to a community meeting, take the child with you. Let the child experience. A discuss. Let them start thinking about problem solving, you know? And then all of that can be used as a framework to prepare children to be actively engaged, which they’re not today. I [00:31:00] mean, history is largely ignored in the schools until you get to maybe the high school level too, and then you have this very rigid curriculum that explores only certain topics, and then you memorize the facts.
Yeah, and you passed the course . That’s not really being encouraged to think critically. So if you get children actively engaged in the process at a young age, how sad is it today that so many children and adults don’t know the basic facts about our government? They don’t know the basic facts about our history.
It’s just something that’s been totally ignored. Mm-hmm. And we have. Do our best to get that back on track if we want to ensure that we will have a strong democratic republic.
Beth Rowles: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I love that idea of taking ’em out into the community and seeing how to [00:32:00] be involved. That’s such a good point.
And the talking about our cultures and where we come from and everything gives us such a grounded sense of belonging that I think has been kind of missing for even my generation, millennials, and. And going forward. So it’s something that we absolutely need to put our time into. Barbara, thank you so much for being here today.
I love what you’re doing and I can’t wait to get these books for my kids and share your videos and everything with them. I really appreciate you being here, so thank
Barbara Ann Mojica: you very much. Well, thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with your listeners. Absolutely.
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