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Posts tagged ‘education’

My episode of the Skeptic Canary Show

I had a fantastic time on the Skeptic Canary Show today. The hosts, Tom Williamson (blog/Twitter), David James (blog/Twitter), and Paul Hopwood (blog/Twitter), are lovely and intelligent gents who do a great deal of much-needed and important work for the skeptic community, both in the U.K. and online. We had an interesting, fun, and thought-provoking discussion about a variety of topics, including:

  1. Skepticism and skeptical activism
  2. The scope of the skeptic movement (and the difference between skepticism as a movement and skepticism as a methodology)
  3. Applying skepticism to the testable claims made by religions
  4. The crucially important role that rhetoric and effective communication play in skepticism/skeptical activism/the skeptic movement (i.e. determining and making use of the most effective method of informing/persuading/communicating in any given situation and adapting one’s message and argument to whomever our audience happens to be, always making use of the principle of charity, the importance of acknowledging the fact that many people hold on to their irrational/potentially dangerous beliefs for emotional reasons and thus almost certainly cannot and will not be persuaded by facts alone, the brilliance and wisdom of Ray Hyman’s “Proper Criticism“, etc.)
  5. The fact that many of the things that I teach in my rhetoric/composition courses (critical thinking, why it’s absolutely necessary to support all claims and assertions with evidence from quality sources, how to determine whether or not a source is reliable/credible/etc., applying skepticism to everything we read (including our own writing), etc.) can also be valuable tools for skeptics/skeptical activists.
  6. Teaching how to think instead of teaching what to think
  7. Teaching critical thinking
  8. Atheism, how/why/when I became an atheist, and how being an atheist in the U.K. is almost always a very different experience than being an atheist in America
  9. Catholic childhood religious indoctrination and Catholic guilt (and my experience with both)
  10. Skeptic conferences/events (primarily TAMQED, and SkeptiCamp)
  11. TAM 2013 (only a month away now! :) See my recent post about it here)
  12. And, with the help of my favorite Bob in the world, Bob Blaskiewicz (who very kindly took the time to call in during the show), we discussed the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop that Bob and Eve and I will be doing at TAM 2013.
  13. (& I’m sure that we talked about lots of other interesting things that I’ve forgotten to include here (I haven’t yet had the chance to listen to the entire podcast of the episode))

And speaking of the podcast: if you’d like to listen to/download the show, it’s available both on the show’s website and via iTunes.

Thanks again to Tom, David, and Paul for having me on! Be sure to listen to the Skeptic Canary Show live each Wednesday (or download the episodes/podcasts) and visit/”like” the show’s Facebook page if you’re so inclined.

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I’ll be on the Skeptic Canary Show today!

The Skeptic Canary Show

Yay! I’m going to be on the Skeptic Canary Show today (Wednesday, June 12th). It airs at 7 p.m. BST (which is 11 a.m. PDT/ 2 p.m. EDT/ 6 p.m. GMT, etc.). It’s a fantastic show hosted by Tom Williamson, David James, and Paul Hopwood.

From the episode description:

For this episode your hosts will be joined by writer, speaker, skeptic and atheist Miranda Celeste Hale. We will be talking about the upcoming TAM conference, skepticism, religion and education.

You can listen live, join the discussion in the chat room, or call in via Skype or telephone (here’s more info on how to call in to the show). If you can’t listen live, or if you prefer the podcast version, the episode will also be available to listen to/download here and via iTunes.

TAM 2013!

Exciting!: The Amazing Meeting 2013 is less than a month away. I’m thrilled to be returning for my second TAM (and to be returning to Las Vegas, one of my favorite places). I had an absolutely wonderful time at TAM 2012 (some of my photos are here): I learned a great deal, experienced many thought-provoking and inspiring talks/events and conversations, had so much fun with dear friends, met some of my “skeptic heroes” (forgive the cheesy phrase) including Ray Hyman (an absolutely brilliant and sweet man. We had quite a few one-on-one conversations last year, and I’ll always be grateful to him for taking the time to talk with me), and, most exciting of all, I was on the Skepticism and the Humanities panel (video here).

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TAM 2013

This year, my friends/TAM 2012 co-panelists/Skeptical Humanities bloggers/two-fifths of the Virtual Skeptics/fellow skeptic teachers Bob Blaskiewicz and Eve Siebert and I will be presenting the Skepticism Across the Curriculum workshop. Bob will be moderating, and, among other things, we’ll be discussing the various ways that we practice skepticism and promote critical thinking as educators and academics and how those practices and methods can be applied and utilized in a variety of contexts (both academic and non-academic). Or, as Bob wrote in the description of the workshop (also available here):

While many skeptics seem to conflate science and skepticism, the two terms are not equivalent. Science, it turns out, is just one form of skeptical inquiry that encompasses many academic disciplines, including those in the humanities. This workshop will introduce the audience to scholarship confronting extraordinary claims across the disciplines. Skepticism may be profitably applied to everything from Ancient Aliens’ mangling of art and art history, literary and folklore studies, mythology, and archeology, to young-earth creationists’ vandalism of all forms of textual scholarship, from Beowulf and Arthurian legend to Biblical studies. These and other extraordinary claims can also be used in classrooms to teach the critical thinking skills needed in all contexts and to introduce the disciplines to popular audiences.

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And here are a few links to some of the things that I’ve written/spoken about that are either directly related to or relevant to what we’ll be covering in the workshop (I’m sure that I’ll be discussing rhetoric quite a lot):

Blog posts:  1, 2, 3, 4

Posts on the JREF‘s Swift Blog: 1, 2

(& Be sure to check out my Lanyrd profile)

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of TAM again, and am looking forward to our workshop (and am glad that I get to work with Bob and Eve once more- they’re fantastic (ahem, “Derrida Zombies“, anyone?) )

There’s so much more that I could say about last year’s experience, or about what I’m looking forward to at TAM 2013, but I’ll hold off on that for now. Anyway, if you’ll be at TAM this year, come check out our workshop!

Vegas awaits… ♥

Las Vegas Airport- July 2012

‘Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation’- (my latest post for the JREF’s Swift Blog)

Tonight, as I started to ponder what to write about in my next post for the JREF‘s Swift Blog, I realized that I’d forgotten to share my previous Swift post here. It’s called “Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation“.

A brief excerpt:

However, although idealism is a powerful intrinsic motivator for educators and skeptical activists alike, it is not enough. If we wish to be successful in our attempts to inform, educate, persuade, and promote critical thinking and evidence-based decision making (inside or outside of the classroom) we first need to accept that our passionate idealism is only a start. Idealism is a valuable, admirable, and useful personality trait, one that indicates a principled refusal to succumb to the apathy and cynicism that pervades much of contemporary society. That being said, though, we must also acknowledge that while our idealism motivates us to inform, enlighten, and promote evidence-based decision making (in the classroom or otherwise), in order to turn motivation into action, we must be willing to be both idealists and pragmatists. Idealism alone doesn’t accomplish anything. Although this may not be something we often consider when analyzing our own contributions to skeptical activism, the professional educators and/or skeptical activists who we admire and respect the most are almost certainly the ones who acknowledge (through their words and/or their actions) that pragmatism, discipline, and hard work are just as important as idealism.

The rest of the post is available here.

Thanks for reading!

Video of the TAM 2012 ‘Skepticism and the Humanities’ Panel

TAM 2012 “Skepticism and the Humanities” panel. (Photo by Bruce Press. Click photo to see original.)

Yay!  The JREF has posted its video of the TAM 2012Skepticism and the Humanities” panel.  You may recognize that girl in the middle (^‿^):

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Below, I’ll paste a comment that I originally intended for YouTube. I wrote it out in a text editor, and when I went back to the video’s comments section to post it, I realized that YouTube comments are limited to 500 characters. So, instead of finding a way to cut out 2,500 characters, I’ll post it here instead. Just pretend that you’re reading it in the comments section on YouTube, okay? ;) It will make more sense that way. Thanks!:

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Thanks so much for posting this! I really enjoyed being on the panel (I’m the girl in the middle) & am so grateful for the opportunity.

I do think that there should have been two separate panels, though. In the months leading up to this, I’d been (based on conversations with a few of the others) envisioning and preparing for a discussion of how the skills that we (active skeptics who are also teachers/scholars of various humanities disciplines (rhetoric/composition, in my case)) study and/or teach (i.e. the importance of thinking critically, of research, of supporting our assertions with legitimate (i.e. not anecdotal or personal) evidence from quality sources, of expressing ourselves in the clearest possible manner, of analyzing and critiquing all assertions, including our own, of practicing the principle of charity, etc.) can and should become a part of every skeptical activist’s “skeptic’s toolkit” (for lack of a better phrase). That kind of discussion would have been much more relevant to TAM, as it would have stayed focused on scientific skepticism/skeptical inquiry, skepticism as a methodology, and skills-based skepticism. The humanities fall within the scope of scientific skepticism and are relevant to the methodology of skepticism *only* when the humanities can provide pragmatic tools, thought processes, and skills that all skeptics can put to use. That’s the only justification for including the humanities in a conference like TAM, and I think that a humanities-only panel would have been able to have the kind of productive, pragmatic, and interesting discussion that I outlined above.

Honestly, when I found out that it was going to be an arts *and* humanities panel (this was a few months after initial planning and discussion began), I was a bit frustrated/disappointed, as I knew that the type of panel I’d been envisioning and preparing for wasn’t going to be happening, and I had no clue as to how we were going to include two very different fields/subjects in one discussion, let alone keep that discussion relevant to skeptical activism and within the scope of scientific skepticism/skeptical inquiry. The arts are relevant to skepticism in their own way, and a separate panel on that topic would have been interesting, I’m sure. But meshing the arts and the humanities together like this just didn’t work all that well. I still think that the panel was good, and that some valuable points were made and that some important discussion occurred, but I kept wanting to return the focus to the pragmatic skills and topics that I mentioned above, and that didn’t happen nearly enough, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I am *so* grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in a panel, I loved being a part of TAM (it was seriously amazing and wonderful and so lovely ♥), and would love to be involved again next year. And, again, thanks so much to the JREF for filming and posting these talks and panels. They’re a great resource for both educators and for the skeptical community as a whole.

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More soon! Thanks for reading.

New post on the JREF’s Swift Blog

Hi! My first contribution to the JREF‘s Swift Blog, “The Hypothetical Audience“, is now up. This post is part of a series of articles by teachers who use various pedagogical techniques to promote skepticism and critical thinking in the classroom (many thanks to my friend and TAM co-panelist Bob Blaskiewicz for inviting me to contribute to this series!)

A brief excerpt:

Additionally, the ability to imagine a realistic hypothetical audience is a pragmatic skill and tool in and of itself, one that can be adapted to many contexts. It also provides a way to promote critical thinking and skepticism in the classroom. When instructing students to “imagine an audience”, most textbooks that I’ve used offer rather generic and imprecise directions along the lines of “imagine an intelligent and well-informed audience” or “imagine an audience that is similar to your classmates”. Such directions are inadequate primarily because they omit any discussion of the imaginary audience’s potential reaction to the paper’s assertions and claims. This omission is significant. Before we teach students how to craft effective arguments of their own (critical writing), we explain why it is important to be skeptical towards the arguments of others, asking questions such as “is the author trustworthy? Why? How do you know?”, “Does the author provide sufficient support for each of their assertions, or do they instead rely on assumptions or make unsupported generalizations?”, and “Does their evidence come from high-quality and unbiased sources?” (critical reading). We teach our students how to engage in critical reading, how and why it is important to scrutinize every argument carefully and thoroughly, and how to respond to an author’s arguments with charitable-yet-strong skepticism. When directing students to “imagine an audience”, however, we often forget that this imaginary audience must also practice that same skepticism, and that, without this skepticism, such an audience is a useless invention.

Read the rest here.

Thanks! More soon.

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