Daily Archives: February 19, 2013

Critical Readers Needed: Ask Some Questions

Yesterday, a cat I follow on Facebook (it probably says something about our society that you could legitimately ask which cat) wanted me to share a film of people dancing with their cat to protest a certain anti-cat man in New Zealand. Being a huge fan of cats, I was about to do so when I asked myself some questions: What do I know about this man? What do I know about his argument? Why is he such a cat hater?

So I did a little research and found an interview with the man who turned out to be a very thoughtful soul who did not want native species to be wiped out by non-native predators including cats. His argument was that house cats should be kept inside and, if owners couldn’t do that, perhaps they shouldn’t replace those cats when they died. 

There were other points as well, but the main thing was that the argument was much more nuanced and logical than presented on the Facebook post. 

Probably one of the easiest ways to become a critical reader is to get into the habit of asking questions about everything you read.Here are some examples:

  • What does this writer want me to think or feel?
  • What point is he making?
  • Do I know the other side of the issue? How can I find out?
  • Is there another way to look at the issue?
  • What facts is the writer using? Or is this mostly opinion?
  • Are there facts that would support another point of view? 

Depending on the issue, you may or may not want to investigate further. For a while, I fact-checked the information in all the chain emails I’d get about various politicians and sent out less-biased alternatives until I realized that the people sending out these emails were not the least bit interested in the facts. So I let it be. 

Still, asking those sorts of questions makes you less gullible. And that’s a very good thing.