Critical thinking

November 15, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

You can find information and knowledge on just about any subject in the world. Just Google it. Have a math problem? There are online calculators at the click of a mouse. Need a chemical formula? No problem. Design a room for best sound quality? It’s a few clicks of the mouse away.

With a bit of time and persistence, the knowledge of the world is at our fingertips.

What the immense resources of our connected world bring to the party is only going to become more easily accessed over time. What’s not available online, however, is the ability to think.

Critical thinking skills seem to be rather scarce these days. And, that’s a shame because even with all the resources on the planet if one doesn’t know how to use reason and logic to solve a problem, we’ll never get to where we want to go.

Take for example the skill required to source and set up a high end audio system. Because each environment is so different it becomes necessary to not only have the knowledge needed to cobble the right separates and interconnects together, but the ability to think about how to best optimize the system within the room.

Understanding the why of how things work is the first step to thinking through a problem.

Or, take as another example an engineer. When we hire engineers and programmers we evaluate them more on their ability to think as opposed to the knowledge in their heads. Knowledge can be added or easily Googled. Thinking is a learned skill that some have invested in while most have not.

I won’t get into a rant about the state of our school systems with respect to the teaching (or lack thereof) of critical thinking skills. I get that the education machine struggles with just teaching the basics of maths, language, and history.

If you have a choice, go for the assets that have developed thinking rather than simply spewing information.

Information is easy. Solving problems is where the fun is.

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61 comments on “Critical thinking”

  1. There is a lot of logic and reasoning in my audio system, but not much if any of it is scientific. The logic and reasoning largely relates to practicality and colour schemes. Virtually every component was sold to me by the same dealer, who in 7 years has never uttered a technical or scientific word in my direction. Look and listen. The UK Sales Manager of Innuos is a bit of a wizard at explaining clever stuff in layman’s terms and I’m about to demo/buy a second product from them. Cables were sorted years ago. I do the internet stuff myself and learned a huge amount recently from a salesman at a company called Broadbandbuyer, who sold me a router that uses PoE (a new concept to me) and an amazing Ubiquiti system that is truly plug-and-play and they program it with your wifi name and password before sending it to you. Room treatment was partly copied from my dealer’s demo room and advice from an appropriately named company called So for me it’s about finding people who speak my language, understand where I’m going, and I stick with them indefinitely.

  2. There is a lot of logic and reasoning in my audio system, but not much if any of it is scientific. The logic and reasoning largely relates to practicality and colour schemes. Virtually every component was sold to me by the same dealer, who in 7 years has never uttered a technical or scientific word in my direction. Look and listen. The UK Sales Manager of Innuos is a bit of a wizard at explaining clever stuff in layman’s terms and I’m about to demo/buy a second product from them. Cables were sorted years ago. I do the internet stuff myself and learned a huge amount recently from a salesman at a company called Broadbandbuyer, who sold me a router that uses PoE (a new concept to me) and an amazing Ubiquiti system that is truly plug-and-play and they program it with your wifi name and password before sending it to you. Room treatment was partly copied from my dealer’s demo room and advice from an appropriately named company called Muffledotcodotuk. So for me it’s about finding people who speak my language, understand where I’m going, and I stick with them indefinitely.

    1. The only logic that matters is that you are happy with the sound
      that you have cobbled together in ‘Casa del Steven’s Wife’.

      Australia; T20 World Champions…but humiliated on the Rugby
      field by ‘The Old Enemy’.
      Can’t win ’em all.

      Now, bring on ‘The Ashes’ ;-D

      1. It was a well-earned victory, basically won in the NZ powerplay, so done and dusted in the first half hour. Auz also won the award for best facial hair, at which they have always excelled. Not sure if Wade or Warner win the individual prize.

        I didn’t know there was a rugby match. Watched Lewis Hamilton (what a hero) and went to a show (Stacey Kent) at which we decided the sound was better listening at home than live and left at half time, because of the low ceiling at the venue and excessive amplification. She’s at Ronnie Scott’s for a week early next year, so we’ll go to that.

            1. Does being in the ‘in crowd’ include having a ticket agent who has access to the most incredible seats at any venue? When I wanted to really have great seats I knew who to call. I won’t go into the story of how my agent got me tickets for the Blue Man Group in Boston. It’s really amazing what a great ticket agent can pull off because they have so many connections.

              I also guess being part of the ‘in crowd’ means knowing some famous people which I knew more than a few. One lady in particular would contact me when she was coming to New York to open up a new play. This Comedienne would call me and say Neil, what date are you coming to my show and the be sure to visit me after the play is over? I’m holding my seats for you.” Yeah, I guess that’s being part of the in crowd. (Bragging but true)

              You mentioned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and I take this as being a London resident that’s part of the ‘in crowd’. I had a similar relationship with Max Gordon, the owner of the Village Vanguard which I have mentioned before that my cousin and I became his special friends who were able to walk past everyone waiting online to get into the club. When we walked in, there was Max sitting at his table and when he saw us he would say “Boys..boys come sit with me“ and that’s exactly what we did. I guess that’s part of being part of the ‘the in crowd’ too. I was very fortunate in New York City making friends with a plethora of important people over my many years being a New Yorker Who is retail businesses were integral to the dog and cat owners in the tri-state area. Last but not least, if you get to a club early enough that doesn’t take reservations you’re going to be right at the front of the line and then you don’t have to be part of the “in crowd”. That’s how I got to meet Sonny Rollins and spend several minutes alone with him. Of all the special people that I knew, Sonny stands out above almost everyone else who I met or was acquainted with.

              Funny, not once did the term critical thinking come into this response.

              1. When I was younger my cousin’s best friend was perhaps the world’s leading promoter of rock bands, so I could get tickets, usually VIP, for just about anything I wanted. I had dinner years ago with the head of Ticketmaster Asia and it put me off buying tickets through agencies ever again, and I never have. We have priority booking at 3 main music venues at about $100 to $200 annually and membership of perhaps a dozen other arts venues. Wigmore Hall gives you a week or so to request priority tickets (done by ballot if oversubscribed, which very rarely happens). The Royal Opera House you just have to log in at 9am when the booking window opens and we always get what we want, usually very good seats. We’re not even on the Ronnie Scott’s email list. There is so much going on in London, 100+ shows daily, plus my wife keeps track of what’s good, it’s more a matter of rationing what we see. One of the hardest tickets is a great jazz venue called Church of Sound, announced randomly on Facebook, limited to about 400 tickets at $10 to $20 and sells out in an hour or two. They struggled for a couple of years, then managed to book The Cookers with Shabaka Hutchings guesting, and the rest is history. Most arts venues are publicly funded and very few tickets are reserved for the great and the good, usually only by having super-priority booking.

                My son and his mates gig all the time. I think their greatest achievement was gatecrashing Kasabian’s launch party for their album 48:13 at Abbey Road Studio 2. He was only 17 at the time and managed to have a long chat with Sergio Pizzorno. I seem to remember he told him he was a journalist or something.

                1. I’m getting a better idea of who you are and and there’s no question that you have plenty of connections and between you and your wife you know how to select the venues that you would like to attend. I don’t live in New York City anymore so my life isn’t the same for me as it used to be. Once in a while there’s a good jazz concert in South Florida but it’s rare. We do have an excellent International Pianist Festival going on right now and it’s an annual event. I bought two tickets several years ago for the entire series and it was really wonderful. I only did it for one season. It became too expensive for me. I needed to whittle down my monthly budget but I’ve had a great life with all of the music that I used to listen to in NYC. Once or twice weekly at a Jazz club. Three to Four times a year at Carnegie Hall and so many museums and other attractions and great restaurants in New York that living in south Florida is like a vast wasteland.

                  Keep doing what you’re doing as long as you can. I can easily tell that it’s very enriching to you.

  3. Three of the fifteen teachers that educated me throughout my high-school years were somehow able to unlock the cerebrum in this then pimply-faced, testosterone-filled, sports minded, canned music-loving adolescent to actually start to think critically for himself.
    The thing is that I didn’t really appreciate what they did for me until many years later…a delayed critical thinker.
    It can also be argued that some people have a head-start, in that they have, inherently, a greater ability to think critically than most others, or that a healthy amount of critical thinking is available to some youngsters as long as they have the will to develope it & train their minds (wire their brains) to that end.
    However, I also believe that it takes an astute educator or mentor to act as a catalyst…as it were…to unlock &/or stimulate the youthful brain that is brimming with future ability.

    ‘Animal Farm’ – George Orwell

    A challenging childhood can coax a young person into learning how to ‘think’ their way out of tough situations.
    Challenges in all spheres of life are great for developing the mind & for developing critical thinking…just ‘Ask Paul’ 😉

    1. Frankly I think the best years for critical thinking are from about 15 to 30. Many of the greatest scientists did all their best original work by that age and spent the rest of their lives recycling it.

      Once into 40s and 50s we become so riddled with prejudice and bias from what we grew up with we rarely appreciate anything new even if it’s put in front of our face. It’s when your kids ask you if you’ve been living in a cave for 10 years. I suspect many audiophiles have been living in a cave for 50 years. There are new ideas in audio, sometimes graduate start-ups, like Auralic. Linn was going down the tubes until Gilad Tiefenbrun reinvented it as a streaming and Class D company in the early 2000’s before he was 30. I reckon I’m half way down the slippery slope already.

      1. Possibly; however I have heard that the human male brain is not fully developed until it is around 25 years of age…I’d like to think that prior to 25 are the best years to hone one’s development of critical thinking.

        Of course once we reach the age where dementia starts to creep in, our critical thinking goes right out the window…so, yes, there is a limited number of years for most critical thinkers.

  4. A human being is acting most impulsive and emotionally driven by libidos, desires and expectations. Lucky those who get a successful training in critical and lateral thinking and self-criticism. Every TV came and comes with instructions for setting brightness, contrast and RGB. Modern TVs even offer calibration routines for getting the best picture quality. I do not know more than two manufacturers of loudspeakers who gives more recommendations than “arrange the speakers in a stereo triangle of 60 degrees”. No basic information about room acoustics or the inherent problem of room modes. And most ads show stereo set-up without cables and loudspeakers near to the walls asymmetrically arenas within a bare room. Thus most music lovers just arrange a stere-System as they arrange a kitchen radio or a radio-clock. It would be a huge improvement concerning knowledge transfer if there were reference sounds in the same way as there are reference pictures for a TV. (Not to mention the instructions for subwoofer. The majority of manufacturers just recommend to put them into the corners.)

      1. Looks like a ‘real world’ setting – at least there was a picture of the set up. Something that is very seldom seen in my review reading experience.
        Did you forget an “ nt” ? 😉 ✌️

            1. Indeed, but on the other hand we’re getting more demanding and discerning – and question hypes and promises of a better world based on existing values having created the actual chaos! 🙂

      2. How do I hate it
        let me count the ways

        I’ll comment about the speaker setup with regard to the front wall. It looks like it was wired up after right after the moving men put everything down and fled the scene.

  5. To Google – when I google something, I get more and more commercial results – mostly not in any usable relation to what I search. For example – Iam looking for plumber in city XY and whoops – I get pages and pages of commercial (often funny) lists of various craftmen aroud the globe, but not plumber in city XY. When I try hard and search for any scientifical info – i get to “academic-only” access pages.
    So REAL information are almost as hard to find as in era BEFORE internet.

    1. Yes, I find Google is far less useful than it used to be for finding the results you are actually looking for. i’m trying some different browsers, but I fear that the internet of my youth (!) just does not exist any longer. As with all things, it has been taken over and commercialized. The promise of democratic information sharing will have to be found elsewhere.

    2. Everybody is noticing how over the past several months you can’t get any great information from Google because of all of the pop-ups and other ads inserted in the middle of an article or even learning information. It’s disgusting. I would rather pay for the service then have to endure this horror show that they are forcing on us.

      1. I use two extensions to Chrome that help, Ghostery and Disconnect. They don’t totally get rid of ads and popups but they do improve things quite a bit. Disconnect has a counter that displays how many things were blocked and many pages have over 100 trackers, ads and other things. Give them a try, you’ll be shocked by how many sites are tracking your web browsing. And no I’m not affiliated or reimbursed by either company in any way. There’s also Duck Duck Go, an entire browser that’s marketed as a way to keep your business to yourself, though I found they’re not entirely successful and you can do most of the same things with any other browser thru settings.
        There has been a lot of degradation in quality of search results, knowing how to search helps but it’s getting worse all the time. At one time putting quote marks around a specific term would get better results but that is pretty much ineffective now days. Browsers try to give you what they “think” you want and more often than not the AI is geared more towards less intellectual (I’m being sensitive! lol) users. Google does have a service that’s geared towards academia and engineering it’s called Google Scholar and if you’re searching for anything technical or scientific it’s a lot better but you slam into pay walls a good bit. Here’s the link . If you do run into a pay wall for something scholarly give your local library a call, often times you can access scholarly things thru their network you’d have to pay a subscription fee to get to otherwise.

        1. Thanks for Your comment. These are all useful and to say there is also .
          I did not mention, I know, it is all technological war and google search engine puts priority on certain “qualities” of page. Proffesional web designers know all this and make all possible to get to the top. Too smart and too many of them.
          And just another example – I did try to find (and failed) out what is going on when I change voltage of power (DIY) supply of my streamer/dac. A change to say from 5.05V to 4.95V. I hear difference pretty clear, seems like maximum output is lower, which reduced/removed distorsion. Without any guidance I feel I a bit unsure what I do. (Shall I “Ask Paul” ? 🙂 )

  6. I had to look up ‘critical thinking’… given todays society, I thought it had to do with criticism and world political order….

    “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
    The key critical thinking skills are: analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.”

    The word skill and it’s derivatives show up a couple of times.

    It’s sounds like a fancy lofty term, but if it leads to the wrong beliefs or actions is one stripped of the title?

  7. After concluding my formal education with a computer science degree, the real education began when I got my first full-time job in the IT industry. The last and major part of my 40-year professional life was as a desktop support technician. For those not familiar with that IT function, it’s where a computer user has called a ‘help’ desk for assistance with some computer-related issue. After the ‘help’ desk representative determines that they can’t remotely resolve the issue over the ‘phone, they pass it on to the onsite desktop support team for resolution. It took quite some time for me to reach the profound realization that the task of ‘issue resolution’ was more an exercise in critical thinking than in your knowledge of how computers and applications worked. That turned out to be the most important skill for the role and one that I continued to develop until I retired. Your knowledge may enable you to find a solution to an issue but it may not provide a resolution. A proper ‘solution’ can take much time and many resources while a ‘resolution’ means the timely overcoming of some difficulty that prevents a user from performing some business-critical task. A ‘resolution’ may not be elegant but necessary to allow business operations to continue unimpaired. The difference between ‘resolution’ and ‘solution’ in this context was something that took me quite a while to understand and accept.

  8. Critical Thinking is indeed a learned skill which seems to be thin on the ground these days.

    However one of the problems we face is the manipulation and commodification of information and the tendency for people to reside in their own echo chambers online and in the real world.

    If the information, the data, that we apply our critical thinking skills to is wrong, then, even if our thinking process is impeccable, we will come to incorrect conclusions. Garbage in, Garbage out.

    Of course one vital critical thinking skill is to always question the reliability of your data and it’s source, and facilitate this by seeking multiple independent sources. Unfortunately it is this step in the process people are most inclined to skip because it is hard work and may lead to answers we don’t like and unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

    In hifi we can see it in the objectivist/ subjectivist argument, where people increasingly confine themselves to the measurements or critical listening ideologies.

    As someone who is currently enormously enjoying a budget Chinese SET 300b amp ( a second amp in my main system ) which I have little doubt measures terribly, I find myself aligned to the subjectivist camp, but still try to keep up with ASRs latest dissection out of interest and admiration of the technical skills and knowledge of the objectivist camp.

  9. Buying the (for your ears !) “right” audio devices/speakers does not take a lot of critical thinking.
    Setting everything up in the room “correctly” is not rocket science either.
    A pair of healthy ears will do. And a bit of experimenting.
    Judging the “expert-stories” (including on this site) on their merits requires a healthy dose of critical thinking.

  10. Nothing has done more to destroy the pursuit of knowledge and poisoned the fabric of learning than Dewey’s pragmatic “experimentalism” dubbed “progressive education” where the goal of the model is to instill societal change via values rather than the pursuit of knowledge.

    In 1902, based on his work in his laboratory school, Dewey put forth what he believed to be the three crucial factors in the learning process: (1) the nature of the learner, (2) the values and aims of the society, and (3) the wider world of knowledge represented in the subject matter. This was his way of saying that all good teaching must be attuned to (1) the character of learners (their interests, problems, developmental nature), (2) the highest values of the society (democratic principles of cooperation, tolerance, critical mindedness, and political awareness), and (3) the reflective representation of the subject matter (the knowledge in the various disciplines that helps the teacher present material that resonates with both learner and society) (Dewey, 1902). These factors are not discrete, but work together as interrelated and complementary elements. Thus, the learner had to be seen in the context of the society, forcing a consideration of the needs and interests not just of the learner but also of the learner living in a democracy. Similarly, the choice of subject matter in the curriculum had to be made based on what was most worth knowing for a learner living in a democracy.

    Anyone having exposure to philosophies of education know this to be true. Experimentalism cannot create Renaissance men by it’s very design of block learning. If you influence the learner in early education to follow a societal dictate, (and the Evangelical frame is what has been promoted in the US) you brainwash the victim to a predisposed mindset which is the goal, not true knowledge, which was the Gestalt method (field theory of learning) utilized up unto that point.

  11. How can today’s students become critical thinkers when everything is right there on the Internet for them. Makes us lazy. We lose our inquisitiveness and the ability to think in a critical way. Why do you think when you have a cell phone in your hand almost 24 hours a day?

    I speak to many of my office associates in their 20s and 30s and we are in alternate realities when it comes to problem-solving and learning. It frightens the hell out of me. Very few of them even know how to construct a written communication properly in business. They pull up templates off the Internet and work with them. I am often asked to review their document writing before they send it out and oh boy do they have problems.

    1. Someone once said “A little knowledge can be a dangerous .thing”. I found have this to be very true. Unfortunately, Google makes this all to easy. People go to Google, get a few quick facts in their head, a few quick catch phrases and think they know all the need to know and assume the have the proper skills and experience to use those facts in a useful way. When people are young there can often be a desire for instant gratification.

      Paul is right that critical thinking is required to use facts in a useful way. Education will give you a logical and orderly way of gaining not just a few quick facts but all the facts that you will need to understand a field of knowledge. But where does the critical thinking that is need to use those facts properly come from. While some people are fortunate enough to have certain aspects of critical thinking come naturally, most require training and experience to develop this skill.

      It has always been and it still is a great mystery to me why so many people do not understand mathematics. I did not realize this as a child, but when I look back on my education in math I now see how every time a new concept in math ( algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, etc. ) was introduced in grade school or high school a percentage of the students simply fell to the side. I now believe that this was due to a lack of training in critical thinking. I think much of the loss in understand of and how to use these new concepts was due to a lack of feedback between the instructor and the students.

  12. I recall decades ago Bud Fried lamenting that there were two kinds of schools. One kind trained you to do certain jobs. The other taught you how to think and solve problems. He believed the first kind unfortunately were more numerous.

    1. Thanks. Unfortunately I fear it would fall upon deaf ears. Schools have turned into factories where passing the test is the goal. Schools are so far behind the 8-ball that I fear for our children. Fortunately, we have parents who can help.

      1. Paul,
        I have to agree with you, but I don’t think deaf ears entirely covers it. One of my best and oldest friends has Masters degrees in math and education and he teaches high school math in north Georgia. The stories he tells makes me think a lot of kids are almost militantly against learning. He says he MIGHT have 1 or 2 students in each class who want to learn and the rest either do the least possible to skate by or fail. He helps those he can and as for the rest I’ll use his words, “The world needs ditch diggers too”.
        I never understood people who don’t want to learn and one of the things that irritates me the most is what has happened to the internet. The greatest learning tool since the invention of written language is mostly used for tweeting (I group tik tok etc under that one term, I’m old), posting pictures of food and pornography.

  13. Today.. many students are being taught to be critical of thinking.

    Those who arrogantly think they should provide all the answers for us do not want us finding our own answers. Of those who remain independent in thinking will find criticism and even censorship coming their way..

    Critical thinking. Or, critical of thinking. That is the question.

    1. Boy I really agree with your statement. Putting students in an upper level math course in high school that don’t have the basic math fundamentals because they didn’t care to learn in prior years come into these classes with two strikes against them so they just decide that it’s not worth even listening to the material being taught.

      I was never very good at math until I decided that the way I was treating my studies was never going to get me anywhere and I did a complete turnaround once I got to engineering courses.

  14. Off Topic: Congratulations to Australia, Remy Gardner became the MOTO2 world champion yesterday, and it came down to the very last race. That makes two champions in my preferred sports who hail from down under this year. Jet Lawrence clinched the 250 class motocross championship earlier this year. The Aussies certainly made motorcycle racing fun to watch this year!


    1. I can’t wait for him to move up to MOTOGP.
      I was really hoping that Bagnaia, Martin & Miller were going to drag
      Rossi up to the podium & let the crowd go nut’s…but it was not to be.

      1. FR,

        Yeah it would have been cool to see Rossi take one last podium. He was named a MotoGP legend in a ceremony after the race. Certainly a richly deserved honor! I can’t wait to see Pedro Acosta on a Moto2 bike next year.


  15. I grew up in a rural lower education school system in which education was based on textbooks, blackboards and rote memorization, enforced by teachers threatening students with wooden paddles if they weren’t attentive and responsive. Testing was typically a measure of how well a student could comprehend and regurgitate facts and procedures the textbooks and teachers had “taught” them. Independent thinking was not encouraged or rewarded, though the best teachers stimulated creative thinking and reasoning through their individual teaching styles. Creative students were often smarter than the teachers and it was torture for those gifted students to sit through a class, as they were always mentally a mile ahead of the teacher who had to direct their attention to average and under-average pupils. The smartest students were typically the most disruptive, and were the ones most likely to play hooky or be sent to the Principal’s office.

    As a student I appreciated teachers who most efficiently and effectively spoon-fed us the facts and rules we should remember and follow, and did not go overboard with thought exercises that went over our heads and kept us unnecessarily guessing. I was exceedingly good at parroting back what teachers taught, which is why I was teachers’ pet and valedictorian in High School. But I was by no means smarter in terms of IQ or reasoning powers than many of my fellow students. I aced achievement tests but was sometimes frustrated by scholastic aptitude tests.

    College was harder, and for my professional degree I had to demonstrate creativity. Fortunately I was blessed with enough of that to get by, but I still had to feed back what teachers wanted to hear for the grade. I graduated with a Master’s Degree with the highest five-year grade point average in my graduating class. One thing I excelled at was budgeting and allocating my time, so that I did not waste any more time than necessary in an “easy A” class, so I could dedicate more time and effort to the “hard-to-get A” classes. It also helped if you made the teachers like you. Just sitting in the front row with a smile on your face counted for something. Visiting the professor at his office could also score points. In fact, I remember one “easy A” professor in his office telling me he was giving me an “A” just because he liked me. The hardest “A” I ever got was from an overbearing, hated professor who claimed he rarely ever gave an “A” and only to students he learned something from. To this day I don’t know what he learned from me.

    To me the grade was everything. Did it pay off? Not really, other than teach me time management which came in handy in my career. I also learned in college that some other people are more creative than me, no matter how hard I try. After my first job, no employer really cared what my GPA was in school. They only cared about my real world experience, how convincing I was in an interview, and whether they liked me.

    I see people who performed poorly in school reaching the pinnacles of success in life, becoming CEOs of corporations and even becoming President of the United States. I think their success lies in surrounding themselves with people more creative and talented than they, and knowing how to lead and focus the efforts of others to achieve a bigger vision than they could ever accomplish alone. In my career I accomplished big things leading teams of gifted, experienced people. Like in college, I juggled different projects and did what it takes to get an “A” from all my clients.

    1. Joseph,

      Ambition, scholarly studiousness and consistency in achievement has done well for you in life. Enjoyed getting to know you a little better…Thanks for Sharing! 😉

  16. Flowers are red young man
    Green leaves are green
    There’s no need to see flowers any other way
    Than the way they always have been seen
    But the little boy said…
    There are so many colors in the rainbow
    So many colors in the morning sun
    So many colors in the flower and i see every one
    Well the teacher said.
    You’re sassy…
    Harry Chapin (Boy, do I still miss him. I g
    ot to see him a couple of times. A great storyteller, IMO).

    1. Harry Chapin was an amazing composer but some of his lyrics are literally too hard to deal with. His song “Sniper“ has lyrics that are taken from the minute-by-minute events of a mass shooting from a college church tower in the United States and Chapin goes name by name of the victims in his lyrics and how they died. Sends chills up my spine.

      1. Yes. I do appreciate his songs about normal relationships like fathers and children, Tangled up Puppet or Cats in the Cradle, much more. Others are way outside my wheel house but are still affecting, like A Better Place to BE or Mail Order Annie. He did that one a cappella one night and brought the house down. His voice was merely serviceable, of course, but his artistry won us over, all the same.

        1. He was a once in a lifetime composer and singer.

          “ I am the midnight watchmen at Miller’s tool and die, and I watch the metal rusting and I watch the time go by”.

          His composing was so different from so many other composers. He reminds me in someways of the French singer and composer Charles Aznavour.

        2. He was a once in a lifetime composer and singer.

          “ I am the midnight watchmen at Miller’s tool and die, and I watch the metal rusting and I watch the time go by”.

          His composing was very different from so many other composers. He reminds me in someways of the French singer and composer Charles Aznavour.

  17. The only thing I will say here is that being an intelligent person and a Critical thinker are 2 different things and often the 2 don’t meet up.

    I’ve seen it time and time again and the differences are quite large.

    1. Exactly. Critical thinkers are not necessarily highly intelligent; and highly intelligent people are not necessarily critical thinkers. IQ is a product of genetics and environmental factors and can be boosted only a few points through education, whereas critical thinking is a process that can be learned and developed by people with only average IQ. Critical thinking is only as good as the validity and completeness of the information being analyzed to form a judgment. Critical thinking does not necessarily lead to the right conclusion. For example, for millennia learned people through critical thinking concluded the earth was flat and at the center of the universe.

      1. “Critical thinking is only as good as the validity and completeness of the information being analyzed to form a judgment.” This is so important, especially in science. You must be able to use deductive reasoning ( which I think is a big part of critical thinking ) to determine if you have all the data or all the facts you need to make a determination of whether or not a hypothesis is true. If you do not have all the data or facts then you must devize an experiment that will give you what you need.

        In my career I have seen it happen so many times when someone presents what they think is a complete case that something is A and not B. Then a person in the audience raises their hand and asks “but have you considered this” and the whole thing falls apart.

  18. Paul, I’ve not yet responded to any of your daily posts, but want to do so here. I’ve waded through the 50+ replies posted here to ensure my sentiments aren’t already represented.

    You are an accomplished engineer and I would call you an afficiando of good sound. You have in-depth knowledge that I find enjoyable to read. Your credentials to write as you do are well-known.

    Yet you paint public schools with a broad brush stating that critical thinking is not taught. Is this conclusion formulated from your vast involvment in public education? I thoroughly enjoy watching hockey – yet I’ve never learned to skate (several failed attempts!) and therefore have not played it. But I still have an opinion about the layers and coachesof my team!

    It is common for people who see the result of a process to decry it, without understanding. I can appreciate a good dac or amplifier, and recognize ones that are terrible to my ears. But I do not know enough to speak knowledgeably about WHY they sound bad.

    I ask that you put the broad brush back in your pocket and help people understand that opinions must be supported by facts and help us all move away from the black/white nature of current public discourse.

    Thanks for the time and energy you devote to helping me learn about my favorite hobby.

    1. Hi DRStar and thanks for chiming in! Indeed, using a broad stroke brush is not always a good idea because, of course, nothing applies to everything. There are good public/private schools and bad ones.

      My comments don’t apply specifically to public education. I see the same sorts of problems in private schools as well – but to your point, that’s painting with a very broad brush. Again, it cannot apply to everything. It’s just very difficult to make a point, share an opinion in my very limited venue, without use of a fairly broad brush.

      In general, our education system in this country seems more obsessed with getting kids to pass the test rather than teach the why behind it. Schools and their funding are judged on their test scores, and retention rates among other metrics. The folks handing out the funding have to have some sort of metric to see if the schools are doing their jobs. I get it.

      One of my good friends is pretty conversant on the subject and is an easy watch without being threatening. You might enjoy a few of his talks. (there’s also plenty of literature on the subject if you’re interested).

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