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Lesson Author: Dr. Jim Schneider

Mode: Seminar Group Discussion


  1. Introduction.
  2. Paul and Elder develop the discussion of critical thinking further with an elaboration of its role in decision-making. As the authors rightly point out: to live is to act; to act is to decide, and we might add, to act is to think. It is also the basis of our rational life. To be rational means to change your beliefs to conform to existing or new evidence. We oftentimes, however, ignore new evidence in order to cling desperately to our personal and institutional beliefs. Such thinking is fundamentally irrational. Critical thinking gives us mental tools to overcome the irrational element in our thinking and behavior and to modify our existing paradigms and mental models (issues discussed at length by Peter Senge and others). This also has obvious command and staff implications. Most plans fail because they contain some irrational (often unseen) element that destroys the logic and coherence of the intended action.


  3. Learning Objectives
  1. To explore the nature of irrational thinking;
  2. To examine the relationship among theory, decision-making, problem-solving and critical thinking;
  3. To develop a framework for critical self-examination of thinking.
  1. Student Requirements
  2. Required Reading

    Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Critical Thinking; New York: Prentice-Hall, 2001; pp. 183-276, 325-391.


  3. Lesson Agenda
  1. What is the logic of decision-making? Does this logic apply to all decisions regardless of importance?
  2. What is the relationship between problem-solving and decision-making? How do poor decisions create more problems than they solve?
  3. What are "pseudo-problems"? How do they stem from irrational thought?
  4. What are some of the key pitfalls to problem-solving? How does the MDMP help to overcome these problems—or contribute to them?
  5. Why is problem-solving an art, according to the authors? Is there also a scientific element to problem-solving and decision-making?
  6. What is egocentrism? How does it contribute to our irrational tendencies of thought? How does this become an impediment to the Army’s attempt at "transformation"?
  7. Compare and contrast the elements of irrational and rational thought. Is irrationality just limited to the individual? Can an entire organization or institution exhibit irrational thinking? Cite military examples in your answer.
  8. To the extent that you are egocentric, what problems does this cause in your professional life both as a commander and a planner? Are the effects different in each professional sphere?
  9. How does the mass media foster sociocentric thinking? Ideological thinking?
  10. What is the difference between indoctrination and education? How does this difference create obstacles to fair-mindedness and ethical thinking?
  11. Discuss and evaluate the Key Ideas to strategic thinking. How can they contribute to sound military decision-making?