• Nicholas J. Johnson

Five books for critical thinking with kindness

In the quest to think more critically and not let our emotions cloud decision-making, it's easy to forget that we are human and, perhaps more importantly, so are the people that we are interacting with.


And while empirical evidence and reason are the best tools we have for figuring out the world around us, they're not always the best tools for persuading and interacting with others.


Here are five books to help teach critical thinking with empathy:



The Most Reasonable Answer by Reznitskaya and Wilkinson

A step-by-step guide for taking students through inquiry dialogue in the classroom. The book is filled with new ways to teach critical thinking and engage students in high-quality discourse.


How To Have Impossible Conversations

This is a tough book to recommend. On the one hand, it provides straightforward advice on how to have respectful, meaningful dialogue with people whose worldview differs wildly from your own. On the other hand, one look at the authors' Twitter feeds shows they don't tend to take their own advice.


The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan Anyone who grew up watching Carl Sagan's thoughtful and entrancing series Cosmos will know about Sagan's enthusiasm for science and compassion. 'The Baloney Detection Kit' alone is a wonderful introduction to critical thought.


Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School by The Philosophy Foundation

I was just introduced to this book by Michelle Sowey from The Philosophy Club and devoured it. The book lays out a series of ethical and philosophical scenarios and gives teachers questions and talking points to lead students in thoughtful discussion.


Wait, What? by James E Ryan

In his 2016 speech, Harvard Dean James Ryan argued that there are five essential questions we should ask ourselves in life. In his short book, Wait, What? (named after the first question), Ryan explores the five questions and how to use them.