Critical Thinking and the Question Factory

Moreover, questions are indeed the fuel of debate and remain at the center of good education where we, as teachers or educators encourage our learners to ask questions and to respond. We want our classes to include robust and vibrant debate. This dialectical style of education is necessary especially in today’s precarious world.   

At ABCE, this dialectical approach is often used to further the communicative range of our learners, to enhance their responses. They learn how to think, even philosophize to produce cohesive and astute responses that can be voiced or written. Our learners think critically so that both their questions and answers resound powerfully on paper or in speech. This means advancement, this means achievement, this means success for specific language tests but also signifies a penchant for higher learning. 

Critical thinking is in short having an ability to analyze issues and respond to questions at an incredible depth through brilliant articulation of ideas. It is not that each person who practices critical thinking is a philosopher but it does entail some degree of philosophizing – another important verb. The ability to formulate questions and articulate answers in critical thinking can be referred to as the Question Factory. This idea is that a learner or teacher will raise questions from the material that is in focus for that particular lesson and be able to develop progressive responses that include support.  It means transitioning from a yes or no response to one where there is ample evidence with a solid opinion. The grammar at work behind such a response would involve discourse markers or transitions. There might also be reliance on conditional verb structures since the learner is often addressing the theoretical. 

The Question Factory is where learners and teachers create their questions. It is the place where questions are in fact produced and like any factory, there needs to be raw materials provided. Therefore, read the categories below that are seasoned with quotes from across fields. These can be source material for discussions or journals, they can be departures for discourse and through the gateway of critical thought, enter the Question Factory. 

Art 

Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant He said, “Do you every know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyways.” So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look. – Marina Abramović 

It doesn’t matter how the paint is put one as long as something is said. – Jackson Pollock 

Perhaps it’s good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he’s happy? Would he ever want to to anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life? – Alduous Huxley 

The Self (n.) is not given to us. We have to create ourselves, to create ourselves as a kind of work of art. – Michel Foucault 

We have art so that we might not die of reality. – F. Nietzsche 

Philosophy 

Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering – Epicurus 

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language. – Ludwig Wittgenstein 

All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. – Friedrich Nietzsche 

Wonder rather than doubt is root of all knowledge. – Abraham Joshua Heschel 

The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities. – Gilles Deleuze, A thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 

To learn something new take the path that you took yesterday, – John Burroughs 

Books 

It’s sort of vaguely reassuring to think that at the end of civilization, amongst all the plastic bags, there’ll probably still be some books too. – Edwin Frank 

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin 

Knowledge was inherent in all things, the world was a library. – Chief Luther Standing Bear 

On Writing 

Writing is the painting of the voice. – Voltaire 

Write only if you cannot live without writing. Write only what you alone can write. – Elie Wiesel 

A writer never has a vacation, For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. – Eugene Ionesco 

A writer is a world trapped in a person. – Victor Hugo 

I don’t think of it as dark. Writers are isolated most of the time anyway. So it’s not that much of a change.  – Margaret Atwood 

Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder. – Rumi 

Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa where her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows. – Joseph Campbell 

The Block
(by Gevorg Emin)
Issue no. 57 (The Paris Review, Spring 1974) 

For two months
I have not written
a word. 

My voice, a low
grumble, disturbs
our quarter 

like the rumble
of the millstone
which having nothing to grind
grinds itself. 

(Translated from the Armenian by Diana Der Hovanessian) 

Literature 

My way is from woe to wonder. – Gwendolyn Brooks 

We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities. We are eaten up by nothing.” – Charles Bukowski 

I felt like crying but nothing…It was just a sort of sad sickness, sick sad, when you can’t feel any worse. I think you know it. I think everybody knows it now and then. But I think I have known it pretty often, too often.  – Charles Bukowski 

What inspires me is how we make one another see ourselves as we rise up to tell our stories. And survive.”  – Sonia Sanchez 

Let everything happen in you / Beauty and terror / No feeling is final. – Rilke 

A lot of my fiction is cautionary. It deals with possible end points or trends. I wrote a short story called The Intensive Care unit about a world where people never meet.  They simply make contact via TV. Marriage is conducted hundreds of miles apart…So I can believe that, in the future, people won’t be able to bear to be in the same room as others. Or even on the same street. Of course, it’s very difficult to read these kinds of aspects of the future. – J.G. Ballard, on Myths of the Near Future 

I’d say of the landscapes in my poems aren’t always pleasant, it’s because they’re real. – Carl Phillips 

There are two silences. One when no word is spoken. The other when perhaps a torrent of language is being employed. This speech is speaking of a language locked beneath it. – Harold Pinter 

The Pandemic is a Portal

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.  – Arundhati Roy  

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. – Arundhati Roy  

Culture 

There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” – Arundhati Roy 

Culture is impacted by a global health crisis on an unprecedented scale, therefore the solutions must also be global. – Ernesto Ottone (Unesco Assistant Director-General for Culture) 

I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift not easy. – Marie Curie 

In the image-driven epoch there are few ideas and many variations. – Karim Rashid 

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