A Critical Thinking Course You Just Won’t Believe


I asked and received permission to share the following story. I was told that was fine, so long as I withheld the student’s last name, which I am glad to oblige…

Dear fellow atheists,

I’ve been having an ongoing issue in my Critical Thinking class that I’m taking this semester at college; it’s a private for-profit secular institution. The problem is not so much with the class itself, but with the professor who teaches it. I’ve brought up the issue casually with my academic department and they have expressed their belief that it is a non-issue. Unless I’m willing to withdraw from the course and have it appear on my transcript, I’m forced to stay in it for the remainder of the term. That’s why I’m coming to you in the hope that you could provide me with some coping advice. I’m not kidding; this class is driving me completely insane.

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my professor along with another student during our class break. At one point she asked me to provide an example of a belief I had that I didn’t realize I had. Confused by the question, I asked her to elaborate. She gave me her own example of how she used to believe God was a punishing God, but then came to know Him as a loving and caring God. Right off the bat I informed her that I couldn’t think of anything as significant as her example, since I personally do not believe in anything supernatural or paranormal. It was then that she moved forward with the conversation by asking me, “You don’t even believe in the paranormal?” My adamant stance on the subject clearly bothered her, especially when I stated that many supernatural and paranormal claims could be easily refuted with scientific evidence. My professor’s adult son passed away several years ago, and she replied “My son is around me all the time and communicates with me every day”. I assured her that I was not intending to take away any personal experience she had.

The next day, she asked a couple of students what we had learned from Chapter 2 of our Critical Thinking textbook. The answer I gave was, “I interpreted the chapter to mean that beliefs are subjective truths and facts are objective truths”. For some reason my answer appeared to offend her. Out of all the students’ answers, she wrote mine on the board and asked me to give examples of beliefs and facts. I explained to her that my personal opinion on what makes something a “fact” is something that was observable, measurable, and testable. She then brought up the subject of ghosts and EVP recordings, and challenged me to refute the “evidence” shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures provide. “How do you explain the EVP recordings, and the fact that the voices respond directly to the questions!” I’ll be honest with you, I truly wanted to laugh and ask her if she seriously thought those shows were conclusive evidence of paranormal phenomena. In fact, I did, I just didn’t laugh. I explained to her that these shows were not reliable evidence for anything since they are entertainment programs. EVP’s were easily explained away by many sources of interference including the pareidolia effect. But she insisted on reminding me that I still could not prove that they were not, in fact, actual recorded ghost voices. I agreed and ended by saying that it was up to her and anyone else in the class to research natural explanations on their own if they wanted to.

The following week, one of the students felt the need to bring up a story of how she had seen a ghost in her house “last night”. Her totally unbelievable and laughable story included the ghost calling out her name, leaving a black hand-print on her shoulder which lasted for two hours (but no photographic evidence), and how her hair floated up in the air. Maybe it was just the way she told it that made it seem so unconvincing, nevertheless the entire class, including the professor, was captivated by her haunting story. So what does the teacher do? She looks right at me and asks me to explain her story. I guess being the only skeptic in the class meant I was the only one capable of dissecting it. “Do you believe her story?” I asked the professor to which she replied with a “yes”. I asked her what evidence she had to believe the claim, and she stated, “Because she told me. I have no reason to disbelieve her”. I then went into the whole spiel about how all claims are not created equal, such as someone telling you a ghost left a black hand print on their shoulder as opposed to her ordering pizza for dinner last night.

Sadly I never got a chance to provide alternative explanations for the student’s claim, as the teacher decided to interject with the story of her “astral projection” experience. She explained how in the middle of the night she awoke only to find that she couldn’t move a muscle. She couldn’t call out for help and felt completely paralyzed. Her “soul” (or whatever it is she called it) came out of her body and floated around the room and out the front door which is when she woke up. I explained that what she experienced was most likely an episode of sleep paralysis. This was a text-book case of SP in my opinion, and I have had a few episodes myself where I have had similar experiences. I explained to her what sleep paralysis was, both the physiology and psychology of what takes place during an episode. In fact, there was a student in class that worked for a sleep-study center that could back up my claim. Nevertheless, the teacher quickly dismissed my explanation and said that it “explained nothing”. She refuted by saying that science gets things wrong all the time and that “some guy in a white lab coat” could not disprove that what she experienced was not astral projection. Her claim was that it may be the current explanation in science but that this could change and eventually scientists would discover that these episodes were actually astral projection all along. I actually refused to counter her argument after 2 hours of going in circles and simply said “Okay”.

Now I really don’t care what she, or anyone else, believes. Everyone is free to choose whatever explanation makes the most sense to them, even if I do think it’s silly to ignore mountains of evidence. Nevertheless, this is a critical thinking class. What should have been a valid discussion of weighing evidence to support a belief was nothing more than the professor feeling that her beliefs were being threatened. Time and time again I reassured her that my intentions were never to disprove anything, only to provide alternative explanations. Throughout the course of the discussion science was ridiculed and only evidence supporting her belief was considered. Not once were any of my explanations validated or considered seriously. The entire experience left me feeling humiliated and aware of the fact that I really AM a minority with my anti-spiritual worldview. “Critical Thinking” has turned into “Magical Thinking”, and class time is now about sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories. Am I wrong for feeling just a tad pissed off about that? I actually thought this may have been the one class where skeptical thinking would be appreciated. Clearly I was wrong.

As I mentioned earlier, academics can do nothing about this situation. I can withdraw but having a “W” on my transcript is not something I want. I’m really left with no choice but to tough it out. I haven’t really been able to get any useful advice from anyone, and so that’s why I’m writing to you. I have five more weeks left of the term and although I don’t want to talk about ghosts anymore, I may find myself in a situation again where I am the target of debate. Is there any advice you can give me under these circumstances? My biggest fear is the impressionable minds in this class that are being poisoned with affirmation by the professor that her worldview makes more sense. After all, she is promoting it heavily. I know that confirmation bias and attitude polarization plays a huge part in all of this, but I’m not sure how I can present evidence without the receiver feeling threatened. And personally, I wish that she wouldn’t call on me to explain myself if she really doesn’t want to know my answers.

Thank you for any help you could provide,

Maya

I did offer Maya some advice. And offered to share the story here. She said she will be following comments, so please feel free to post to her here. I can’t promise she’ll respond, but she will be able to see your notes.

Comments

  1. says

    Since this is a for-profit institution someone at the top will want to know that a crackpot is teaching "critical thinking." Is this an accredited program? If not, does it aspire to be an accredited program? Is this course the prerequisite to another course? Is someone else teaching that other course? Unless this is Maharishi University, there's a chance you'll find someone on your side. If you're at Maharishi U, then you should probably withdraw, live with the "W" and if anyone questions you about it later in life you'll have a good story to tell them.

  2. says

    Perhaps this is just the stubborn git inside me speaking, but this is what my course of action would be:Go out of your way to bring physical scientific evidence to support your views on previous discussions. For example, with the SP discussion, I imagine that there are peer-reviewed papers in the public domain that deal with such a phenomenon. Bring these to class if you can get them printed out, and pass them around the class. Point out the testability and reliability of the scientific method and show them how it works. Say how this is a critical thinking class, and as such people should be thinking critically and using the most accurate means we have of testing claims – perhaps tackling it from a purely semantic point of view may help. Don't be afraid to undermine the authority of the professor. Talk to your fellow students in private if necessary – do everything you can do discredit her opinions in front of them. You said you've already spoken to the academic department about her, but perhaps you could go further and talk to the senior management about her class; if they don't understand where you're coming from, it's a pretty sorry state of affairs. You're in a situation where the person teaching is doing the opposite of the job she's supposed to be doing, which could perhaps merit a formal complaint.That's all I have for now, and perhaps I may be too arsey for my own good, but these are the things we need to fight for. Remember that you're in the right and (in my opinion) standing up for your principles is more important than a letter on a transcript. You can always explain your reasons for it to potential employers, potentially using it to your advantage.Good luck.

  3. says

    Not familiar with the legal status of such classes, but isn't there some misrepresentation going on? How was this "Critical Thinking" class described in its prospectus or whatever? It seems more like Uncritical Thinking. This student may perhaps be wisest in the circumstances to tough it out, but afterwards there should be scope for some kind of claim.

  4. Martin says

    A total woo-head teaching a course in critical thinking?What's next? Lindsay Lohan signing up as a substance abuse counselor?

  5. says

    Use this as an opportunity to show which kind of thinking is best for determining facts. Use the time to point out how eye-witness accounts are not particularly reliable and that simple claims are not good evidence for extraordinary claims. It may be the teacher is challenging you to become a better critical thinker.

  6. says

    I'm not sure what academic advice I can give you, but I'd just like to say that I too would consider myself a skeptical thinker. I share your pain in realizing that there aren't too many like-minded people out there. I've taken several critical thinking courses in college and found them to be a joy, much like how you described your hopes for this class. I hope you are able to get the issue with this class resolved (toughing it out and getting a good grade might end up being the best solution unfortunately), and I hope you are able to take another critical thinking course during your academic career. I find them to be cathartic, you just have to find a professor who has similar goals in teaching to the ones you have in learning.

  7. says

    Maya,It seems to me that this professor should not keep her job as an instructor in a critical thinking class. I suggest you tough it out (as long as you don't feel that your grade will be unfairly effected by your prof's hostilities). Be sure to keep documentation of these instances and eventually report her methods to the dean. Also, have a letter similar to this one prepared so that you may attach it to her teacher evaluation. Don't be afraid to keep voicing your logical opinion. As you said, your classmates have impressionable minds and without a skeptical voice in the class it will become void of any intellectual value and be damaging for all. I know it can be hard to play the hero, but it could be worse to leave the class or not stand up for yourself intellectually. Just my thoughts, hope everything works out, whatever your decision may me.Evan (AtheistAthlete on youtube)

  8. says

    Hi there,Yes, the school is State accredited and is owned by a University that is Nationally accredited. The course is required for all students in all majors. There is more than one Professor that teaches the course but only one class is available per semester. I don't think I can bring myself to drop out and risk a penalty to my financial aid and in stamping a big fat "W" to my transcript. I like the idea of just discrediting her as much as possible when she brings up her woo-speak and I actually did forward my Professor some scientific journal articles about sleep paralysis. Sadly, I do not think she would allow me to print off evidence and pass it around the class, as much as I would love to do that.

  9. says

    You should record a couple of her ghost story sessions, partly to help your defense if you eventually need to challenge your grade, but also to put it online (perhaps after the class is over to avoid retaliation), warning future students and subjecting this Uncritical Thought professor to the Web's scrutiny.

  10. says

    Are all the other profs just as goofy? There must be a head of this department who doles out the assignments. My guess is that this person is not a true "professor" but an adjunct instructor, or perhaps someone from another department who is required to teach this course to fulfill load requirements. A formal complaint is definitely warranted. Try to get free tuition to re-take the course with a real teacher. If that fails, complain to the governing board of the institution. If the entire place is really so delusional that nobody there sees a problem with a new age nutcase teaching "critical thinking" then your degree probably won't be worth the paper it's printed on in the end anyway. Seriously, I am an academic and it's no secret which schools are better than others. If it's really this bad withdraw at the end of the semester and start writing letters for your transfer application. Nobody at a real school will question your desire to get out of there.If you can't get out, and if you think you'll be punished for your academic integrity, a W will be better than an F on your transcript. If you can re-take the course and then have an F grade erased, go ahead with a plan to educate your classmates on the fallacious thinking in the woo being pitched. (Sorry for the pun)If there are places in the textbook that you can call on to counter the sillines, then have them prepared ahead of time. At least bone up on the fallacies that apply to most of the goofy. In my experience, the following fallacies are common to that ilk:post hoc ergo propter hoc – I prayed and then my mother's flu went awaySampling bias – I knew this kid who… forgetting the hundreds of kids who did not…Confirmation bias – I asked God to give me a sign and then I saw an eagleAppeal to authority – the guru (or teacher) says so, so it must be trueTu quoque ("you too") – science makes errors too!Special pleading – the paranormal can't be measured or studied despite being "real"Good luck with this. I don't envy you at all.

  11. says

    p.s. I second the suggestion to record these "classes." Better yet, post them to Youtube! There's nothing like public humiliation to get an adjunct professor's contract yanked!

  12. says

    Not everyone should teach every class, IMO. My reaction to this kind of thing depends on the humility or open-mindedness of the teacher. Since this teacher seems to lack both of those, I may go full retard by doing things like printing off and bringing documentation to class, especially if I knew ahead of time the kind of foolishness my teacher was going to propagate later. That works in the present. The most you can do about the future is document what's going on and report it while accompanied by someone like the student who works at a sleep clinic or anyone else who sees through your professor's charade.

  13. says

    p.p.s. I really mean it about complaining. Where I work a student complained to me that a prof who is an atheist went on long tangents about atheism and why religion is stupid, in a course that has nothing at all to do with religion. I advised her to complain and she was afraid to do it, but apparently others did complain. Word on the street is the atheist prosletyzing has stopped — and this is a tenured prof who was stepping over the line. Even when they have tenure, they have to answer to their colleagues. It's kind of like Congress (in the old days) — even if you can't lose your job, if you want to hold onto power and make things go your way you can't tick off your colleagues.

  14. says

    Maybe you could ask the teacher what she/he is skeptical about and try to go from there. I would think the teacher is just playing defensive and rallying the other students to find support because she feels her pet beliefs are being attacked.

  15. says

    LadyAtheist:"My guess is that this person is not a true "professor" but an adjunct instructor, or perhaps someone from another department who is required to teach this course to fulfill load requirements."You are absolutely right in your assumption. This is the case with all Professors that teach the course. The one in question is a Tax Attorney that teaches Accounting classes but also random Humanities classes and General Education courses (like Critical Thinking). The other Professors who teach the same course are completely objective and not at all in the same mind. I just got unlucky.And believe me, I've pointed out so many logical fallacies in her argument but I honestly think that she's threatened by the fact that I'm undermining her authority. After all, I'm just a lowly student that could not possibly know more about a subject than the person teaching it, right? =)I'm going to tough out the Magical Thinking course and keep an eye on anything else that doesn't seem right. I can definitely hold my own in an argument with her, I just can't persuade her to see things from a skeptical standpoint. All students write up an evaluation of the class and Professor at the end of the term and that will definitely be my favorite part of class. =)

  16. says

    What text book are you using? I would love to find out what kind of "critical thinking" book would advocate that kind of bullshit.

  17. says

    As much as I want to suggest that you continue the good fight against this delusional professor, I can't in good faith say that.You're dealing with someone who is so far down the rabbit hole that they forgot what normal looks like, if they ever knew in the first place. You're not going to change their mind and the more evidence you present, the more entrenched they're going to become. You may be doing it for the good of the rest of the class, but one class isn't going to sway anyone either way unless they're already about as far gone as your prof.Act in your own best interest here. Grin and bear it, finish the class, keep your scholarship. Remember the 11th commandment, though: Thou Shalt Cover Thine Ass. Keep what records you can to ensure that your personal disagreements don't adversely affect your grades.You'll be able to do more good for more people down the road by continuing your education and keeping your scholarship. Use this as a learning experience for now and file it away as an example to show others for later.I suppose it boils down to picking your battles.

  18. says

    By the way, thanks to everyone who has posted their thoughts on this issue. One thing I completely forgot to mention was that the academic department has offered to send someone in to "shadow" the class. I'm hoping this takes place tomorrow or at least sometime this week. I'm not optimistic about this as the Professor is less likely to tell stories of astral projection in front of an authority.The problem with printing out scientific journals and holding up evidence is that she would (and has confessed that she would) deny it stating that scientists and professionals who study these issues aren't 100% certain of their findings. Even if they are 99.9% certain, that 0.1% leaves enough room for doubt. It's a perfect example of confirmation bias and we all know how hard it is to change someone's mind about a core belief they hold.It'll be interesting to see how the rest of the term plays out. I'm definitely not one to keep quiet in the corner about something like this, and I will continue to pursue action if it continues to get worse.

  19. says

    The syllabus is often considered a kind of contract. If this person claims to understand the "law" you might try pointing out that she's not fulfilling her end of the contract. She can't possibly be following the textbook with her woowoo tangents. At least try to demand a refund so you can take the course over with someone who will teach what's promised.It sounds like you don't really need this course, but getting money out of them would be sweet!

  20. says

    Mastema:The textbook is actually very good. But, as with most texts, they are subject to interpretation when you're already of a biased mindset. I find that the text is the complete opposite of what she lectures, but she would disagree with that assumption.

  21. says

    Please keep us posted if someone from the department shows up! I wonder if this pseudo-prof will actually be able to teach to the syllabus considering how much of an effort she's made to avoid anything resembling critical thinking!

  22. says

    Holy crap. You've found the central nexus of fractal wrongness. There's so much burden of proof shifting and arguments from ignorance. The professor needs to take a couple courses on introduction to epistemology.I'd just slog through it, churn out a blog or some other creative outlet, to digest the stupidity and share it. I'd say, in the long run, say 10 years from now, what do you think you'd wish you'd done with the course. You could try to find a way to find something positive in it.

  23. says

    There's a limit to academic freedom. Teaching the opposite of the syllabus, textbook and course description is waaaaay past that limit

  24. says

    Familiarize yourself with the logical fallacies, and keep a log of the instances the professor uses of each one.

  25. says

    I will definitely update this thread as and when new events take place.JT: Good idea one keeping a list of the logical fallacies she uses. I see LadyAtheist has also started that list for me in an earlier post ;)

  26. says

    Be careful about recording anything in class unless you check very carefully. I doubt it's illegal, but it might be against your school policies and it's definitely hostile. My suggestion is to tough it out and lay low. You can't fix the world. You have voiced your opinion, attempted to reason with her, shown your classmates that her view has flaws, and complained to school officials. I think that's enough. After you've lain low and gotten the grade you need, then you can embark on a campaign to get her fired. Maybe you'll succeed and prevent her from inculcating future classes!

  27. says

    Wow, why is this woman teaching this type of class, she clearly lacks the necessary open mind suitable to the role, and clearly possesses the closed mind we associate with the religious. I certainly don't think you should kill her however, because, since she's so right, i'm quite sure she'll be coming back and haunting you forever, the silly mare.@)

  28. says

    I would secretly consult a counselor and petition to drop the class. Explain that you believe you won't be treated fairly in the class and you would like to drop the class and take it from another professor without it impacting your record. If you are in your final semester then sticking it out and kissing nutso's ass may be it. Se la vie. You definitely have my sympathy.

  29. says

    cont… It's also a judgement call between playing hardball and deciding if you want to put the professor and the ones who put her there on the defensive. Feel out the situation and make a judgement call. I do not envy you… YUCK!

  30. says

    What I really feel sorry for is the other students who, based on Maya's description, just sit there and take it. The last thing any reasonable person wants is more woo-woo ignoramuses who think that critical thinking means sitting with other people who share your belief and mutually reaffirm each others beliefs. And yet college is the one place where they were supposed be directly challenged on those beliefs.Of course I feel for Maya as well. And I admire her. I know that if I was in her skin I would have stabbed the teacher repeatedly in the neck with my own, torn out and sharpened humerus. I would say hold on for that one more month but I know that's not really going to help…I wish her best of luck with the academic department.

  31. says

    Challenge the course, thereby avoiding the "W" on your transcript and also avoiding the instructor ( and I use the term "instructor" loosely, in this case) who is not only clearly unqualified to teach a course in critical thinking, but who also clearly does not even understand the concept.It's one thing to be teaching a course and be still learning how to teach something that you understand, but to purport to be teaching something of which you have no understanding whatsoever is complete intellectual dishonesty and should not be tolerated in the academic environment.

  32. says

    Maya, you have my very deepest sympathy for the difficult and frustrating situation you're facing. I wish I could claim shock that such academic lunacy is going on, but having seen similar travesties first- and second-hand (a logic teacher advocating astrology, a philosophy teacher extolling the efficacy of prayer — both tenured full-timers), I can't say I'm totally surprised. It does seem, though, that in this case the instruction runs broadly and consistently counter to the intent of the course. You've already mentioned that the required textbook gives a proper presentation of critical thinking that gives the lie to the instructor's approach; does your institution have a written statement that covers the definition of critical thinking and the goals for the course? (At my own institution, I chaired the general education committee that had to devise such statements, and in principle they should set reasonable limits for what the class should cover. Of course, not much about this situation sounds particularly reasonable.)

  33. says

    You are in a tough spot. While the vast majority of professors actually want debate in their classes and don't expect everyone to have the same opinion (especially a critical thinking class) it doesn't sound like your professor does. My first question is are you being graded fairly or are you being punished for your opinions? If you are being graded fairly, I would say that it may be best to tough it out so you don't get the W or fall behind on your progress. If you are being graded unfairly, then you may need to file a formal complaint immediately. My second question is – will you get this professor again? If she teaches other courses you have to take, this may continue to be a problem if you don't take care of it now.Whether you decide to tough it out or withdraw, keep excellent records of everything that happens. Write down everything that was said and her reactions. Write down dates and times. If you are allowed to record lectures, I would. Records may come in handy if you have to file a complaint. Also, find out what your school's avenue is for complaints and what it's policies are about teaching. Don't just ask. Find it in writing. Arm yourself with knowledge. Even if you don't want to file a complaint, it is best to know how to go about it in case you ever want to. Also, find out if your school has a student advocate or someone who mediates problems between students and faculty. You can also look into any rules or guidelines with the accrediting body and your state. You may be able to file a complaint through them. But I am not sure how all of that would work, especially with a state accreditation. You can probably find their website online.As for the education of your fellow students, the best you can probably do is to keep presenting information in class about the scientific method. However, if this is impacting your grade, you may not want to do that. For future students, filing a complaint is probably the only way that something could be done. However, being a for-profit, private school their may be less opportunities for redress of your issue. It depends on the school. I wish you a lot of luck.OK, the academic advisor in me is coming out. This is off topic, but I am worried about you attending a college that is not regionally accredited. Not all nationally or state accredited programs are bad, of course. However, It is likely very expensive, so you want to get your money's worth. Some of these programs do not truly qualify students for employment (or the employment that they do qualify for doesn't pay anywhere near enough to justify the expense of the school). Also, if you ever want to earn a higher degree, the majority of regionally accredited colleges will not accept a degree that didn't come from a regionally accredited college. I'd like to know what you are studying and at what college. If you want to discuss that more fully, you can contact me through the Bellaonline Colleges site http://www.bellaonline.com/about/colleges. I am the editor of that site.Good luck and I hope it works out for you. I hope you will let us know how it turns out.

  34. says

    I actually had a similar problem with one of my Social Psychology professors here. He insisted upon twisting facts and trying to make an example out of me in front of class much in the same way you experienced. I found that I just couldn't address him in class anymore and decided to keep my mouth shut and address him after class whenever I had a problem with what he was teaching. Less incentive for him to try and make a martyr out of himself in class. I dunno if it'll work for you, but I'd give that a shot so she's not encouraging others to pile on with criticisms a pot shots at you.

  35. says

    My sympathies to you, Maya. I would love to see the syllabus of this course, and am dying to know what this "professor" thinks critical thinking is. She actually asked for a belief you have that you don't realize you have? Seriously? What the hell is that?How about you ask her for a belief she has that she has no good reason to have? I don't think she would get it though.

  36. says

    I'd say go full reducto ad absurdum, next time your expected to be the token skeptic to try and keep their brain from falling out of their open minds just out of the blue start saying how this is not how a "critical thinking" class should be, you thought it was going to be able to help people see the holes in the whole official narrative of hte world, and help expose the reptoid agenda, but its just another mouthpiece for The Man to poison people and keep them stupid.Weave a conspiracy theory, so stupid, so full of recockulous whacked out retardedness that anyone would have to be an aborted fetus living in a jar of absinthe to believe it, and use all her reasoning she justifies everything else with to "prove" it. And make sure to spew it out with the right amount of conviction (because how sincere you are in a belief effects how true it is…) practice crazy eyes if you can. To quote the great thinker Crow T. Robot, "Make something up, state it firmly, even arrogantly"

  37. says

    Is there anyone else in the class who might be an ally behind the scenes? I can understand completely why no-one else might be willing to fight the teacher – their grades are on the line, as much as yours – but sometimes it takes a critical mass of complaining students to make a difference. Perhaps you can keep a weather eye out for other people who seem uncomfortable with the teacher's delusions.

  38. says

    Is it even remotely possible that this instructor is teaching by example and that your correspondent is the only one actually applying what's being taught?

  39. says

    In the middle of one of these campfire stories you are asked to refute you should ask, "what is your definition of critical thinking?" See if her definition fits her actual thinking and point out the differences.

  40. says

    I had posted a lengthy comment, but it seems to be missing. I could have sworn that it was just there. I probably did something wrong. I wish I could remember everything that I said. Here's a much shorter version (mostly because I have forgot most things I wrote originally): 1. Keep careful records of what is said and done. Write down dates and times. If you are allowed to record the lectures, do so. Even if you decide to do nothing, it is better to have records. You never know when they will come in handy. 2. Find out everything you can about your college's formal complaint policy (just in case)3. Find out if your school has a advocate for students or someone who mediates between student-faculty complaints. It sounds like you are in a tough spot and it may be best just to tough it out. However, I want to know if your grades are being impacted. If she is punishing you gradewise because of this, then you may have to complain formally. Will she teach any of your other classes? If so, this could be a really tough road.I am also wondering who you told in your department and exactly what you told them about this. Since you mentioned it casually it may be that they don't realize how bad it is or how much it is bothering you. As far as the other students in your class – that's a tough one. Of course, you could keep arguing with the teacher to see if you can get them to think critically. However, your teacher is probably going to still be seen as the authority figure. And if they already believe in woo… Outside of a formal complaint, I am not sure if you can do much. Are you being taught good critical thinking skills (outside of evaluating ghosts, etc.)? If so, you might be able to use her own methods for evaluating information (or ones from the text) against her. For example, you could take a woo claim that is made in class and break it down using techniques from class – all the while citing each step you take to break it down. You may not want to do this for a number of reasons. Of course, she may punish you for that grade-wise. And it's unlikely to work. There is a good chance she'll just shut you down. But if you decide to challenge her in class, that might be a good way to do it.

  41. says

    I forgot, I had also asked you about your degree. Being an academic advisor, I was concerned about your degree not being regionally accredited. Since it is a for-profit school, it is probably very expensive. I just want to make sure you are spending your $ wisely. Of course, a school doesn't have to be regionally accredited to give a good education. However, sometime, graduates of these schools aren't qualified to do the career they intend or the pay they will receive in the field is not enough to justify the high cost of the college. Also, if you decide to further your education, your choices will be limited. Most regionally accredited colleges won't accept degrees or courses from colleges that are not regionally accredited. (Information on regional accreditation can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accreditation). If you want to discuss your degree more, you can contact me at the Colleges Site for BellaOnline http://www.bellaonline.com/about/colleges.

  42. says

    @ Ithonicfury: The main premises of Scientology or Mormonism should fit the bill. No need to make up nonsense. There's plenty out there to steal

  43. says

    Fordi, I was wondering the same thing. I wonder what her "qualifications" are. I also wonder if they meet the minimum standards for the accrediting body the school is under.

  44. says

    Academic freedom leads me to believe that nothing will be done about this individual – to be honest, I couldn't even stand reading more than half of the account, and I can't imagine being in a class with this POS. You have to deal or quit. – Works for a University

  45. says

    What a disgrace!It's obvious that this professor is not qualified to present this subject and should probably stick to accounting.Maybe you should tell her that a ghost visited you last night night and told you you would get a 4.0 in the course. Then ask her if she doubts your story.Does your college have a philosophy department? If so, why aren't they teaching the course?

  46. P says

    "private for-profit…institution"Drop out and go to a real school. For-profit schools are a step down in quality from community colleges and way more expensive. As another poster mentioned, even if you finish a program at a for-profit school you are likely to find that the credits are not transferable and that employers are not impressed. In my opinion, for-profit schools are good for very little besides technical certifications, and that's being generous. Anything you can do at a for-profit school can be done far cheaper at a community college, and the credit will transfer.

  47. says

    Play the telephone game as an empirical example of how eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Bring up nightmares/alien abductions, and their long history, and feed further off the sleep counselor classmate to verify everything you say (making sure you're right on).The class is seeing an ongoing challenge between evidence-based thinking and complete tosh; and many are likely on the fence, so you're kind of on the spot now. It may ruin your credibility, unfortunately, to complain about the class with the academic director, but that's definitely something to keep in mind for *after* the semester, unless you just want to call it a wash and get your money back.I'd do your best to incorporate many of the examples from the comments above into an effective thesis, and look at it as a personal and worthwhile challenge during your college years.Good luck! It's absurd that reality has to be argued, but it does, and the fight is worth it. Science really is a candle in the dark (ages).

  48. says

    An additional resource I just thought of that Maya may wish to consider is the Center for Inquiry, a local/regional or their national chapter. They may be able/willing to devise entire lesson plans for her, or send a speaker, or assist in some other comprehensive way. Between the ACA and the CfI, there should be enough ammunition on the side of reality (again, why does this even have to be an issue?!? *facepalm) to make your points.

  49. says

    I live in another country, under another set of laws, but here is what I would do, if it happened to me:Record all conversations using my mobile phone, pick the best part and play them to the head of my school. If he/she does not take action for me, go to media. This is a good story, that media likes and the school don't.

  50. says

    Jesus fucking Christ.I understand that Maya is in a difficult situation, but I'd quite like to see the school getting some heat over this. If the description of the situation given is correct, then the there is no question that the teacher is incompetent, the course is a travesty and the students are being let down. If someone like PZ would get wind of this, he'd probably publicly shame the place, which is exactly what the school deserves.

  51. Strangelove says

    Maya should tell the professor and class about the mind-altering experience she had last night. The ghost of Carl Sagan appeared to her last and demanded that every member of this mockery of a critical thinking class has to read his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark."

  52. says

    Yeah, I've been in that position before, only online, where a discussion about god descended in a discussion about anything paranormal that I was supposed to debunk, despite me repeating over and over again that the burden of proof wasn't on me, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and the unexplained is unexplained and asserting otherwise is an argument from ignorance. Someone's opinion isn't evidence. Just the next time she brings up ghosts or the supernatural just ask 'why ghosts? it could've been aliens'. Every mystery ever solved has turned out to be not magic. People used to think it was Thor or Zeus that created lightningbolts, now we know different.I'm sorry, I've given you tips on how to discuss further, but it's clear you're doing a great job already. I'm the kind of person that would've dug into the argument and not let go. I bite bait. And usually it ends up with me looking like the attacker, raising my voice, and performance matters, so it's best to remain cool at all times. Don't let her get to you. That's what she wants. I think the best strategy would be to keep asking questions at her: "Why?" "Why do you believe that?" "Why?" That's bound to get in her way, and if she doesn't like it, tell her it's a critical thinking class (and maybe it's time she gets in on the act).

  53. says

    I am not an atheist but I am a critical thinker (hope we can agree to disagree on a few points) and I think this woman is an embarrassment to her department. I'd consider finding another prof who's taught the class or the dept head… and showing them this thread!How better to demonstrate your upset and concern, and the degree of support for your situation from a set of rational critical thinkers?I'd think it's worth placing out of the class but God didn't put me in charge! ;)

  54. says

    I wonder what her dead son is telling her all the time? Perhaps he could help her out with a grand unified theory of the universe or even just the mass of the Higgs boson? Just an idea.

  55. says

    I would talk to the other professors. If I were one of them I'd be offended that someone was making a mockery out of my subject. If nothing else they might offer a transfer to one of their classes instead. If they couldn't do anything or were afraid to I would go to the head administrator of the university if I had to and make a formal complaint. Just go up to the office and sit my ass down until someone let me see him/her in person. And if they didn't listen an organisation like the ACLU might be an option. I'm not american so I don't know exactly how things work there legally, but I do know that anyone doing the very opposite of what they're hired to do should be fired.

  56. says

    Wow, thanks to everyone for their feedback! I'm so glad to know that I'm not alone in thinking she's a complete kook.Kristen said…"Be careful about recording anything in class unless you check very carefully. I doubt it's illegal, but it might be against your school policies and it's definitely hostile."I had my reservations about this course of action myself. It seems like a good idea, and one that would be hilarious to post online, but I'm torn since I'm not a vindictive person by nature.Mike said…"I would secretly consult a counselor and petition to drop the class."I've spoken to Student Advising about dropping the class, but this isn't possible unless I'm willing to pay for the time I've been in the class and having a "withdrawal" shown on my official transcript.Dances_with_the_beast said…"Sounds like a class full of females so spirituality and astral projections are to be expected."I know, right? Us women can't go five minutes without talking about our astral projection experiences ;)Petr Kudláček said…"What I really feel sorry for is the other students who, based on Maya's description, just sit there and take it."I wish more people had the balls to stand up to authority, but sadly this isn't the case. Most people feel more comfortable sitting on the sidelines.

  57. says

    Marc Barnhill (EffectualAgents.org) said…"does your institution have a written statement that covers the definition of critical thinking and the goals for the course?"There is a description of the course in the addendum. Everything about the description even down to the textbook is appropriate to what we should be learning.Ithonicfury said…"Weave a conspiracy theory, so stupid, so full of recockulous whacked out retardedness that anyone would have to be an aborted fetus living in a jar of absinthe to believe it, and use all her reasoning she justifies everything else with to "prove" it." I like this idea! Although now I'm having a craving for pickles after your fetus in a jar comment. And was that an MST3K reference I noticed there at the end?scott1328 said…"Is it even remotely possible that this instructor is teaching by example and that your correspondent is the only one actually applying what's being taught?"This is a valid question. It could be possible, however she has expressed her beliefs to me outside of class and I would be more inclined to believe it if any of my arguing facts were supported or validated during class.Skeptic said…"I had posted a lengthy comment, but it seems to be missing. I could have sworn that it was just there. I probably did something wrong. I wish I could remember everything that I said."I'm sorry you lost it all =( Still, you gave some really helpful advice. And no, she won't be teaching any more of my classes. *Whew*Fordi said…"How exactly is this individual teaching a "Critical Thinking" course?"It's not. It's a "Magical Thinking" course with her at the helm.

  58. says

    Maya,Which book are you using for the class? Is it good and detailed?I think (besides other suggestions before) that you could try to heavily rely on the official book content to support your position or to refute the teacher. You already seem to be pretty informed about critical thinking, but also you'd have to know where in that book this and that principla is stated.With this approach, each time the teacher jump outside the boat saying something like ghost are real because somebody says so, you could simply ask why is so if the book explicitly states this and that. In that way you'd move the issue of your word against her to her word again the book. And if you expose how far she is from that, then you improve your case showing that is not you or your opinion that she is wrong but you will have evidence of that.And finally, for addressing the teacher, I suggest using Socrates's mayeutic approach: when the teacher says something wrong, try to ask her WHY what she said is true, and why her answers are valid. Think fast and look for counter examples and keep asking… With that is easy to make her to fall In contradictions and finally you only have to point so.

  59. says

    ChaosSong said…"Does your college have a philosophy department? If so, why aren't they teaching the course?"Yes we do have a philosophy department. I have no idea how the school decides on who gets to teach the Gen Ed classes (which is what Critical Thinking is at my school).P said…"For-profit schools are a step down in quality from community colleges and way more expensive."Community colleges around here just give out certifications and 2-year degrees. My major is also not offered at any community college I've seen.J said…"Play the telephone game as an empirical example of how eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Bring up nightmares/alien abductions, and their long history, and feed further off the sleep counselor classmate to verify everything you say (making sure you're right on)."I have brought up alien abduction stories during class as an example of an argument for which there is no evidence presented that would cause me to believe. Her logic is that if someone "says so", it should be believed.MH said…"Jesus fucking Christ."I think these were the exact words I muttered under my breath after the last class.Strangelove said…"Maya should tell the professor and class about the mind-altering experience she had last night. The ghost of Carl Sagan appeared to her last and demanded that every member of this mockery of a critical thinking class has to read his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.""Wow, how did you know this actually happened to me?! ;)Marella said…"I wonder what her dead son is telling her all the time?"I've wondered this too! I get nervous whenever someone implies that they are hearing voices.

  60. says

    Any chance this instructor is pretending to be credulous as an experiment, to see how many people in the class (if any) will challenge her assumptions? Believing people's magical claims just on their 'say-so" isn't just missing some peripheral aspect of critical thinking, it's getting the entire enterprise completely backwards.It makes me wonder if the whole thing is a put-on by the instructor to make a point. It's not unheard of, so I'm just throwing the possibility out there.

  61. says

    I've skimmed most of the comments, and the best advice has largely been mentioned. I agree with recording the lectures, not out of hostility or to bring about trouble, but as an object lesson. You can use this stuff later, and it IS class material.Definitely talk to other professors who teach this class. Share some highlights of the recordings. Use it to gain knowledge, use it to get advice. If it annoys them enough to try and get this person fired, that is a separate issue. Your focus is to learn critical thinking, and it seems you are doing a great job at it.Playing off the Ghost Of Sagan idea, I think you should prepare a mini-lecture that goes something like this:"Ok, so let's all assume that ghosts are real for the moment. Do you still believe everything everybody says about ghosts? How do you tell liars and con artists from real sightings?" You may have to prepare an argument for why you might want to tell a liar from a true-believer. But since you seem to have already beaten the mistaken true-believer issue to death and not made progress, that at least there's critical thinking that can be evoked when trying to parse con artists from the 'real deal'. If you can successfully show that this is difficult, you will at least sow the seeds of doubt. One possibly fruitful lead would be to record some fake EVPs (or find some online) and as an exercise, try to get the people to locate one that is true. Then revealing, after they have all decided, that none of them are. I sincerely hope you've already countered the "science can't KNOW 100%…" trope in class. But if not, maybe you could hold a class betting pool. A fun one would be to bet $20 that the sun will rise tomorrow. Tell everyone that, obviously, science can't PROVE 100% that it will do so, and so obviously there is a chance for them to win $20 from you. Tell them that you are so nice, you will even accept $5 from the takers (tell them that this is a steal, since you are giving them 4-1 odds). I doubt any will take the bet, and you should tell them why they are smart not to do so: that even if something is not 100% certain, that doesn't mean that it is at all likely to ever happen over the course of even a thousand lifetimes. If someone does take your bet, then you will have made money. I love turning situations into win-wins, don't you?

  62. says

    Regarding recording the class, the laws differ from state-to-state. There are many sites out there with references, but here's one that looks like it has a pretty good overview (and per-state information):http://www.rcfp.org/taping/quick.htmlAs another resource in addition to CfI and others, you can probably wrangle up the entire curriculum of a SkeptiCamp session, and probably even talk to one of the instructors (people in the skeptic movement tend to be pretty forthcoming in my experience, and several of them are volunteer instructors).http://skepticamp.org/wiki/Main_Page

  63. says

    One suggestion-Have someone alert the said "professor" to this thread- alternately, start a similar thread on a respected skeptical site such as JREF, let it run a while, then have her alerted to THAT discussion.You'll find a lot of people are simply unaware that a significant number of obviously intelligent, lucid people are willing to present logical argument as to why wooish beliefs are BS. Many believe their biased beliefs are near universal. Confronted with a wall of well reasoned argument, it might at least alert her to the fact there is a significant alternative point of view.

  64. says

    What a jaw dropping account!As for advice, I would like to bring up the following:It seems unlikely that the instructor will create the test material. If this is a stock course that gets farmed out to other departments, I would assume that the test material will be standardized. If this is the case you should be able to study the textbook on your own and pass the course despite your instructor’s best efforts.Keep copies of all your assignments and tests after they have been graded. Back when I was at a university the homework did not count for anything, it was just to give you practice for the exams. If your grade is being impacted by an unreasonable bias, the copies of the tests and homework are going to be your evidence to make a case for yourself later. If the instructor refuses to let you keep copies of your graded tests, document it.Be ready to make a case to challenge the grade you receive. I imagine there is a policy to challenge grades given, read up on it and be prepared to follow it to the letter.You may want to pick your battles; you can always just withdraw from debate and let the instructor berate a vacuum. Something along the lines of “I don’t think this is going to be a productive use of the class time so I do not wish to discuss it here.” Even flat unconvincing “OK” responses can force her to move on. This may be a better option than allowing the somewhat unfair student/teacher debate forum. If you don’t mind the negative attention, however, then continue as you have been. The “sole voice of reason” is a noble position, but don’t feel like you are obligated to do it at the cost of your sanity.Finally, if none of this works and you get a failing grade anyway, you will be poised to call out the institution and totally discredit them. Interwebs FTW! If this farce of a class goes on without challenge, it is exactly what your learning institution deserves. You have been wise not to mention anyone by name thus far, but once there is nothing hanging over your head (grades or otherwise) THEN go ahead and name names.Best of luck to you Maya.

  65. says

    "My biggest fear is the impressionable minds in this class that are being poisoned with affirmation by the professor that her worldview makes more sense."If this is your biggest concern, then at the very least you should should continue to take the course for the sake of those other students – by being there and by challenging her when she's wrong, you expose the other students to actual critical thinking, and by being willing to openly challenge the teacher you can give others the courage to do the same.

  66. markiemark3030 says

    I would take my concern about a 'W' on your transcript to the Dean of Students. If you explain the situation, (s)he does have the ability to retroactively scrub your student record of the 'W' altogether. The deans have a lot of latitude and authority and handling situations like this is their job in the first place.

  67. says

    The school should offer a better description of the class. Perhaps something like, "If you THINK, the instructor will be critical." Watch out for seed pods appearing beside your chair. Sounds like the body snatcher invasion has begun. I hope it didn't start with the administration. SOMEBODY hired her!

  68. says

    She believes that student's ghost story simply because the student said it was so? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Tell her about the pet unicorn you had as a teenager and she should believe it because you said so!

  69. says

    I know who Maya Papaya really is! Thought you had us tricked, did you, Mark?j/k, couldn't resist…I do think the "record it for your own security" suggestion was ultimately the best one in this thread.Maya should tell the professor and class about the mind-altering experience she had last night. The ghost of Carl Sagan appeared to her last and demanded that every member of this mockery of a critical thinking class has to read his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark."Love it. The "ghost telling me I would get an A without even trying" and "pretend to be a Scientologist or Raelian and use her own techniques against her" suggestions are also great though. But it might not really be the best idea to rock the boat in a classroom environment.

  70. P says

    "Community colleges around here just give out certifications and 2-year degrees. My major is also not offered at any community college I've seen."Community colleges everywhere only offer certifications and 2 year degrees. It's kind of inherent in the definition of a community college. It's still a superior choice to a for-profit school because the credit from a CC is practically guaranteed to transfer to any 4-year university in your state, and will very probably transfer to any 4-year university in the country. For-profit school credit, on the other hand, is unlikely to transfer to any university at all. There is also the matter of price. At my CC tuition is 50 bucks/credit-hour. What are you paying?

  71. says

    I'm half-way through it but this part kept bugging me: "she asked me to provide an example of a belief I had that I didn't realize I had"My first response would have been something along the lines of: "If I don't realize I have a belief, then it stands to reason that I couldn't identify it." In fact, how could one could believe something without realizing it.The teacher sounds like a pseudo-intellectual I had an extremely infuriating "conversation" with a few weeks ago. He claimed that science didn't increase our knowledge, and when I pointed out the numerous things we've accomplished because of the information we've attained through the scientific method he told me that it was illogical to assume that just because something was beneficial that it was also useful. He, like this professor, seemed more interested in forwarding his own preferred conclusion (in his case it was that philosophy was a better method of attaining knowledge..) than he was of actually examining what was presented.

  72. says

    "Community colleges around here just give out certifications and 2-year degrees. My major is also not offered at any community college I've seen."P is correct in his description. For-profit schools are good only in specialized training, and typically don't carry nearly as much weight as accredited learning centers.I would suggest contacting universities and finding out what courses you could take at a local community college to get you on your way for a 4-year. It's far better, in my opinion, to take the side-walk, than it is to cut through the alleyway.forgive the metaphor, just came to me, and struck me as relevant, so I used it :P )

  73. says

    I'm with markimark on going to the dean of students. The advising staff don't have the clout to make things work for you. The prof is not sticking to the syllabus, which would be grounds for getting special treatment no matter what the off-topic crap was about.

  74. says

    @Daemon6Not to defend her or anything, but I believe the professor was asking for an example of a belief she *used* to hold, which she examined and no longer holds. Hence her example about believing god was a punishing god which she no longer believes.

  75. says

    I had a similar experience in an evolution course. While the professor never affirmed it, I am quite certain he was a creationist. He would bring in speakers from bible colleges and play recordings of preachers, but never once explained the views of, say, Dawkins or Miller.I tried to be polite, I made the facts clear, but all this did was make me a target. I received exams back with random points taken off.My solution was to go for broke, and it worked for me. I made it clear that I was discussing his performance with senior faculty and the dean. Then, before class but with the majority of students present, I handed him over 60 pages of evidence refuting every claim he had made from "Hitler was a Darwinist" to "Evolution in schools leads to crime" as I loudly explained each and every document in rapid succession so he couldn't get a word in edge-wise. When I was done I explained that if we are to allow someone to reject the overwhelming evidence of evolution and the basis of shared reality, evidence itself, then who is to say the 9/11 hijackers were wrong? If all beliefs, no matter how stupid, are to be equally valid, then I believe I deserve an A.Well, he didn't reply and plodded through the class with much less vigor. I got an A in the end, but I think he was terrified of losing his job at that point and knew I was far and away smarter and more prepared for a dean's office call then he was, and that he didn't give it to me willingly.At one point I did get a good laugh when he explained dolphins and humans should be close relatives since we're both smart.

  76. says

    At one point I did get a good laugh when he explained dolphins and humans should be close relatives since we're both smart.I literally just facepalmed when I read that.It's like saying that the Moon and Oranges are closely related because they're both round.

  77. says

    I've read half of the comments so far. It all seems like decent advice, so I suppose choose whichever ideas fit with your own situation. Obviously, you are erring on the side of toughing it out rather than dropping the course, since you have invested money and time you will not get back. My own thoughts may not work for you, but this is what I would do:1. Find someone to commiserate with during class. If the discussion is this insufferable, then at least snicker with someone else with during these discussions. Some may see this as disrespect, but honestly, it appears as though you have been disrespected already. Respect the thoughtful discussions and then just roll your eyes at the rest. If you can find someone else in the class who shares your views, sit near them and then treat it like a show to discuss afterwards. Again, I don't know if this is a big lecture class or as 12-person class. Obviously, the former makes this easier.2. Completely back off from these discussions and making yourself a target. I don't think you mentioned whether the attitude of your being singled out is to provide an honest counter or so everyone else can laugh at the skeptic who always has something to say. This may, if the "teacher" continues to single you out, take a cynical stand-point and answer, "Well, you know what I'm going to say and you will disregard it anyhow, so what's the point?" Clearly, you should join in on discussions when necessary, especially if participation is a large part of your grade, but if she gives you aggravated attention when you do not want it, this gives you fuel later on so that you can claim continued harassment, should things get that bad. It is clear that she is horribly delusional and past any sort of rehabilitation. She will challenge you on everything, since she believes her bares no burden of proof and science bares it all. Arguing with her is akin to arguing with a brick wall and she will never let you win. The kooks seem to have a higher tolerance for these sorts of things. And magic and ghosts always sound cooler to believe in.3. On the evaluations, the teacher will be expecting a bad review and she will absolutely know who it will come from. Being you write anything about her, write a pre-amble to the administration saying that you have been outspoken about your concerns in the past, that you are not trying to go out of your way to cause trouble, and that your concerns should not be discounted. This keeps the teacher from poisoning the well about you beforehand and having them ignore it. Then, go nuts on the eval!4. Write something on ratemyprofessor.com if that site is still relevant. The university may have a rating system as well.5. Look into joining/starting clubs on campus that may have to do with science or atheism and see if anything can be done about this teacher or the class in general. 6. Research the teacher and see if she has anything published online or in print that may elaborate on her woo woo beliefs.7. Contact a local chapter of CSICOP or other skeptical groups and see if they can offer any advice or an outlet for your frustrations. Perhaps you can document your experience and write an interesting article in the future.I am hoping these ideas are ideal for letting you keep your grade and getting through this class in one piece. Good luck!

  78. says

    If you are intent on sticking it out there are two things I would do in your position that you are not already doing.a)Buy a decent MP3 Player with a aural microphone and flash storage. Set it to record every lecture in low bit rate MP3.b)Obtain recommended textbook that the course should either already have(if she is ignoring it) or find one that the school has previously recommended. MEMORIZE that book as much as possible. Any textbook worth its salt will have at least something to say about Burden of Proof, and Objective standards. Next time she objects to you READ FROM THE TEXT BOOK. OPTIONAL STEP. Publish MP3 audio to Youtube. Public shamming can go a long way.

  79. says

    create an event she will believe is supernatural. have proof that the event wasn't.i've convinced a hippy friend i had supernatural powers, nothing major, but when i did the big reveal it was all tricks after nearly a year the look on his face was priceless :)

  80. says

    Jesus Christ I just finished reading this and I am outraged. More so than learning that the retard you have as a governor is praying for rain. Not only is this profesor betraying what academia stands for, but she receives the complicity of the administration. I am not in Maya's position, but the advice that comes straight to my mind is: raise Hell.I have experienced and heard about such class, but not at this level and not backed up by the department. (Well, there is a university in Quebec that made a course on the paranormal, but it created a huge controversy). In college, I personally had one art teacher telling us about zodiacal signs and aesthetic sensibilities and I know of one teacher into new age and such things who actually lost a course she was giving on myths because the students comlained to the head of the department that she was basically giving esoteric classes, somewhat similar to what Maya describes here. But she did not have the backing of the class. That is the crux here: because the professor is appealing to the students' own beliefs, they will not question her. That said, I doubt that Maya is alone and there probably are peers who are not as outspoken as her and who find the class absurd. If she can find them and convince them to denounce the situation, she will already have more leverage with the department.

  81. CompulsoryAcount7746 says

    I think you'll have the most impact on the class, not by constantly countering with facts or corrective logic (it'd be dismissed as contrarian/bogus anyway), but by asking probing questions to draw the boundless stupid out. Make her make herself look so deranged that even her sympathizers recoil from her babbling. – "How does that work?" – "What made you think that was the most likely eplanation?" – "Could you give an example of an explanation you considered but rejected, and what specifically led you to reject it." – Recap the insanity from time to time as she strays off-topic in a gish gallop or gets immersed in conspiracy yarns.Plus it makes for more fodder to record. :PResist the urge to snap, as she begs for mockery; it'll only make you look hostile and her look a martyr.

  82. CompulsoryAcount7746 says

    Oh, I forgot the most important question: – "What does the word X mean?" (Then ask again about another gibberish word she'll inevitably use in her definition) – Bonus: "You seem to be using that word for anything unexpected you don't understand."

  83. says

    Too many comments, too lazy to check them all, but have you considered that the whole episode/class could be one big critical thinking test. She could be presenting all these outrageous claims and trying to see if the class members can see how they have failed to be critical in their thinking. I would examine her methods from this angle and see if you can confirm that this is what she is doing. If she is doing this, then you have become a valuable tool for her to use as a counter to her woo. Confirm this and if it's true, have a chat to her privately about it.

  84. says

    Wow. I had to take a critical thinking course two years ago and thankfully did not run across anything like this. There were a lot of Christians in the class, who obviously didn't take the lessons into their personal philosophies in any way, but by the end of the class I had no idea where the teacher stood on questions about deities or the supernatural… she was a good, impartial teacher. Even my final project for my philosophy class, "Does It Matter if Gods Exist?" – which ended with a clip of Hannah Montana singing "Life's what you make it, so let's make it rock," didn't raise an eyebrow from my professor (though it did show how absolutely seriously I took the subject matter). I would suggest that if this ends up affecting your grade, you should speak to someone about it. If not, let it slide… your professor is beyond any immediate help.

  85. says

    Download clips from James Randi's Secrets of the Psychics from youtube. (The astrology and the Peter Popoff clips are particularly good; so is Uri Geller.) Ask the class to tell you what they think. It's easier to plant the seeds of doubt when you see others fall for it. Tell them that you don't want to fool yourself the way these people are being fooled, so that's why you are skeptical. Real things should be distinguishable from illusions. Sometimes I'll say, "I wish there was evidence for souls– real evidence that scientists could test, refine, and hone– the kind of evidence that would convince scientists like Stephen Hawking."This is less confrontational than saying you don't believe in anything supernatural and it avoids "god"– (why care about gods if you can't demonstrate souls or any other immaterial conscious beings exist.)It's a super weird situation, because the teacher just lost her son. I met a woman like that whose son had committed suicide, so I recognized her need to believe– but I didn't want to play any real part in enabling it. But this class sounds like being forced to listen to a sermon. Keep us posted.

  86. says

    I bet this teacher thinks that "critical thinking" means "be critical of established science, be open-minded about other possibilities" (rather than what it really means, ie. "form opinions based on hard evidence, not on assumptions and hearsay"). In other words, when a student opposes this "critique of established science", that student is being closed-minded, stubborn, and a great example of *not* being "thinking critically"; in other words, the exact opposite of what the class should *really* be about.So it all might come down to a confusion in terminology, and this teacher not having been told (or refusing to accept) what "critical thinking" in the course name really means.

  87. says

    Hi Maya. I'm shocked by this story, and I think it shows that your university does not regard first-year philosophy courses to be important enough to pay attention to whom they're hiring.I believe that the best results can be achieved by the application of public pressure. I would love it if you would share the name of the university with us so we could write emails to the appropriate faculty. Best case scenario- your professor gets a reprimand and is told to stick to a curriculum, and you receive a good mark, because the professor is not in a position to give you a bad mark (which you're looking like getting unless you buckle under, the way things are going at the moment). Worst case scenario you get a reputation as stroppy, but you tried to do something about an unjust situation.Best of luck in any case,

  88. says

    Maya, I don't know anything more than is written in your letter, but I do have to ask, is it possible that you professor is using the socratic method? If another student expresses an irrational belief, does she challenge the other student?I ask because it is possible to agree with skeptical beliefs without ever having thought critically about them. We all have sacred cows. How about politics, for example? Do you have an opinion on taxes, and is it based on research or something else?Again, I am not taking the teacher's side, but it is possible that this argumentation is just to find that sacred cow that you were unaware of.

  89. says

    In case it hasn't been mentioned yet, you might want to seek out your institution's ombudsperson or human resources department (or equivalent), as it seems clear to me that you are being singled out for your beliefs (or lack thereof) and I think you'd have a reasonable case for unfair discrimination (I'm not a lawyer, though). As a publicly accredited institution, they may have to obey relevant nondiscrimination legislation. Of course if you wind up getting the teacher reprimanded before the class is over, she might saddle you with the worst grade she thinks she can get away with, but I think you should investigate your options in this area.

  90. says

    Hi Maya,You've been given some fairly good advice already but I just wanted to add my 2 bits. Hope it's useful.Recognise that all 'atheists' (if you are such) are not 'critical thinker', just as all 'critical thinkers' are not 'atheists'. They are not interchangeable terms. But then perhaps you have already acknowledged that. Being a bit (or more than a bit on this occasion) of a woo-woo head in one area does not preclude the ability to think critically in others.I urge you to treat this class as an opportunity. You have a problem – a seemingly dead-beat teacher and a noxious class environment. How can it be resolved?A – changing classes for a different teacher – check, you've tried that. (btw, with the educational institutions here in Aus it's possible to elect to do a single unit out of a whole course via an alternative institution which has been accredited to offer the unit and have your main institution recognise the external unit as part of the overall course – is this a possibility for you so that you might have the university recognise a similar course you undertake via a community college?)B – if unable to change classes due to any financial or other penalty consider coping mechanisms to survive the class.B(i) – keep a diary/record of events. This is important on multiple fronts. This person is in a position of power/authority over you. It may come down at the end of the unit to her awarding you a lesser mark than what you should be awarded primarily because she feels threatened – so you must keep a record of events to be able to rebut, if it comes to that. It's useful as a resource in case you decide to make a more formal written complaint about her to the university board (or equivalent process). You could also use it as a personal reflection device to identify when your reactions to the situation on a personal level might be impacting on your ability to deal with the class environment, or subject matter.B(ii) – For a teacher in critical thinking to suggest you should simply accept what someone tells you is beyond absurdity. However, in case the teacher continues to assert this, be familiar with examples to rebut this assertion. Some examples for you – 'memes'; the Milgram experiment; and types of logical fallacies (particularly appeals to authority, and ad populum arguments). The Milgram experiment should be an especially useful example. Tie it in to historical examples (eg the aftermaths of the Salem witch trials, Nazi Germany, and the War of the Worlds radio show event of 1938) of examples where accepting what you are told isn't necessarily the right thing to do.B(iii) – know the course book back to front, and go further into inter-related topics such as logical argument, fallacies, biases, etc so that when whatever course topic comes up you are almost overly prepared to address it (well this obvious I suppose – I'll assume you already know to do this ^^).B(iv) Most importantly – use the situation as if it was a practicum. Remain stoic and keep thinking critically in the face of such absurdity. I'm assuming you are likely late teens or early 20s which would mean that your own self-identity and also how you think others perceive you still has a very significant impact on how you personally react. So – don't immediately react. If you feel like you are reacting on an emotional or uncritical level simply say – "let me think on that for a minute". You have the right to take a moment to think. Doing so doesn't make you an idiot or in any way lesser. The ability to identify a need for, and then pro-actively take a moment to think is what allows you to develop beyond what you are. After all, that is what the class is supposedly about, isn't it? ^^Best of luck.

  91. says

    @ Thomas from 8.39am – I think if the teacher is reacting positively instead of critically to the other student, who had suggested she experienced a ghost visitation, then no, I don't think the teacher is taking the opposing position just for the sake of prodding Maya into thinking ^^.

  92. says

    hmm – like an earlier poster, my posts seem to be getting over-ridden by my later comments – is there a limit being imposed on posting comments guys?

  93. says

    Unreal! You should bait her, the more shrill and hysterical she gets the more the others in the class will recognise her for what she is (or hate you) – that's £0.02/worth

  94. says

    well, that last one stuck – ok then, I'll simply re-input what I thought was the salient points of the first comment I attempted to contribute.B – if unable to change classes due to any financial or other penalty consider coping mechanisms to survive the class….B(ii) – For a teacher in critical thinking to suggest you should simply accept what someone tells you is beyond absurdity. However, in case the teacher continues to assert this, be familiar with examples to rebut this assertion. Some examples for you – 'memes'; the Milgram experiment; and types of logical fallacies (particularly appeals to authority, and ad populum arguments). The Milgram experiment should be an especially useful example. Tie it in to historical examples (eg the aftermaths of the Salem witch trials, Nazi Germany, and the War of the Worlds radio show event of 1938) of examples where accepting what you are told isn't necessarily the right thing to do.B(iii) – know the course book back to front, and go further into inter-related topics such as logical argument, fallacies, biases, etc so that when whatever course topic comes up you are almost overly prepared to address it (well this obvious I suppose – I'll assume you already know to do this ^^).B(iv) Most importantly – use the situation as if it was a practicum. Remain stoic and keep thinking critically in the face of such absurdity. I'm assuming you are likely late teens or early 20s which would mean that your own self-identity and also how you think others perceive you still has a very significant impact on how you personally react. So – don't immediately react. If you feel like you are reacting on an emotional or uncritical level simply say – "let me think on that a bit more before I respond", or "I don't think that's right, but I'd like to consider the argument so far for a bit longer before I respond further". You have the right to take time to think. Doing so doesn't make you an idiot or in any way lesser. The ability to identify a need for, and then pro-actively take a moment to think is what allows you to develop beyond what you are. After all, that is what the class is supposedly about, isn't it? ^^Best of luck.

  95. says

    stick with it, get your grade, then write a scathing faculty review. Colleges pay attention to those.Reach out to places like the JREF and Center For Inquiry–they will help you make sure your arguments are airtight, and if you take this up the university chain, chances are you can meet with administrators to whom you can present a case. Good luck!!!

  96. says

    Ok, I know this tip isn't applicable to this situation anymore, but I offer it to people as a strategy which needs to be employed early when talking to people who believe in the supernatural.If the discussion is getting frought, you need to get in there with the 'open minded' comment asap.Frequently the sceptic is accused of not being 'open minded'. This annoys me so much as it is the sceptical approach which is the most open minded. This comment is so ingrained into peoples thinking that they instantly can make you seem like the unreasonable one in the discussion.So if you say it first, it will come across as weak if they throw it back.At an early stage accuse them of not being open minded. i.e. "You are not being open minded as you aren't being open to the possibility that you are wrong. I on the other hand am open to both possibilities, but am simply asking which is more likely based on the evidence.."People should understand what being open minded really means.

  97. says

    There is this amazing illogical, ridiculous, unquantifiable, absurdity, in human beings that i feel i have the right to punch in the face over the kind of stupidity that is being presented here…….that being illegal in anything but self defense in this country, plus immorally wrong in context. If i were in your shoe's id do one thing and one thing alone. Raise Fucking Hell over this……and by this i of course me present all the arguments listed on this fantasticly beautiful, long list of good advice…..further more i would suggest that you figure out what her own logic is (how ever illogical it may be) and prove her wrong within her own logic this is easy to do….basicly you tell her that you were told by chocolate albino monkey squirrel's told you that they had solid evidence that Godzilla, The devil, and hercules have teamed up to prove that science is so correct that there's no point in believing any of the stories that have been said in the class…..one of 2 things will happen and both are very likely given the evidence that i have seen here to show that shes completely insane….either 1) she will ask you to prove it…..in witch case you tell her well i said so so i dont have to prove it isn't someone just saying so prove enough for you and watch her wine, cry and do absolutly nothing to prove you wrong in the slightest….there by winning the argument that her logic is flaw and should be teaching the class….or 2) she will take your words to heart and proceed to believe in science and in her own logic save herself from her own insanity.I'd even go as far as to say shes on the level with any and all end of the world claimers….the guys at columbine…..the people who bombed the twin towers….and anyone that thinks scientology isn't a scam…..This is yours truelyJoey

  98. says

    Ugh so many spelling errors due to my pissed offness about this statement lets start….."basicly you tell her that you were told by chocolate albino monkey squirrel's told you"take off the told you at the end and the second one i notised was"there by winning the argument that her logic is flaw and should be teaching the class…." Should should be replaced by Shouldn't

  99. says

    KRIKEY! DELETED AGAIN!!!!!What do I say that is so different than everyone else? IS it my name? Why have most of my posts been deleted? Just let me know if I am not wanted, I don't HAVE to post here, I just really admire what u guys r doing and u r doing it so well. I just didn't think my comments were off in any way or inappropriate either.

  100. Muskiet. says

    Couldn't you write a paper on your teacher?Write down all the ghost stories, logical fallacies and back everything up with scientific references and you have yourself a wonderful paper on critical thinking.

  101. Muskiet. says

    Additionally, if you think about it this class is the best thing that could have happened to you.It made YOU a better critical thinker by forcing YOU to come up with good, logical responses and providing evidence.It might be the worst thing to happen to most people in your class and I'm in no way defending an incompetent teacher, but as a social experiment this teacher would have gotten great marks for forcing at least one of the people in her class room to use her brain properly and I think for that you should be happy, no matter how frustrating it was.Now for turning the brains of the rest of the classroom to mush this teacher needs to be sacked and forced to pay back the tuition of every student in her class.

  102. says

    Nude, I'm not aware of any of your comments being deleted. None of them were in the spam filter when I checked, and you're not banned. What posts are you thinking contain deleted comments of yours?

  103. says

    Something to note (at least something I run into) is that you have to kinda post it twice.No matter how many times I sign in, and it remembers me, I still have to hit Post Comment, and then tell it to login, and THEN I can actually post (if you're not hitting a captcha, then it wouldnt have posted, and if you left the page then it could seem like your comment got deleted)

  104. says

    This is a brilliant Critical Thinking class! Nobody's going to pay attention if you are slogging through logical fallacies in monotone.Claim UFO's are real and make them work to disprove it.That's what they are doing… right?

  105. says

    To Ithonicfury, As I remember the problem, I enter a message, login, do captcha, the message posts, I leave, I come back tomorrow and its gone.

  106. says

    Oh, and thanks for the response. I really regret ijacking this thread this way, but I didn't see any other options. 1000 apologies everyone.

  107. says

    You should probably refresh the page to double check that the post is actually there before you leave. And if you're that your post might get eaten and you haven't hit submit yet, take a moment to copy the text and paste it into an editor, just in case. I sometimes do that when a website is running sluggishly or something.

  108. says

    Just updating the thread to say that this past Wednesday the teacher was out and instead of rescheduling the class, the campus director substituted. She asked out loud what we all thought of the class, and I was relieved to see so many people complain about the teacher quite openly. It seems that the students didn't want to call the teacher out to her face, but did not hesitate to do so when the numero uno person in charge was present. The director made it clear that we should write all of these issues down in the evaluation we give at the end of term. I have a feeling she won't be teaching that class anymore, but that could just be wishful thinking; we'll see!

  109. says

    Most of what needs to be said, about what a disgrace this teacher does to the classes title has already been said. I'd like to put add though that Not all critical thinking classes are like this I found my Crit Thinking class to be an amazing experience with a great teacher that loved philosophy, science, and Harry Potter. We covered so much Ethics,logic, Logical fallacies, Burden of proof,Theory of knowledge and when something is a "justified true belief".

  110. says

    That's great news! I wonder if the absence of the teacher was mandated by the campus director? They know that most people are intimidated by authority figures, and once you raised suspicions, they may have set up this day of absence to see what the rest thought. You are to be commended for standing up for your point of view. That took a lot of guts!

  111. says

    Oh wow, I hope I never encounter a crack-pot like that. I wouldn't be able to stay silent, and would fight to the bloody end to have her reassigned.

  112. says

    Do not withdraw from the class, waste money, and make yourself look bad just because the teacher is annoying and irrational. If you're paying for the class and you're receiving credit for it, just stick it out and pass the course. In the meantime, talk to someone in charge of your program or one of her superiors about her rejection of evidence in a critical thinking class. You said that you "brought up the issue casually" with the academic department. Maybe you should file a formal complaint, if possible.

  113. says

    It's nice to hear that the other students have complained about her to the campus director. If your school is anything like mine, a portion of the class revolves around online discussions. If so, you should provide the other students with links to reliable resources for critical thinking (scientific journals, etc.). Tell them about Google Scholar!Also, please… I beg you… Record her shenanigans and post it on YouTube for everyone to see. Someone in my critical thinking class used to record every class rather than taking notes by hand. I would imagine it's not against the rules in your school.

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